DRAGONFLY - RAYMARINE

PALANIUK BY OUNCES IN GREEN BAY

Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 06/30/2012

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush

Green Bay, WI – After veteran pros Dean Rojas and Aaron Martens jockeyed for the lead during the first two days of competition at the seventh Elite Series stop of the season on Lake Michigan out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, it was the young guns that rose to the occasion on Saturday to claim the spotlight. 

Entering the day in 4th place, nearly three pounds behind leader Dean Rojas, second year pro Brandon Palaniuk put on a clinic on Saturday, toting the heaviest limit of the tournament to the scales weighing 21-2.  With an 18 pound stringer on Thursday and a 17 pound limit on Friday, Palaniuk will enter the final day as the tournament leader with a total weight of 56-2. 

Not to be outdone, Jonathon VanDam, also competing in his sophomore season on the Elite Series, joined Palaniuk on Saturday as the only other angler to break the 20 pound mark.  With a limit weighing 20-12, JVD moved up from 3rd in the standings to finish the day in 2nd place with a total weight of 55-14.  He will enter the final day of competition just four ounces behind Palaniuk. 

Day one leader, Aaron Martens, remained consistent, but slipped one spot in the standings to finish the day in third place after weighing a limit for 16-1, and Friday’s leader, Dean Rojas, managed a limit for 13-8 and slid to 4th place. 

Brandon PalaniukDespite entering Saturday in 4th place, Palaniuk said that he was unsure about how well his area would hold up on the weekend.  “I was actually somewhat worried about today, because I didn’t know how the fish were going to react to me being there the first two days.  When I first showed up this morning, things were a lot slower than they had been,” he explained. 

After relocating the school, Palaniuk said that he was able to garner the right bites.  “It was a grind, but every bite that I got was a really good one.”  Palaniuk culled through 12 keepers on Saturday in an area that was less than 50 yards long. 

Late in the day, Palaniuk said that he pulled up on an area and boated a four pound smallmouth that allowed him to break the 21 pound mark.  “I hadn’t fished that spot since practice, and I caught a good one on my second cast there this afternoon.  That made me feel really good going into tomorrow because I have something else that I can go off of instead of just one spot.  I haven’t seen anyone else there all week, so I think that I’ll have it to myself for Sunday,” he stated.   

Locked in a battle of ounces with 2nd place finisher Jonathon VanDam, Palaniuk said that Sunday should be an interesting battle between the two.  “We are both in our twenties and it’s both our second year on tour.  To go into the final day in first and second place is pretty darn cool.”

With a 2013 Classic berth already wrapped up due to his victory earlier this year on Bull Shoals Lake, Palaniuk said that he will start Sunday morning with a sense of calmness.  “I’ve been fishing pretty relaxed all week,” he explained.  “Since I’m already in the Classic, I’ve just gone out and fished and had fun with it.  I don’t have to worry about making the Classic – the only thing that I have to worry about is catching another 20 pounds and winning $100,000.” 

2nd Place: Jonathon VanDam (20-12, 55-14)
Jonathon VanDam will enter the final day on Lake Michigan with a golden opportunity to salvage an otherwise disappointing season on the Elite Series.  Entering the seventh stop of the year well outside of the Bassmaster Classic cut, the young Michigan pro, who has years of experience targeting Great Lakes smallmouth, knew that this week was probably his best chance at scoring a victory and securing his spot in the Grand Lake Classic next February.

VanDam remained in the hunt over the first two rounds, entering Saturday in 3rd place.  He made his move on the weekend, boxing an impressive 20-12 limit to move within four ounces of the lead with just one day remaining. 

Jonathon VanDamTargeting a shallow water area where wolf packs of feeding smallmouth pull up several times throughout the day, VanDam said that he got off to a fast start on Saturday.  “I caught a couple good ones right away, and I had a solid limit within the first hour and a half,” he explained.  “The fish move in and out of the area where I’m fishing, so you really never know when they’re going to pull up and feed.  There are a lot of big ones in the school.” 
 
