Very big baits and very small hooks helped Rapala Pro Brandon Palaniuk get a huge win in Virginia on Sunday. The Bassmaster Elite Series star threw 7 ½-inch Storm® Arashi® Glide Baits and drop-shotted worms on tiny VMC® Finesse Neko Hooks to win his first-ever Bassmaster Open on the James River.
“I’ve been trying to get this monkey off my back for a while now,” Palaniuk said, noting that he’d previously made the championship round in four of five Opens on the James, but fell short of victory. “Dang, it feels good.”
“James River is a tough fishery because it’s tidal and it’s always moving up and down,” he added.
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In three days of competition, Palaniuk caught three 5-bass limits weighing a combined 53 pounds and 12 ounces, besting a field of 224 anglers that comprised other Elite Series pros and top local and regional competitors.
“I honestly believe it is sometimes harder to win an Open because the quality of local anglers,” Palaniuk said. “You’ve got really good quality people, you’ve got a bigger field.”
To best that bigger field, Palaniuk bombed tidal current seams with bigger-than-usual baits, including a 7 ½-inch Arashi Glide and an 8-inch soft-plastic boot-tail swimbait. “He observed large gizzard shad in the area and recognized that the bass were leveraging current dynamics to capture their meals,” Bassmaster.com reported. “The week’s tide schedule brought outgoing water in the morning, then a rising cycle around midday. Tides advance approximately 50 minutes each day, so the second and third rounds presented Palaniuk with a narrow window of opportunity.”
Swimming with an exaggerated motion that draws in fish from long distances, the Arashi Glide Bait delivers a consistent and stable glide action at both fast and slow retrieve speeds. Similar-looking baits often glide effectively only at one retrieve speed. Not to mention that similar baits often cost twice as much or more. But the Glide is a big-fish bait that doesn’t cost big bucks.
“You have the potential to catch the fish of a lifetime on this bait – we want to help you do that,” said Palaniuk, who worked with Storm for three years to design and perfect the new swimbait. “Big baits catch big fish. Fishing an Arashi Glide is best way to catch the biggest bass in any body of water.”
With slow, three-quarter turns of his reel handle, Palaniuk can give a Glide Bait the loping, side-to-side action for which its named. He can speed his retrieve to make it “dart side-to-side super quick.”
Designed to sink slowly in a slightly head-down position, an Arashi Glide responds to the slightest line movement. A quick snap of the rod tip will spin it 180 degrees, triggering strikes. “If I see a fish following, I can spin this bait all the way around,” Palaniuk said.
The Arashi Glide is extremely stable, allowing anglers to easily create different actions with multiple retrieve methods. “This bait is, by far, the easiest glide bait to fish for guys that have never thrown one,” Palaniuk said.
When the tide was not moving water in the tournament, Palaniuk dropshotted a 6-inch, straight-tail, soft-plastic worm rigged on a No. 1 VMC Finesse Neko Rig hook and a ¼ ounce VMC Teardrop Tungsten Weight.
“I’d throw that when the tide was more slack and the fish were more neutral and not actively feeding,” he said. “I’d target isolated pieces of hard cover – wood, rocks or docks. The dropshot was key because the bottom was super, super soft, so anything on the bottom would just sink down into it. The dropshot let me present my bait above the bottom without getting down in it.”
He noted also that the James River is a highly pressured fishery and that when the tide not moving water, finesse tactics are often your best bet to get bit.
Palaniuk and other Rapala pros have previously relied on Finesse Neko Hooks to win and place high in top tournaments. Finesse Neko Hooks feature a black-nickel finish, wide gap, 3-degree offset point, resin-closed eye and a forged, long shank. They’re available in four sizes: 2, 1, 1/0 and 2/0.