SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Like the first three days of competition in western New York, Sudden Death Round 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Heritage Cup Presented by Berkley saw sunny skies and clear water. Lake Skaneateles played host to nine pros racing to be one of the first four to reach the 23-pound SIG SAUER Target Weight.
It was quick work for two anglers while two more held off the rest of the field long enough to move on to the Championship Round.
Brandon Palaniuk continued his offshore smallmouth clinic in this Heritage Cup by hitting the 23-pound Target Weight early in the second period. Palaniuk ended this first period with a 12 bass for 20 pounds, 5 ounces, giving him a huge head start on the rest of the field. The Idaho pro took advantage of the second-line rule two times and it paid off in both instances.
MLF rules allow for an angler to put a second line in the water once per period. In Period 1, Palaniuk was able to bring in a 2-0 and a 3-1, getting his morning off to a hot start. As the Huk pro got closer to 23 pounds in Period 2, he landed a 2-6 and a 1-9 to push himself over the Target Weight.
Palaniuk will try to win his first career MLF event in the Championship Round.
Greg Vinson was the second pro to reach the 23-pound Target Weight with a 3-14 halfway through Period 2. Vinson ended his first period with seven bass for 12-7, more than halfway towards the ultimate goal. The Phoenix pro never went more than an hour without catching a scorable bass, finishing with 15 bass for 24-13.
Aaron Martens finished his Sudden Death Round in third place, needing only 12 bass—the fewest amount among the Top 4 —to crack the 23-pound threshold. The Alabama pro’s four biggest fish, weighing 2-12, 2-14, 3-4, and 4-1 helped to rack up his total weight to 23-15. Martens used that 3-4 to get him just 1 ounce away from 23 pounds in Period 3.
The Alabama pro used a 1-pounder to cap off his day as he moved on to the Championship Round.
Dustin Connell and Fred Roumbanis went back and forth in the final period, jostling for the fourth and final spot in the Top 4. To begin Period 3, Roumbanis only needed 8 pounds to reach 23 pounds while Connell was right behind, needing 9-15.
With a jerkbait tied on, Connell caught a 3-3 smallmouth to start the final period. In the moment, Connell told his camera, “We’re on ‘em now.” He was right. Connell added five more scorable bass after that to push his total weight to 22-1.
Meanwhile, as time began to tick down, Roumbanis started a run of his own. Four bass for 5-14 got “Boom Boom” to 20-15 with just an hour and 10 minutes remaining. The Arkansas pro was assessed a fish-landing violation penalty on a 14-ounce non-scorable bass, making him take a seat for two minutes.
That penalty proved costly as Connell added a 2-2 to his total weight, giving him the final spot in the Top 4 and a Championship Round berth.
The Bass Pro Shops Heritage Cup Presented by Berkley resumes on Saturday, March 14 at 2 p.m. ET with Sudden Death Round 2 on Outdoor Channel. Nine more anglers will compete to be one of the first four to hit the SIG SAUER Target Weight. The four moving on will meet Palaniuk, Vinson, Martens and Connell in the Championship Round.
Each new episode of MLF Cup events will be available on MyOutdoorTV two days after premiering on Outdoor Channel.