Onamia, Minn., Sept. 18, 2017 – Skeeter Pro Brandon Palaniuk is the 2017 Toyota® Bassmaster® Angler of the Year. Palaniuk caught 62 pounds, 3 ounces of smallmouth to finish in 20th place, earning the points he needed to surpass Oklahoma Pro Jason Christie by a final margin of 902 to 888 points, and claim his first Angler of the Year title during the Toyota® Mille Lacs Championship tournament.
For the 29-year-old pro from Hayden, Idaho, hoisting the AOY trophy was the culmination of a phenomenal season that saw Palaniuk record six Top 12 finishes, including a victory on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The $100,000 he claimed with the AOY title pushed his career earnings past $1 million with B.A.S.S. ®
“I didn’t know if it would ever happen,” said Palaniuk, “This has been a dream of mine since I was 8 years old. I decided 21 years ago that this is what I was going to do. I just made up my mind that I wanted to fish for a living — and every decision I’ve made for 21 years has led to this point.”
Palaniuk said he feared that finish might haunt him for the rest of the career — until he worked some late magic during Friday’s second round. With only six minutes left before check-in, Palaniuk landed a 6-pound Mille Lacs smallmouth that proved to be his biggest fish of the event. He put the bass in his livewell and made it back to the weigh-in with only 40 seconds to spare.
“That’s when I really got the feeling that this was meant to be, and I think that’s why I was so calm,” he said. “When that happened, it gave me a completely different mental outlook on the whole week.”
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