Palanuik Talks AOY and his Incredible 2017 Elite Series Journey

“I still don’t even know if has sunk in yet,” said Brandon Palaniuk a few days after winning the 2017 Bassmaster angler of the Year title.

“I’ve been so busy since it happened I haven’t sat and thought about it. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a different feeling than what I have felt, really, in anything else. You want to win something so bad and then as it gets closer and closer you just want it that much more and then all of a sudden, in an instant, its real. It’s in your hand. The competitive side of me is like ‘ok, I accomplished that, let’s go get the next one’ but at the same time I want to make the most of this one. I want to enjoy it. I want to remember it and do as much as I can with it to, one, better my career and, two, hopefully better the sport.”

On the final morning of the AOY Championship tourney Palaniuk fished through a slow bite. Surely doubts arose in his mind. Right? “No. I was actually surprisingly calm.

“I woke up Sunday morning feeling like I was going to catch them. I was at ease with it; felt good about it and at 10:30 I even looked at my camera guy and told him ‘man, I should be freaking out right now’. I had one bass in the livewell and wasn’t even that worried. I wasn’t stressed out about it, I wasn’t in a panic.

“I just felt like at some point in the day it was going to happen.

“Next thing you know, like, 15 minutes later, I pull up to a rock proceed to catch 12 fish off of it. And that’s pretty much what did it for me. Then I went to another spot and caught two 4-and-a-half-pounders on back-to-back drops.

“That quick it just changes.”

During the AOY tourney Palaniuk caught all of his weigh-in fish on a smoke/purple Zoom Super Fluke on a dropshot rig.

Across his award-winning season he relied heavily on 3 lures: swim jig, 3/8 or ½ oz., white, black and chartreuse with a white Zoom Super Speed Craw on the back. “I caught fish on that everywhere.” A Storm Arashi Top Walker. And, “Pretty much the entire northern swing I caught fish on a Zoom Z Drop on a dropshot.”

The road to success is littered with bumps and potholes. Palaniuk experienced on early on in the 2017 season. “Okeechobee. Finishing 105th and battling back from that to get in a position to win Angler of the Year.”

Palaniuk could have felt sorry for himself after the disappointment at the ‘Big O’. But . . .

“I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.

“Going from a Top 12 at Cherokee to bombing at Okeechobee – I felt like I went from having a really good shot at making a run at Angler of the Year to essentially having to start my climb all the way over.”

Climb he did. The summit of Palaniuk’s season was the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest on Lake Sam Rayburn in May, which he won with a total weight of 93 pounds, 12 ounces. “It was just a super fun week. I really enjoyed it.

“And that also automatically qualified me for the Classic. So, I didn’t really change the way I was fishing after that, but there was also a part of me that knew, no matter what happened the rest of the year, that weight was lifted off my chest. 2018 Classic – qualified. Now you’re focused on catching as many fish as you can.”

Palaniuk never wants to know where he stands in the points. The reason for this dovetails with the reason for his free-swinging attitude following an automatic Classic berth. “For some guys, it’s a motivator to know where they stand in the points. For me, I feel like if I know where I’m at in the points my decision-making process is different, somewhere in the back of my mind. If I have no idea, the points essentially become irrelevant and all of my decision-making process is based on catching the 5 biggest fish I can each day, which is what everyone should do anyway. But that’s easier said than done.”

Decision-making is a key element in good tournament fishing. Palaniuk recounts his best decision this season. “Toledo Bend, on day 3 of the tournament I just completely abandoned where I had been fishing the first 2 days and started in a completely new area that I hadn’t fished yet in the tournament. It ended up carrying me to a Top 12. I felt like I really made the right adjustment in that one.”

109 of the top pros in America set out to win the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title this season. What separated Palaniuk from the rest? “I fished with a super open mind. I tried to fish based 100% on current conditions.”

Palaniuk enjoys as much family support as any angler on tour. His sponsors have also been loyal to him, a point not lost on the 29-year old pro. “It’s a personal win for me but it’s also a win for my team and that includes my sponsors, all the people that believed in me before I ever even made my first cast in the Elite Series. I will always have a special place in my heart for those kind of people that took a chance on me.

“Skeeter and Yamaha have been with me from day 1 and Rigid has been with me since my 2nd year on Tour – my title sponsor for 5 years now which is big for a non-endemic company to stick with me that long and have faith in me.

“I’ve been with Buck Knives, Storm, Rapala, VMC, even my buddy Scott at ProCise Outdoors – we’ve kind of grown and built that into something together.”

So what does a young guy do with the type of money Palaniuk has earned this year? “Been looking at possibly building a new house for me and Tiffany. I’ll be smart with it, invest it back into my video projects, use it wisely where it will end up making more money down the road.”


Author Vance McCullough is an avid Outdoorsman and Football Coach from Jacksonville, Florida. You can Follow Vance on Facebook or on Instagram.