Rapala® DT®-16 crankbaits helped Rapala Pro Brandon Palaniuk to several impressive bass-fishing achievements last week on Lake Fork in Texas – a one-day weight total of 30 pounds or more; a Century Club belt for weighing 100 pounds or more in a tournament; a runner-up finish in a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, and the lead in the Elite Series’ Angler of the Year race.
“What an incredible week!” Palaniuk said Sunday in a live-streamed interview following the final round of competition in the four-day tournament.
Most of the bass Palaniuk caught to earn his first-ever Bassmaster Century Club belt – with a combined total weight of 102 pounds and 2 ounces – bit a Rapala DT-16 deep-diving crankbait he was throwing on two shallow points in 10 to 25 feet of water.
“These were places that I somehow managed to have to myself that didn’t have any pressure,” Palaniuk said. “I think that allowed those fish to set up and stay there. They weren’t constantly getting beat on, so I could kind of cycle back and forth and get those bites.” He caught bass also on a jigging spoon and Rapala DT-10 and DT-20 crankbaits.
Built of balsa wood, Rapala’s signature material, a DT-16 will get down to its maximum depth of 16 feet sooner than – and thus stay in the strike zone longer than – lookalike crankbaits made of lesser materials. DT’s combine carefully placed internal weights, a tapered fuselage and a thin tail to create a unique crankbait action. And because they’re made of balsa, DT’s trigger bites from heavily pressured bass better than harder-thumping molded-plastic crankbaits.
DT-16’s are available in a whopping 38 color patterns to help anglers mimic local baitfish all over the country. One of Palaniuk’s best DT-16 color patterns on Lake Fork last week was “Big Shad,” which features a metallic green-and-purple back, a gold lateral-line stripe, silver sides, a gray-green belly and black shad spot.
“She choked it! Big Shad is just gone!” in a highlight video from the tournament posted at Bassmaster.com. “DT-16 I love you right now. I love you!”
Although Palaniuk has won one Bassmaster Angler of the Year trophy previously, and 5 Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments, he’d never before earned a Century Club belt or caught a “Dirty Thirty,” which is the nickname bass pros use for the not-officially-recognized achievement of catching in one tournament day five or less bass weighing 30 or more pounds. It was on Friday, the tournament’s second day, that he caught a five-bass limit weighing a combined 30 pounds, 1 oz. — a personal best.
“I’ve been trying for 12 years — at least — to break that 30-pound mark. …” Palaniuk said. “I had a couple flurries where I had big ones going, and was able to capitalize on it. You don’t get days like that very often, so I’m glad I was able to capitalize.”
DT-16’s helped Palaniuk catch 5 bass weighing more than 5 pounds apiece, on average, three days in a row. His daily weight totals were, in order: 26 lbs. 9 oz (5.3 lb. avg.), 30 lbs. 1 oz (6.01 lb. avg.), 27 lbs. 13 oz. (5.53 lb. avg. and 17 lbs. 11 oz. (3.54 lb. avg.).
By noon on Championship Sunday, Palaniuk appeared to have a chance to win the tournament. He had broken the 100-pound threshold and sat only 2 pounds, 3 ounces behind the tournament’s eventual champion, Texas resident Lee Livesay, who claims Fork as his home lake. Earlier on Sunday, Bassmaster.com scribe David A. Brown had reported that Livesay had “struggled through slower mornings likely the impact of a cold front that shaved about 20 degrees off the hot conditions the first three days brought.” But later in the day, between 1 and 2 p.m., Livesay caught three bass to fill a limit, earn an another Century Club belt, and pull ahead of Palaniuk by 7 pounds and 1 ounce. Livesay’s final limit of 25 pounds, 12 oz. pushed his four-day weight total to 113 pounds, 11 ounces, besting Palaniuk’s runner-up total by a margin of 11 pounds, 9 ounces.
Fellow Rapala Pro Gerald Swindle finished third on Lake Fork, with a four-day combined weight total identical to Palaniuk’s – 102 lbs. 2 oz. Ties are broken by the heaviest single-day weight. Palaniuk’s 30 lb. 1 oz. limit on Day 2 topped Swindle’s Day 1 limit of 29 lbs. 7 oz.
Swindle, who added a Century Club entry to the one he earned on California’s Clear Lake in 2007, turned in daily limits of 29 lbs. 7 oz, 22 lbs. 5 oz, 29 lbs. 2 oz, and 21 lbs. 4 oz. Although Swindle loves throwing Rapala DT crankbaits – and caught some bass in the tournament on a DT-10 in the Citrus Shad color pattern and a DT-20 in Helsinki Shad pattern – the bass in the areas he found last week on Lake Fork reacted best at the time to a jig-with-craw-trailer or a shaky head jig rigged with a long, soft-plastic worm.
Palaniuk Leading AOY Race – But Don’t Tell Him By How Much!
Although most professional anglers agree that winning an Angler of the Year title is the ultimate achievement in a season, Palaniuk is famously reticent to know his standings or point totals mid-season. So although he acknowledged he knew he’d taken over the AOY lead, he added, “nobody tell me how many points – I don’t want to know. I’m assuming it’s one point. That’s all I’m going to assume.” In fact, he leads the AOY race by 20 points, with 442.
“My whole goal this year, so far, was to catch them good enough so that if I have to miss [the tournament on Alabama’s Lake] Pickwick – because I have a baby on the way – I can still qualify for the Classic,” Palaniuk said. “So, I’ll just keep trying to catch ’em, and keep trying to catch ’em, to make up for it.”
Palaniuk’s wife, Tiffanie, is due to give birth to the couple’s first child later this year.