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Palaniuk Takes Lead at Lake St. Clair

There was ample position shifting taking place on Friday’s leaderboard that kept things very interesting. Day 2 of the Plano Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair proved that some dreams never die, and persistence can pay off big time!

After a strong showing on Thursday, Brandon Palaniuk stayed on the fish and weighed five smallmouth bass for 21 pounds, 1 ounce, with a combined two-day weight of 44 pounds, 5 ounces to claim the top honors after the second day, including the Bass Pro Shops Big Bass; a 5-11 smallie.

“I caught my two biggest fish right away — both over 5 pounds — and I thought for sure I was about to catch the biggest limit of smallies I’ve ever weighed,” he explained. “I managed to find another 3-pounder, but then the bite just died.”

The two-time Elite Series champion said he returned to the same spot a couple of times during the day to check if the fish had returned, and they hadn’t. He decided to run back into St. Clair where he managed to catch his fifth bass to fill out his limit with just minutes to go.

“The wind direction changed midday; the last couple of days it was out of the north, which pushes a lot of water form Huron into the river. I believe the current that gets created is key to those specific fish being on that spot,” he said. “When the wind turned almost 180 degrees, the current was reduced.”

He isn’t sure if the spot will continue to hold the right bass but, it’s a safe bet that Palaniuk will start his day in the same general area, and depending on the bite relocate as it evolves.

“I caught the right fish again today, but I think the pattern is deteriorating. I’m not sure if the pattern will hold out for another couple of days,” said James Elam, who is currently holding down second place with 20-5 Friday for a total of 43 pounds, 12 ounces. “Today, I only put four fish in the boat from this particular spot, and it literally shut off. I drove down to St. Clair and finished my limit with a 4 1/2-pounder.” 

Thursday, Elam climbed up the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year leaderboard from being inside the Top 50 cut by a single point. He improved on that again today making his dreams of fishing in the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro a bit more likely. “My dream is still alive for next year’s Classic, and I hope to keep the momentum rolling into tomorrow.”

Alton Jones brought in five smallies that weighed 17-4 for a two-day total of 41 pounds, 8 ounces, keeping him in third place.

“By lunchtime I had to move to another location; as a whole, I had to work a lot harder today,” he said. “The bite is changing where I’m fishing, but I know the bass are still in the area — hopefully I can catch them again tomorrow.” 

Current AOY leader Aaron Martens improved on yesterday by bringing in 18-8 for a two-day total of 36 pounds, 13 ounces, and is currently holding down 16th place.

“I lost a pretty nice fish today that most likely would have put me in the Top 10,” Martens said. “I still want to make a smart decision tomorrow, but I could justify gambling and go to Erie, but I may play it safe and stay close. I know where to find a suitable limit on St. Clair.”

A “suitable limit” would most likely sew up Martens’ third Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, but if he manages to find 20 pounds or even more, he could be in position to fish on Championship Sunday.

Filling out the Top 5 after two days of competition are Casey Scanlon in fourth place with 41-4, and Chad Pipkens is sitting in fifth with 40-13.

The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race has been updated with Aaron Martens still on top with 693 points, Justin Lucas climbed back up into second with 600 points, Dean Rojas is in third with 597 points, fourth place is Jacob Powroznik with 572 points, and Edwin Evers remains in fifth place with 570 points.

Because Palaniuk is in the lead on Day 2, he will earn the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $500.