Brandon Palaniuk of Hayden, Idaho, won the 2017 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title at Mille Lacs Lake held out of Onamia, Minn., Sunday. - Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.
Michigan's Kevin VanDam finishes in 10th place while Jonathan VanDam ends the year at number 42
ONAMIA, Minn. — As the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series season progressed, Brandon Palaniuk always had a sense that he was in contention for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year crown.
But he never let himself look at the standings. He never even allowed himself to think about the race.
Now, he may never stop thinking about it.
The 29-year-old pro from Hayden, Idaho, caught 62 pounds, 3 ounces of bass to finish in 20th place at this week’s Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota. That allowed him to finish 14 points ahead of Oklahoma pro Jason Christie and secure his first career AOY title.
“I didn’t know if it would ever happen,” said Palaniuk, who topped Christie by a final margin of 902 to 888 in the AOY standings. “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.
By Alan McGuckin
Be honest, if a genie in a bottle offered you an 18-pound limit of bass every time you went fishing, you’d jump on it like a 5-pound smallmouth on a soft shell crawdad.
So would I.
But for the greatest bass angler of all time, bringing an 18-pound limit of smallmouth to the scales on Day 1 of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake Mille Lacs felt like Christmas without presents. Or, maybe a good old fashioned kick in the fishin’ shorts.
“Yea, absolutely I’d call it disappointing,” said Kevin VanDam in the predawn light just before heading out in search of a bigger sack of bronze bombers on Day 2.
By Al McGuckin
Jordan Lee and Casey Ashley both sit inside the Top 10 of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race, and the two Quantum pros graciously offered their input on everything from fried catfish to sturgeon, and of course smallmouth bass, on the eve of competition at Lake Mille Lacs.
Last year was a slugfest here at Mille Lacs. How do conditions compare this year?
Jordan Lee: The weather is a lot warmer. Last year we were wearing Carhartt beanies on our heads to stay warm, and the lake does seem to be fishing tougher.
Casey Ashley: It’s so much tougher this year. It’s like these fish got a good education between last year and now. There aren’t any dumb ones left swimming here now.