Birge's Drop-Shot Flurry Carries him to Sudden Death Win in Challenge Select
By Joel Shangle
April 30, 2018
COLUMBIA, South Carolina – If you’re looking for proof of how efficient a drop-shot and a simple 4-inch finesse worm can be on a new fishery, look no further than MLF Select pros Zack Birge and Brandon Palaniuk’s battle in Sudden Death at the 2018 Challenge Select on South Carolina’s Monticello Reservoir.
On a stingy power-plant lake that neither had ever seen before, Birge and Palaniuk took turns ringing up SCORETRACKER for a combined 14 scorable fish, all on slightly different versions of a standard drop-shot rig. Birge was the first to hit the day’s 12-pound cut weight, going out in the second period with 12 pounds, 5 ounces; Palaniuk ended the day with the highest overall weight with 14-9.
“When they told us the cut weight was 12 pounds, I thought ‘Oh man, this lake is going to fish pretty tough’,” said Birge.
After a dead-slow Period 1 in which the six-man field caught only three scorable bass, Palaniuk was the first angler to crack the code, ringing up five fish for 8-13 in a 50-minute stretch midway through the second period. That flurry boosted Palaniuk from 2-2 to 10-15, just 1-1 shy of the 12-pound cut weight and an automatic berth in the Championship Round.
Oh, but that annoying little 1-1: Palaniuk’s drop-shot bite shut off almost as soon as he released fish No. 6 back in the water, leaving him stuck at 10-15.
Birge, meanwhile, had plucked three scorable fish off a shallow brush pile, but pulled his trolling motor and headed down the lake in search of a new spot. While running, Birge noticed a high spot on his graph, shut down and idled over what turned out to be an isolated rockpile.
Twelve minutes later, Birge had caught four fish for 5-13, boosting him from 6-8 to 12-5, and into the finals.
“I got on that little offshore spot, caught my final three fish on three drops and was out,” Birge says.
Palaniuk eventually caught a 3-10 in the third period to surpass the cut weight and join Birge in the finals. Scott Suggs finished the day with the next-highest weight (9-12) to claim the final spot in the Championship Round.
Birge’s winning gear
Birge caught all of his scorable fish on a 4-inch pink/purple finesse worm rigged on a 1/0 Gamakatsu drop-shot hook, with a 3/8-ounce Swagger Tackle drop-shot weight. He fished that bait on a 7-0 medium Falcon Cara rod and a Shimano CiR Stradic 2500 spooled with P-Line XTCB 8 Braid and 8-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon leader.