Needing to cull out one small fish, VanDam decided to make a move late in the day.  It didn’t pay off, and with less than an hour of fishing time left he decided to return to his primary area in hopes of culling up.  “I caught a three pounder and then I saw a big one cruising.  I pitched my drop shot in front of it and it swam over and ate it.  It was my biggest fish of the day.” 

VanDam said that if he is to hoist his first Elite Series trophy on Sunday, he’s going to have to turn in a strong performance.  “I’m really looking forward to it.  It sounds like both of us have a lot of fish in our areas,” h said, referring to tournament leader Brandon Palaniuk.  “There are a lot of four, five, and even a few six pounders in the school that I’m targeting.  I’m just going to stay there all day, grind it out, and see what happens,” he concluded.   

4th Place: Dean Rojas (13-8, 51-4)
Arizona’s Dean Rojas will be the first to say that slipping out of the lead on Saturday to finish the day in 4th place with a total weight of 51-4, while disappointing, wasn’t a crushing blow. Rojas entered the week well within the Classic cut but needed two solid finishes to make a push for the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week in September.

Dean RojasHis history on the Great Lakes hasn’t been that stellar – he finished in 81st and 97th the last two times the Elite Series visited Lake Erie out of Buffalo, New York in 2007 and 2008. This week, he has turned that trend around, surprising himself by staying at or near the top of the leaderboard each of the first three days. 

On Saturday, Rojas brought in his lightest bag of the week weighing 13-8.  After relying on spawning smallmouth on Thursday, he moved offshore to take the lead on Friday.  On Saturday, the offshore bite dried up and he was forced to return the shallows in search of the few remaining spawners. 

“I could see the fish on the graph, but they just wouldn’t bite,” he said.  “I went to my backup area and caught bedding fish that were left over from the first day.  That’s where all my weight came from.  I knew that the bedding fish were there, but none of them would have helped me on either of the first two days.” 

Rojas was unsure why his offshore bite didn’t pan out.  “I don’t know if it was because the wind changed or because there wasn’t as much current.  The fish were suspended and just swimming around.”  On the plus side, Rojas said that the conditions for the first three days on Lake Michigan have been a pleasant surprise.  “The lake was like glass on the ride in,” he explained.  “I’ve been able to run wide open almost the entire time that we’ve been here.” 

5th Place: Tommy Biffle (16-10, 47-7)
Oklahoma’s Tommy Biffle broke a string of three consecutive missed cuts in a big way this week on Lake Michigan.  With a limit weighing 16-10 on Saturday to boost his total weight to 47-7, Biffle finished the day in 5th place but will enter Sunday’s finale just under nine pounds behind leader Brandon Palaniuk. 

Tommy BiffleRather than joining the crowds targeting offshore smallmouth, Biffle opted to play the odds and stay in the river to key on smallmouth that he could reach regardless of the conditions.  “My strategy was that I thought the wind was going to blow at least one day,” he explained.  “That hasn’t happened. I know that there are some big ones that live there, but is it likely that I’ll catch them?  Probably not,” admitted Biffle.

On Saturday, Biffle said that he was able to capitalize on an early morning bite.  With 15 pounds in the livewell by 9:00, he said that he culled several times the remainder of the day.  Hey pointed to Friday’s 13-12 effort that most likely hurt his chances to win the event.  “My three smallest keepers died in the livewell because my trolling motor cable accidentally hit the livewell switch and turned off the aerator,” he explained.  “I was pretty much done at 11:00 because I couldn’t cull out those three dead ones.”

