January 9, 2011

The Brandon Palaniuk Story

Seventeen years ago, 23 year old Bryan Kerchal won the Bassmaster Classic.  He was the first and only to win the Classic from the Federation before he tragically died a few months later.  Recently a Federation angler has been compared to Bryan. The similarities are there, both moved up through the Federation, both qualified for the Classic and they are within a month of being the same age at the time of the event.  Can Brandon Palaniuk win the Classic just like Bryan?

Just a few short months ago, Brandon Palaniuk was hanging out with friends, fishing, and working in Northern Idaho for a company that built logging roads.  Since he was eight years old he has dreamed of fishing the Classic and and now he is preparing to do it.  He will also be fishing this year on the Elite Series.  You might not have heard his name yet, but his fishing accomplishments are making sure you take notice. Brandon has long been a dominant force in the Pacific Northwest, making the Idaho Federation Nation and TBF State teams with amazing consistency over the last few years.  His success has also allowed him to represent the state of Idaho at the national level in the Federation three times.  At the age of 23, he has done more than most fishermen have done in a lifetime.  He recently won the Federation Nation National Championship which gave him a berth into both the Elite Series and the Bassmaster Classic.  With him growing up in tiny Rathdrum, ID; I fished against him several times when I was living in Washington State and just had the chance to talk with him to see how things have changed since making the Classic.

TB: You qualified through the Federation, probably one of the most difficult paths.  Walk me through the qualification you made all the way to the classic.
BP: It all started with fishing the Idaho qualifiers for the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation.  From there I made the Idaho State team and was invited to fish the Western Divisional on Lake Martinez in Yuma, AZ.  I didn’t really have anything special going on down there and caught eight or nine pounds each day but ended up winning for Idaho (he finished 14th with 23lbs 9oz over 3 days) and qualified for the Nationals on the Red River in Shreveport, LA.  I was able to win that event and make it to the Classic and also make the Elite Series. 

TB:  The story behind that win was pretty cool.  Tell me how you did it.
BP:  I found a spot in practice that was really hard to get into, but I had read that tournaments have been won back there.  I waited until the last half of the day of the last practice day to try to get back there.  It was a really shallow path and I had to remove things like thick hyacinths mats just to make a path.  It got really shallow in places and was only a few inches deep in spots.  It took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to make that first path.  I didn’t want anyone else to see me go back there so on the first tournament day; I waited until all the boats had blasted past me to sneak in there.  I was just cranking a rock jetty until they were all gone.  Once I make it back there it took me a little while to figure out the sweet spots, but I had it all to myself. 

TB: Now that you’ve made the Elite Series, what are your goals?  Are you nervous? 
BP: I want to have a solid season and re-qualify.  Of course, I’d also love to win Rookie of the Year, but this is a strong class of rookies.  Guys like David Walker, Andy Montgomery, Ott Defoe, Keith Combs have all been fishing on the FLW Tour for years, plus you have all of the other rookies.  I’m a little nervous, but don’t have any expectations for myself.

TB: Since qualifying for the Elites, I see you have picked up a few new sponsors.  What new companies will you be working with and what other sponsors do you have now?
BP:  I just signed on with Berkley, Abu Garcia, Wave Away, Skeeter and Yamaha and Topwater Clothing.  I am also sponsored by BaitSmith, Parker Toyota, and AXTackle.com.

TB: Idaho is not really known as a bass fishing state, what do you have to say about the bass fishing in Idaho?
BP:   It’s really good bass fishing, in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest in general.  You know how good it is, you lived there.  I believe the Northwest is one of the most versatile regions in the entire country.  You can fish clear lakes or muddy water, deep lakes or shallow places; the Northwest has it all.  We have some of the best fishing in the country for maybe nine months of the year.

TB: What do you think of the similarities between you and Bryan Kerchal?  
BP: I have watched the video of that Classic at least twenty times and every time I watch it I get choked up.  Bryan brought a lot of light the federation and was an amazing representative for the entire federation.  I am honored to be representing the federation and hope to do well in his honor.  He was a true inspiration for everyone who fishes the and dreams of winning the classic.
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