Thirty-three-year-old Mossy Oak Fishing Team member Brandon Palaniuk of Hayden, Idaho, has been a bass pro for 9 years and the Angler of the Year and has earned $1.3 million fishing. To learn more about Brandon Palaniuk, visit his Facebook page.
When I woke up on the last day of the Bassmaster Elite Series on Lake Champlain, the weather forecast indicated that there would be a strong wind. During practice, it was windy almost every day, and the wind would blow the hardest early in the morning and later in the day. Usually, I had to run a lot of water and catch smallmouths off individual rocks, but I realized that I would have to fish on the deeper rocks on days like that because that was where the wind pushed the baitfish.
On the first day of competition, there were about 15 other competitors fishing in the same area as me, and I placed 8th. On the second day, it was about the same, but I had dropped down to 11th place, after weighing in 18 pounds and 10 ounces. After cutting the field in half on the third day, there were only 10 competitors fishing the same spots that I was fishing, and I came in 5th. On the final day, there was no one else fishing in the same area as me, and that helped me win. There were 88 pro fishermen in this tournament, so after being in 8th place on the first day, I was pretty confident that I had a chance to win. I knew I had some ground to make up, but I also felt I was within striking distance.
The wind was blowing so hard on the last day that most of the spectators stayed at home. By the end of that day, the waves got up to about 5- or 6-feet tall. Riding the front of the boat was much like riding a bucking bull. At the end of fishing time, when I was running back to the weigh-in, I didn’t have a clue as to whether I would win or not. I knew that there were bigger smallmouths at Lake Champlain that I didn’t land, but I didn’t know how much bigger they were than my fish in the live well. I was the fifth competitor to weigh in and could tell that I was ahead of the first four guys. However, five competitors were behind me, and I was concerned about them. As each one of them weighed-in, I knew that they needed more weight than I had, but each one of them consistently had less weight than my bag. I didn’t know that I’d won for sure until the last competitor’s fish was weighed-in. In the end, I not only won $100,000 and a trophy, but I also got the bragging rights.