From Idaho to stardom
Idaho isn’t exactly known as a breeding ground for professional bass fishermen. It has some great trout streams and some big salmon, but bass? Not a lot.
But as unlikely as that might seem, that’s where Brandon Palaniuk got his start.
“We had a family friend who fished in tournaments here in the Northwest region, and he took me out fishing for bass for the first time when I was 8,” Palaniuk said. “We fished on a little lake called Lake Hayden.
"I remember it like it was yesterday. I caught a 4-pounder from the back of the boat and I was just thrilled.
"To this day, I catch bass out of that same bush where I caught my first one.”
That experience inspired Palaniuk to set a career path. He joined a local bass club and at age 16 became one of the youngest anglers to fish what is now known as the B.A.S.S. Nation. That circuit consists of bass-club fishermen who compete on a circuit in their region.
If they’re good enough, they can advance through a gauntlet of local and regional tournaments and qualify for the nationals. Then, if they win the nationals, they advance to the Bassmaster Classic, where the top pros compete.
Palaniuk was good enough. He won the B.A.S.S. Nation championship tournament in 2010, and he was on his way. He finished fourth in his first Bassmaster Classic, then went on to the Elite pro series in 2011.
Since then, he has won five national tournaments, finished in the top 10 in 28 tournaments and won the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 2017.
He owes his success to the difficult path he had to take to make it to the big-time.
“When you’re brought up in a place like Idaho, where there isn’t a lot of bass water, you have to be versatile to get them to hit,” he said. “You have to try different things, because they’ve seen a lot of lures at the places that do have bass.
"That taught me a lot.”