It seems that the sport of tournament bass fishing has almost been ingrained into the fabric of Luke Palmer’s life. Ever since he was young, his father, Tammy, was a fixture at local tournaments through the Oklahoma area; competing against some of the most well-known anglers to ever come out of the Sooner State.
As he aged, Palmer began to feel drawn to the events, and at the age of 11, he started a business so that he could begin fishing team tournaments with him. “I was interested in fishing tournaments, and I also knew that if I wanted to spend a lot of time with my dad, it would be best to join him,” said the 28-year-old 2019 Elite Series rookie. “So, I started a lawn care business in my neighborhood to have the money to help my dad with the expenses of fishing the tournaments; I really enjoyed fishing them, learned a lot, and got to spend some great times with him.”
He continued to compete in tournaments as life went on. Along with the fishing tournaments, and running his lawn are business, he played traditional ball sports; namely basketball and baseball. As he entered Coalgate High School in his hometown, he played shooting guard on the basketball team, and was a shortstop and pitcher on the school’s baseball team.
On the court he classified himself as a “16 to 17 point per game scorer, but a feisty defender that nobody really wanted to play against;” he led the State in steals one season. On the diamond, he said that he was a shortstop and leadoff hitter who hit for high average and stole bases. What seems to have set him apart was his work ethic and fortitude in the athletic arenas; a trait he carried into every other arena in his life.
While he was playing sports for the Wildcats, he continued to work his lawn care business, compete with his father, and put away money for his future endeavors. He said he played his final basketball game, and immediately invested in his fishing passion. “We lost in the state tournament and drove to Enid that night to meet a guy to pick up my first bass boat,” he said. “A Z520 that had 24 hours on the engine, and working around baseball practice and games, I fished my first tournament in it about three weeks later.”
While many would think that his parents foot the bill for the purchase, he said it was quite the opposite. “I had saved as much as I could from cutting grass and fishing earnings, so I paid cash for the boat,” he said. “After that, I told my dad it was his turn to take it easy and just fish with me. He carried most of the burden when I was getting get started, so I felt like it was time to let him enjoy the sport a little more.”
After his last high school baseball game, his sports career now complete, Palmer said he needed a new focus for his competitive nature. “I focused it all on fishing,” he said. “All of the energy and drive I had put into sports got put into fishing; I love competition, and I loved fishing, so it was a natural progression.”
He brought his worker / grinder type effort with him to the water, and put more into his off the water life as well. During the week, he began working with his father at their hardware store (he is now a part owner) his lawn business, as well as his father’s cattle ranch; all things he continues to do to this day, fitting tournaments in around his work life.
In 2010, when he was 18, he decided to try his hand at competing in Bassmaster tournaments; he finished 35th place, and told himself he wasn’t ready for that level of competition yet. He continued to fish locally with his father, and in individual tournaments for several more years.
He entered the 2016 Central Opens, intent of competing and qualifying for the Elite Series. He finished 18th at the first stop at Muskogee, then ninth at the Red River, which put him in third place in the points – in sight of his goal. He stumbled at the final event on the Atchafalaya basin that year, finishing 69th, dropping him to ninth in the points, narrowly missing his Elite Series invitation.
The following year, with some pressing needs at home, he decided not to fish the Opens, but fished the American Bass Anglers Oklahoma events in 2017, and qualified for the Ray Scott Championship in April of 2018 – which he won. In 2018, he reentered the Central Opens, finishing the season in seventh place, and finished the Opens Championship in eighth place; he qualified for the Elite Series in the process. “I set that goal when I started the 2016 season, and it feels good to have achieved it,” he said. “I have some sponsorships and winnings from tournaments that allow me to take the invitation, now I just need the season to start so I can set out after the next set of goals.”
He said that he thinks of himself as primarily a shallow water angler, but that competing in his area has given him the ability to do whatever it takes to compete. “My favorite lure is a Flippin’ jig, but I really do whatever is needed to catch the right fish,” he said. “That comes from fishing on Grand Lake and Texoma a lot; you have to be versatile to compete there.”
He and his fiancée Bernice Manion will head out together in the camper to start the season, caravanning with one towing the camper, and the other with the boat and truck once the season is started. In his own sheepish way, the Elite Series pro from Coalgate, Okla. says that he has a very clear first goal in mind. “I really want to try and win the Angler of the Year title this year,” he said in a humbly confident tone. “My second goal is to make the 2020 Bassmaster Classic
“I’m really hard on myself, and I work as hard as I can, and then work some more. I expect a lot out of myself, so I set my goals as high as possible to keep me driving; I’m really looking forward to being a part of the Elite Series.”
About Luke Palmer
Hometown: Coalgate, Okla.
Family: Bernice Manion (fiancée)
Former profession: Owner of Lawn Care business and Hardware Store Manager
College: Murray State University, Tishomingo, Okla.
Hobbies: Fishing, working and watching High School Basketball
Career accomplishments: 2018 American Bass Anglers Ray Scott Championship Winner (Red River, Shreveport, La., April, 2018). Three Top 10 finishes in nine Bassmaster Open events. Cashed paychecks in seven of nine Bassmaster Open events entered.
Social media: Instagram (@lukepalmerfishing)