Emcee Dave Mercer kicked off the Night of Champions dinner preceding the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods by querying the crowd with this thought: “Why is the Classic different?"
“Because it’s the tournament we all dreamed about. You guys, the anglers, the sponsors, anyone who has anything to do with this event — you guys are dreamers.”
Truly a fitting prelude to the inspirational speech by Brandon Palaniuk, who dreamed the dream, made the sacrifices and earned the 2017 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. Tonight, along with a mix of personal glimpses and motivational advice, he said “thank you,” but not only to the family, friends and fish that made his dream possible.
Rather, Brandon Palaniuk thanked B.A.S.S. for creating the platform through which he and so many others have been able to pursue their dreams.
“When I was in high school and I told my mom I wanted to be a professional fisherman, she told me ‘You need a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work out’,” Palaniuk recalled. “I said ‘Why, if I’m not going to fail at Plan A?’”
Perseverance? We need only recall Palaniuk placing 105th at the second event of the 2017 season on Lake Okeechobee to see what it means to pick yourself up and get back after the dream.
Recalling his first Classic qualification through the B.A.S.S. Nation, Palaniuk stressed the importance of recognizing personal achievement and owning the moment: “This goes out to every single guy who is here tonight: You earned your right to be here.”
Pleasantly balanced with moments of raw emotion and humorous pokes at Mercer and last year’s Classic champion Jordan Lee, Palaniuk’s 20-minute speech was admittedly spontaneous.
“I didn’t write down a single thing,” the bare-handed Palaniuk said. “I didn’t want to speak to everyone from a piece of paper; I wanted it to come from the heart.
“How do you do from being an 8-year-old kid who decides he wants to fish for a living and try to inspire the guys you read about and looked up to your entire life? How do you inspire the high school and college anglers?”
Palaniuk did a fine job with two key points:
Growing up in an Airstream trailer and later a modest house with an outdoor bathroom, Palaniuk dispelled a common myth about professional fishing.
“Some people say ‘I could become a professional fisherman if I had a lot of money,’” he said. “You don’t have to have a ton of money to make in this sport.”
Lastly, Palaniuk stressed the 5-second rule — both for the Classic competition and for life.
“This sport’s all about making decisions — sponsorships, catching fish, being a good person — you have to make a decision,” he said. “If you guys are out there on the water and you’re confused and you’re trying to figure out what to do, start at 5, count down and make that decision: 5-4-3-2-1, do it.”