I’ve always said that the emotional ride of professional tournament fishing is worth the price of admission many times over. The recent Brandon Palaniuk Elite Series tournament incident on the Mississippi River is proof positive of that.
No matter what you think about the situation you have to believe that he was on a high coming into the docks on Friday afternoon. He was catching plenty of weight and was solidly in front of the rest of everyone else.
The victory looked to be his, and with it a $100,000 check along with a guaranteed berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. That’s serious success. But then came the down side.
Unknown to him at the time, he was in Minnesota waters when he culled a fish in violation of their regulations. He wasn’t in by much, mind you, and not at all on purpose, but his boat was over the state line.
After an inquiry, with which he fully cooperated, Palaniuk was disqualified. He wasn’t going to win. In fact, he wasn’t going to fish anymore in the 2013 Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole. That’s serious disappointment.
I’ll say one thing about him, however. He handled it well. The interviews he gave the next morning were pure class. I’m not sure I could have handled the situation with that much poise if I had been there. I might have needed a timeout. He didn’t.
No matter what you may think about the no-cull rule, or about the severity of his punishment, one thing is perfectly clear. It was a tough situation for everyone concerned, and one that no one wanted to deal with. It’s the kind of thing that keeps us all up at night.
The ups are wonderful in this sport. Leading a tournament by a sizeable margin, weighing big fish of the tournament or just landing a good one is memorable and gets your adrenalin up and running. At the time it seems as if the world is yours for the taking.
The downs are of the same intensity, only from a different direction. Being disqualified for an inadvertent mistake, losing a giant bass when you did everything right or having a tough day when all the other guys are catching them feels like someone ran a knife into your heart. It’s as if you’re being taken by the world.
As wild as the ride is, however, I have to say that it’s worth it in the end. In fact, that’s one of the things that make fishing bass tournaments so much fun. You’re up, you’re down. Sometimes you know the why of it all, and sometimes you don’t have a clue.
Either way, in the end it’s about as good as it gets. I can’t think of another job or profession that works like ours or has such intensity. That’s why I do it.
The last two Elite tournaments are in smallmouth territory. If there’s any way you can make one of them, I’d encourage you to do so. The smallmouth that come out of those waters are big. Don’t miss the action if you have a choice.