Swindle and Palaniuk qualified for the 2020 Elite Series via the Legends Exemption which is designed for anglers who have won Toyota Angler of the Year, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, or both.
Swindle won AOY in 2004 and 2016; Palaniuk was the AOY in 2017. Both anglers competed in the BassPro.com Bassmaster Opens in 2019.
“There has been a lot of change in professional fishing in the past year, with more interest than usual in the 2020 Elite Series,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “After much deliberation, we decided to stick with our established qualifying criteria — namely limiting invitations to the 2019 Elite anglers, 10 Opens qualifiers, one B.A.S.S. Nation qualifier and the Legends criteria established several years ago. We’re excited Gerald and Brandon qualify for our Legends spots to come back.”
No spots are being cut from the 2020 Elite field to make room for the two new Legends.
“We’re pleased to have Brandon and Gerald returning to the Bassmaster Elite Series,” said B.A.S.S. Chairman Chase Anderson. “They are great anglers and two of the most popular guys in fishing.”
Both anglers have long histories with B.A.S.S.
Swindle, from Guntersville, Ala., has fished in 271 Bassmaster tournaments as a pro, including 18 Bassmaster Classics. He began with B.A.S.S. in 1995 at the New York Eastern Invitational. He’s one of the original anglers on the Elite Series, which began in 2006. Swindle fished the Elites for 13 years and has collected $2.1 million in Bassmaster earnings so far in his career.
Palaniuk, from Rathdrum, Idaho, has fished in 101 Bassmaster tournaments as a pro, including nine Classics. He competed on the Elite Series for eight years, winning three Elite tournaments during that time. Palaniuk originally qualified for the Elite Series by winning the 2010 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. He has $1.2 million in Bassmaster earnings to date.
Here’s what each said about their return to B.A.S.S.
“My reason for wanting to return to the Elites is simple — it’s my home, it’s all I know, it’s what I’m comfortable with, the format, the weigh-ins, the tournament schedule, etc. I miss all of it.
“I’ve spent most of my adult life learning how to fish a five-bass limit and manage fish and the different related techniques. So I want to continue that learning process. It’s pretty simple — I love to fish. That’s what led me down this road — a big love for a little green fish — and that love hasn’t died. I’ve missed the fans and the stage and I really look forward to coming home.”
“One of the toughest things to live with in life is regret. Now, let me stop everyone right there. I don’t regret the last year. Not even a little bit. I’m actually thankful for 2019 and the things I learned from it. I learned about this industry, I learned about business, I learned more about catching fish, and most importantly I learned a lot about myself.
“That last one is the reason I’m back fishing with the Bassmaster brand. What I didn’t realize about myself was that I spent 15 of my 32 years chasing the highest level B.A.S.S. has to offer and then spent another eight years fishing the Elites. So, you could say I spent 23 years of my life, or 72 percent of it, living and breathing B.A.S.S. I underestimated how much all of those struggles, chasing my dreams and sleeping in the ‘Tundra Suites,’ contributed to my happiness and that the brand itself was such an important part of my life. I didn’t feel complete without it. So I’m back with a full heart and love for the game.”