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Bassmaster Elite Series season will culminate in championship at Mille Lacs

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Palaniuk is currently leading the race with 811 points.

ONAMIA—The $1 million Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship is scheduled Sept. 14-17 on Mille Lacs Lake, the culmination of the Bassmaster Elite Series season.

A new Angler of the Year will be crowned, berths will be earned and solidified for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Dick's Sporting Goods and someone will likely leave broken-hearted after falling out of Classic contention.

The storylines will be plentiful, beginning with points leader Brandon Palaniuk.

After a stellar season with six Top 12 finishes, including a victory at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, Palaniuk is in position to win his first career Angler of the Year title with a good showing at Mille Lacs.

He leads Oklahoma angler Jason Christie by just 15 points (811 to 796)—the tightest race in championship history. So, unlike those who may be fishing for one fish to guarantee their spot in the Classic, Palaniuk will be fishing as hard as he would in any other event.

Christie, who is fresh off a victory in the final regular season Elite, the Advance Auto Parts Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair, said he feels a sense of calm going into the event.

The tournament is likely to be an eye-popping event for fans who enjoy seeing lots of giant smallmouth.

Mille Lacs, which has long been known as one of the finest walleye fisheries in the United States, burst onto the bass-fishing scene during last year's championship. Minnesota angler Seth Feider had the biggest three-day catch during that event with daily five-bass limits weighing 25-8, 24-11 and 26-2 and totaling 76-5.

In July, Mille Lacs was named the No. 1 bass fishing lake in the country by Bassmaster Magazine.

"If it had been a four-day event, I think Seth Feider would have broken 100 pounds last year," Palaniuk said. "That's the kind of lake it is."

Christie agreed.

"I went out and caught 21 pounds a day last year and finished in 18th place," Christie said. "It's just one of those places where you never know how much weight you're going to need."

The list of anglers on the Classic bubble include some of the biggest names in fishing, like California pros Ish Monroe and Skeet Reese and New Jersey superstar Michael Iaconelli.

Some of those who fail to make the Classic will have another chance Sept. 19-22 in the Bassmaster Classic Bracket on Pokegama Lake at Grand Rapids. That event will feature the first eight anglers in the Angler of the Year standings who failed to make the Classic in a one-on-one bracket-style competition, with the winner earning a Classic berth.

Takeoffs for the championship will be at 6:50 a.m. each day from Eddy's Resort. Weigh-ins will take place at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Sunday at Grand Casino Mille Lacs.

On Saturday, all 50 anglers will take a break from tournament competition to participate in a special expo and conduct seminars for Bassmaster University.