Targeting water so shallow there had been dry ground in its place days prior, Brandon Palaniuk caught multiple limits of big bass on a Rapala® BX® Brat to score a top-10 finish this week in Bassmaster Elite Series action in Alabama. The Rapala Pro’s skill with the balsa-body, plastic-encased squarebill crankbait helped him place 7th in a field of 100 the world’s best fishermen.
“It’s always been one of my favorite spring-time baits when the fish first start to pull up shallow,” Palaniuk says. “It deflects well and I can fish it at slow speeds, even in the current.”
The fish were shallow and the current was strong on Pickwick Reservoir, where spring rains upriver swelled the water level from four to six feet above the bank between the start of practice for the tournament and the first day of competition. The water rose so high and so fast that the tournament’s launch was postponed two days, resulting in the championship round being contested this Tuesday, rather than on Sunday. Due to the rapidly rising water, many of Palaniuk’s prime BX Brat spots were not even covered with water during the tournament’s official practice period last week.
“You look at areas like Palaniuk [is fishing] … that was dry ground four days ago,” observed Bassmaster LIVE Commentator Mark Zona in Bassmaster.com’s live webcast of the tournament.
In the four-day tournament, Palaniuk caught four five-fish limits weighing a combined 73 pounds, 3 ounces. Of the 20 fish he weighed in, 16 he caught on a BX Brat. “Blaze” was his best color pattern, followed by the “Change Up” color.
Rapala BX Brat square-bill crankbaits feature a balsa-wood core within a brawny hard-plastic shell. Rapala’s balsa baits famously float up and back out of cover well, minimizing snags. Encasing their balsa core in armor allows Brats to bounce off cover and trigger bites without hanging up often and getting beat up. A modified square-bill lip – its comes to a slight point in the middle – causes a BX Brat to carom off cover differently than other square-bill baits.
One of the best fish Palaniuk caught on a BX Brat was a 5-pound, 5-ounce smallmouth bass – a fish that was hanging out surprisingly shallow, as it turned out.
“That went a little too shallow,” Palaniuk said in the Bassmaster LIVE webcast of the tournament’s third day, referencing a cast he’d just made into chocolate milk-colored water on a tiny windblown point with grapefruit-size shoreline rocks. But it wasn’t too shallow for Palaniuk’s BX Brat, and Palaniuk’s rod quickly bowed up on his retrieve.
“I don’t know what I’ve got – a big ol’ smallie maybe!” Palaniuk excitedly said while reeling in the fish. “Feels like a big smallmouth.”
And indeed it was. Check it out here.
“BX Brat strikes again!” Palaniuk exclaimed, removing the sturdy shallow-running crankbait from its gaping mouth. “What a stud smallmouth!”
That fish filled out his limit for the day.
In the first three days of the tournament, Palaniuk caught 14 of the 15 fish he weighed on a BX Brat, qualifying him for Tuesday’s championship round. Two more came on the Brat in the final round. He likely would have caught more on the Brat on Tuesday, were it not for the fact that the water level dropped had dropped a bit Monday night, and when he “got there today, the rocks I was catching them off of were dry,” he explained.
Bassmaster.com’s video archive from the tournament includes numerous video highlights of Palaniuk’s BX Brat catches. In most of them, he mentions in the excitement of the moment of landing the fish just how aggressively the bass are striking his bait.
“Gosh, they are eating it this morning,” Palaniuk says in one video of a Day 3 BX Brat catch. “Look at it – headfirst; gone. I mean, just gettin’ after it. Yeah, that’s how you want them eating it. It couldn’t go any further – it hit him in the back of the throat.”
When he caught his third keeper bass on Day 3, Palaniuk asked his in-boat cameraman to focus his lens down the big largemouth’s throat. “He choked it! I mean choked it! … Can we just give them a look?” he said. “BX Brat, I mean just gone. Switched up colors. I mean, it is gone!”
Unique flat sides and a V-cut belly give the BX Brat additional swimming action. Its hard-plastic shell adds weight, helping it cast like a dream. BX Brats are available in two models. One dives to three feet, the other to six feet. Both measure two inches, weigh 3/8th of an ounce and come armed with two sticky sharp VMC® No. 6 Black Nickel Treble round-bend hooks. As near-shore depths fluctuate, you can change models and line size accordingly to ensure your Brat is scraping bottom throughout the majority of your retrieve.
BX Brats are available in 12 color patterns: Blue Ghost, Blaze, Bone Craw, Carbon, Delta, Haymaker, Homer’s Buddy, Mossy, Pearl Gray Shiner, Tamale, Silver and Rock Solid. More often than not, natural color patterns are best in clear to lightly stained water, and brighter patterns are best in stained to muddy water.