BULL SHOALS, Ark. - I've decided that I'm officially rooting for Coeur d'Alene Outlaw Brandon Palaniuk to blow the doors off the 2012 Elite Series. I'd like him to win a couple of tournaments, challenge for Angler of the Year honors, and be seen on the cover of every bass magazine across the country.
I'm a fan of style, you see, and, Sweet Georgia Brown, the kid from Rathdrum, Idaho certainly seems to have it.
So far, the national bass audience has gotten two glimpses of Palaniuk, and each of them has shown flashes of what Mae West called "that glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights." First was the Bryan Kerchal tribute at the 2011 Bassmasster Classic (which I wrote about extensively in my recent "Bass Gypsies" feature for Outdoor Life). Now comes his first Elite Series win - no, make that domination - this weekend at Bull Shoals Lake in Bull Shoals, Ark.
Not only did Palaniuk win the Trokar Quest by a wide margin, with 78.6 pounds to second-place finisher Britt Myers' 66.8, he had control of the four-day tournament almost from blast off on Day 1. Throwing a Rapala DT 16 in blueback herring over a rocky roadbed that lay just off a major spawning area in the West Sugar Loaf Creek area, Palaniuk weighed in 21.9 on Day 1 to head into Day 2 with a scant 1-pound cushion over Matt Herrin.
On Day 2, the former Lakeland High wrestling dynamo put a hammerlock on the tourament and showed a whole lot of Mae West's "glitter and gleam."
Late in the morning, Palaniuk cruised into the Bull Shoals dock with an odd question for BASS officials stationed there: "What happens if I need to go to the emergency room?" Actually, Palaniuk didn't ask the question - EMTs on the scene made him go to the ER after they examined his left pinkie, which had a barbed hook buried to the bone in the middle of it.
Palaniuk had somehow managed to get one of the trebles of his crankbait snagged on his pinkie as he brought in his biggest fish of the day (a near 6-pounder), and, despite his best efforts to push the hook through the pinkie with a pair of pliers, he was eventually wheeled off to nearby Baxter Regional Medical Center in a Bulls Shoals Fire & Rescue SUV.
Three hours later, he dropped 24.4 on the scale - the biggest bag of the tournament - and hoisted two Bull Shoals largemouth for the crowd, with a big white bandage on his left pinkie and a double-digit lead on the best bass anglers in the world.
Bassmaster feature writer Don Barone described it as "a defining moment."
I describe it as pure style, baby.
Kevin. Van. Dam, for chrissakes.
But kick this around for awhile: Day 4 of the Trokar Quest - Championship Sunday - was the seventh day that Palaniuk had ever spent on Bull Shoals. He hadn't even seen the lake until prefishing it early this spring, but he owned it like he was on Hayden Lake back home in Kootenai County, Idaho, finding a submerged roadbed near a spawning flat and hammering it for four days.
21.9, 24.4, 19.10, 12.5. $100,000. Style points galore.
A glimpse at Palaniuk's Facebook page immediately after his Bull Shoals win gives you a hint at how beloved this young man is quickly becoming. The page is festooned with congratulatory notes from men, women, kids from Louisiana, Illinois, California, Washington, Georgia ... hot chicks, old dudes, Guidos and everything in between.
Hard to pigeonhole this kid. He's an elite-level fisherman who knows how to handle a chainsaw, thanks to his upbringing in his dad's timber business.
Major "tough guy" style points.
He celebrated his biggest professional accomplishment to date - his 2011 Classic finish - by honoring another angler - his hero - and crying a little.
Major "humble guy" style points.
He has $100,000 of BASS money in his pocket tonight, but as I type this, he's sleeping in the back of his Toyota Tundra because, as he pointed out to Bassmaster reporter Cara Klark: "It's free (and) $100,000 doesn't go as far as it used to."
Major "practical small-town kid" style points.
Palaniuk is, frankly, a much-needed blast of Naked & Famous and Dedmau in the Lynyrd Skynyrd and Boston of the Elite Series lineup. He's young, a little smartassy, clever, humble, sincere, approachable, smart, friendly, good-looking and just goofy enough to be appealing and interesting to almost everybody.
I, for one, hope he's back on the podium for Day 4 again soon.
Copyright © 2003-2012, Northwest Wild Country Radio Network, All Rights Reserved