Brandon Palaniuk of Hayden, Idaho, has been tournament fishing for the last nine years. In 2017, he won the prestigious title of Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year. He's qualified for nine Bassmaster Classics - every one he's fished in since he started competing in the Bassmaster Elite Series. Today, he fishes on the Major League Fishing (MLF) Circuit and just finished in the top 10 at MLF’s Table Rock tournament, along with Ott DeFoe and Kevin VanDam, also on the Mossy Oak Fishing Team.
I'm often asked, “How did you handle the pressure of competing against the best bass fishermen in the world at your first Bassmaster Classic?” Most people won’t believe this, but when I went into that tournament, I was oddly calm. I respected all the great anglers who were eligible to fish in my first Classic. I’d looked up to them and admired them most of my life. I decided that I’d qualified to compete against those guys, so I wasn’t going to that first tournament just to say I’d fished in a Bassmaster Classic. I knew I was there to win. To qualify meant I’d had a chance to win, and I realized I had to build up my own confidence in my chance to win.
If a fisherman qualifies for an end-of-the-season tournament, to have an opportunity to win, he must believe he can win. He can’t just think about the honor of getting to compete at the end-of-the-year tournament, or who the other anglers are. He’s got to believe in his heart that he can win. If he doesn’t approach a tournament that way, he’ll probably never win. Or, at least that’s what has worked for me. I had to continually tell myself, “You’re here to win this tournament no matter who the other competitors are. You’ve been selected to compete against the best-of-the-best fishermen. That means you’re one of the best-of-the-best anglers in this tournament.”
I continually told myself, “I'm here to win. I'm not here to place or to show. I'm here to win.”
Being given the options of fishing well enough to receive a paycheck or losing or winning the tournament, I’ll go for the win every time. Then if I lose, I still know I've done my best to win.