It has been about a week since I returned from a great trip to Minnesota. As I was reflecting on the trip, I recalled arriving in the Pokegama Golf Course parking lot – the golf course in Grand Rapids, Minn., played host to the Bassmaster Classic Bracket. When I stepped out of the truck James Overstreet, the great B.A.S.S. photographer, said, “What a beautiful morning.” I said, “Yes it is.” He continued with something to the effect of, “What else would you rather be doing? We have the greatest jobs in the world!”
He is right. I am so grateful that we have the greatest job in the world. We were getting ready to go out on a lake, he to take pictures of and I to officiate some of the greatest anglers in the world. Yet this trip was about so much more.
I started my trip by driving up to Mille Lacs to attend a Minn. high school fishing brainstorming session to see how we could all make high school fishing in Minn. the best that it could possibly be. About 35 people attended. There were coaches, industry leaders from companies like Rapala and Shimano, Department of Natural Resources representatives, leaders from B.A.S.S. and FLW and celebrities like Al and Ron Lindner. It was a great meeting with many great ideas coming out of it. High school fishing is in terrific shape in Minn., and I believe will continue down that path with the Minn. B.A.S.S. Nation and all those other folks working together to make it even better.
Later that week, prior to the final Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year weigh-in and with the help of some great partners like Carhartt, Toyota, Nitro, Mercury, Power-Pole, Humminbird and Minn Kota, I had the pleasure of presenting the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Bracket champion Jacob Foutz with a Toyota truck and a fully rigged Nitro to use for the 2018 season. Congrats and good luck Jacob!
That same afternoon, I was able to witness firsthand the crowning of the 2017 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. This was a big one, personally, for me. You see Brandon Palaniuk gained his Elite Series berth by winning the 2010 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on the Red River in Shreveport, La. Brandon winning AOY was the biggest thing to happen to a B.A.S.S. Nation angler since Bryan Kerchal won the 1994 Bassmaster Classic. If you know me, you know I am extremely excited and proud any time an angler that comes through the B.A.S.S. Nation, College or High School program does well, and it does not get much better than a Bassmaster Elite Series AOY title. Congrats, Brandon!