Brandon Palaniuk is the 2022 Bassmaster® Angler of the Year. The Yamaha/Skeeter Pro clinched the title on the Mississippi River with 39 pounds, 11 ounces, and a 25th place finish on the third day of the final Elite tournament of the season. He also became the 12th angler to win multiple AOY trophies, earning his first title in 2017.
After battling David Mullins and John Cox for the lead most of the year, Palaniuk entered the Mississippi River event with a 37-point lead over Brandon Lester after a disappointing showing at Lake Oahe. Lester and Chris Johnston put the pressure on Palaniuk this week, as both anglers qualified for Championship Monday.
Meanwhile, Palaniuk had just four bass in his livewell with a half hour to go on Day 2. In danger of missing the cut, Palaniuk landed his fifth keeper at around 3:30 p.m. to make the Semifinal Sunday field.
“The weight the last two weeks, I have felt like Brandon Lester was the size of a Sasquatch on my shoulders. And that is kudos to him for how good of an angler he is,” Palaniuk said. “He put the pressure on me. I hated it the last two weeks and I loved it at the same time. It made me feel alive.
“What blows my mind is that AOY was literally decided by one bass. One bass yesterday I caught at 3:30 gave me a limit and without that, I don’t win AOY. That is why you fish until the very end. I always say I have won more tournaments on my last cast than the first cast.”
He left no doubt on Semifinal Sunday as to who would be hoisting the AOY trophy, landing a limit in the first 15 minutes of the day to seal the deal.
Palaniuk was able to begin his celebration on stage with his daughter, Kora, in his arms and his wife, Tiffanie, by his side.
“It doesn’t get any better than that. Because of them, I can do what I do. It is just as much theirs as it is mine,” he said.
Palaniuk made eight of the nine Day 3 cuts during the 2022 season, notching Top 10 finishes at Santee Cooper Lakes (third place), Lake Fork (second place) and Pickwick Lake (seventh place) and Top 30 finishes at the St. Johns River, Harris Chain, Chickamauga Lake, St. Lawrence River and the Mississippi River.
Other than the Santee Cooper Lakes event, Palaniuk did not have good practices. But each practice gave him one clue that he ran with during the tournament.
“Outside of Santee Cooper, I felt like my entire year was made up on the fly,” he explained. “It was a complete scramble from getting little clues in practice and running with them in the event and turning those subpar practices into really good events. You have to think of fishing as a math equation. You have all these variables and you put them into an equation, and whatever that equals is the answer to catching your bass.
“The more time you spend on the water and see those sets of variables, the faster the light bulb goes off. That’s how I fished my entire season. (I was) living on the edge of disaster and made it work.”
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Please see photo of 2022 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk, photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.