 

DAY THREE STANDINGS

PlaceNameDay 1Day 2Day 3Total FishTotal Weight
FishWeightFishWeightFishWeight
1 Brandon Palaniuk 5 18- 0 5 17- 0 5 21- 2 15 56- 2
2 Jonathon VanDam 5 17-11 5 17- 7 5 20-12 15 55-14
3 Aaron Martens 5 20- 0 5 16-15 5 16- 1 15 53- 0
4 Dean Rojas 5 19-14 5 17-14 5 13- 8 15 51- 4
5 Tommy Biffle 5 17- 1 5 13-12 5 16-10 15 47- 7
6 Ott DeFoe 5 16-11 5 14-11 5 15- 0 15 46- 6
7 Ishama Monroe 5 16-13 5 15- 5 5 12-15 15 45- 1
8 Skeet Reese 5 16- 0 5 12- 6 5 16- 1 15 44- 7
9 James Niggemeyer 5 16- 9 5 12-13 5 13-15 15 43- 5
10 Stephen Browning 5 14-10 5 14-15 5 13- 6 15 42-15
11 Russell Lane 5 12-12 5 17- 4 5 12- 9 15 42- 9
12 Bernie Schultz 5 14-14 5 14-12 5 12-13 15 42- 7
13 Bill Lowen 5 14- 1 5 13- 6 5 14-11 15 42- 2
14 Chris Zaldain 5 16-13 5 16-12 4 8- 2 14 41-11
15 David Walker 5 17-13 4 11- 4 5 12- 1 14 41- 2
16 Terry Scroggins 5 16-13 5 13-14 5 10- 4 15 40-15
17 Scott Rook 5 15-13 5 13- 6 5 11- 5 15 40- 8
18 Chris Lane 5 15-12 5 14-15 5 9-10 15 40- 5
19 Kevin VanDam 5 13- 1 5 16- 5 3 10-14 13 40- 4
20 Shaw E Grigsby 5 13-13 5 14- 6 5 11-14 15 40- 1
21 Kotaro Kiriyama 5 12- 2 5 12- 9 5 15- 5 15 40- 0
22 Boyd Duckett 5 10- 2 5 16- 6 5 13- 7 15 39-15
23 Stephen Kennedy 5 14- 2 5 13- 2 5 12-10 15 39-14
24 Travis Manson 5 16- 7 5 11- 1 4 12- 3 14 39-11
25 Greg Hackney 5 17- 0 5 17- 1 2 5-10 12 39-11
26 Derek Remitz 5 12-11 5 14- 1 5 12-11 15 39- 7
27 Brent Chapman 5 13-14 5 14-10 5 10-13 15 39- 5
28 Mark Davis 5 14-14 3 8-15 5 15- 1 13 38-14
29 Todd Faircloth 5 18- 3 3 7- 8 5 12-15 13 38-10
30 John Crews 5 16- 6 5 17-11 2 4- 8 12 38- 9
31 Edwin Evers 5 11- 2 4 10-11 5 14-13 14 36-10
32 Fred Roumbanis 5 10- 3 5 14- 9 5 11- 7 15 36- 3
33 David Smith 5 13- 2 5 14- 5 4 8-10 14 36- 1
34 Takahiro Omori 5 12- 0 5 18- 1 2 4-12 12 34-13
35 Mark Menendez 5 16- 9 2 5- 0 5 13- 4 12 34-13
36 Keith Combs 5 11- 9 5 12- 3 5 10-12 15 34- 8
37 Timmy Horton 5 13- 4 4 7-15 5 13- 3 14 34- 6
38 Scott Ashmore 5 15-14 5 13-10 3 4-13 13 34- 5
39 Rick Clunn 5 13-12 5 10-14 5 9- 7 15 34- 1
40 Yusuke Miyazaki 5 14- 8 5 17- 4 1 2- 1 11 33-13
41 Pete Ponds 5 13-15 4 11-12 3 7-10 12 33- 5
42 Rick Morris 5 11- 4 5 15- 2 3 6- 8 13 32-14
43 Matthew Herren 5 17-14 2 6- 8 3 8- 1 10 32- 7
44 Bobby Lane 5 16- 8 4 7- 5 3 8- 2 12 31-15
45 Dustin Wilks 5 11- 3 5 15- 1 2 5- 9 12 31-13
46 Chad Griffin 5 12- 1 4 9- 8 5 9- 8 14 31- 1
47 Matt Greenblatt 5 13- 8 3 10-10 2 4-11 10 28-13
48 Kevin Ledoux 4 11- 0 5 15- 4 9 26- 4
49 Alton Jones 5 12-12 4 11- 3 9 23-15