BassWestUSA - March/April, 2011, Page 45

In 2009, Brandon shed the Bass Federation Nation Quali ers in Idaho and made the State Team and earned the right to sh the Western Regionals in Yuma, AZ on Lake Martinez in the spring of 2010. He said “I didn’t really have anything special going on down there and caught eight or nine pounds each day but ended up win- ning for Idaho.” He nished the event in 14th overall, but still managed to win his state and moved on to the Nationals on the Red River in Shreveport, LA in Octo- ber 2010. That is where the stars starting aligning for the young bass angler from Idaho. He made the long trip from Rath- drum, Idaho to Shreveport and pre- shed for three weeks. He camped in the back of his truck, adding to the lore and weekend bass angler spirit in all of us. He started off the rst day leading the event, then slipped to fourth place on the second day, and fol- lowed it up with a charge that lead to his rst major win. With the win, he won a fully rigged Skeeter Boat and earned the right to sh the Bassmaster Classic in New Or- leans and a berth into the Bassmaster Elite Series. Past Federation Nation Natonal Champions have been offered the chance to sh the Elite Series, but until Brandon, nobody has taken B.A.S.S. up on the of- fer. 2011 marked Palaniuk’s rookie season shing against the best in the world. With his success, age, and unique story; he has earned plenty of attention leading up to and during the Bassmaster Classic and kick-off to the Elite Season. One comparison that is often made is to Bryan Kerchal, who in 1994 was the rst and only Federation angler to win the Bassmaster Classic. What made the com- parisons so eerie are the ages of the two anglers. At 23 years old each, they were

within a month of each other at the time of shing the Classic. Tragically, Bryan died in a plane crash just months after the big- gest win of his career. When asked about the similarities, Brandon mentioned how he “watched the video of that Classic at least 20 times and each time I watched it I got choked up. Bryan brought a lot of light to the Federation and was a great repre- sentative for all of the Federation anglers. He was a true inspiration for me and every- one who shes tournaments and dreams of one day shing and winning the Bass- master Classic. I am honored to be repre- senting the federation and wanted to sh the event in his honor. ” His words prior to the event would become more honorable as he entered his rst Classic on the New Orleans Delta. Going into the Classic in New Orleans, Brandon was getting a large amount of at-

tention and press coverage as a potential “dark horse” pick for the win. There was something about his story that people wanted to be part of. He started off Day One with a respectable 14lb10oz limit and nished the day in 11th. On Day Two, he showed it was not a uke and improved his weight to 17lb14oz and moved up to 4th place. On Day Three he weighed 22lbs 15oz to maintain his 4th place nish, earn- ing the respect of his peers and gaining fans everywhere. What was impressive about the nish was his poise during the event. He was sh- ing Lake Cataouatche with Derek Remitz, Scott Rook, Aaron Martens and the win- ner Kevin VanDam (who all nished in the top 7 of the event). He wasn’t just shing the same lake; he was shing within sight of the group the entire event. He recalls the rst day of the event shing in thick

March/April 2011