Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 12/03/2018

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos courtesy of Brandon Palaniuk

Moore, OK - Since bursting into the scene in 2011, Brandon Palaniuk has also been known for his work ethic.  The 2017 Bassmaster Angler Of the Year had a solid 2018 season, finishing in 8th place in the Angler Of the Year point standings while notching three Top 10 finishes along the way.  

With his duties as the reigning TAOY Champion behind him, Palaniuk didn’t take much time to relax following the 2018 Toyota Angler Of the Year Championship on Georgia’s Lake Chatuge in late September.   He signed the papers on a new home in Idaho the day after he got home.  Three days later, he left for an elk hunt in New Mexico with one of his sponsors, Mossy Oak.  

On October 1st, Palaniuk announced that he was one of the 60-plus Elite Series anglers making the move to the newly formed Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour in 2019.  Four days later, he was on a plane with his girlfriend, Tiffanie, headed to Japan.  

“The trip to Japan lasted nearly three weeks,” Palaniuk explained.  “It was all sponsor based stuff, but it was super fun because we got to immerse ourselves into the culture and we did some sightseeing.”  

The work part of the trip included testing the new Arashi glide swimbait, as well as some fishing on Lake Biwa. He also went to the Daiwa factory and sat down with the president of the company at the Daiwa headquarters. “We worked on engineering stuff with the reels and I learned about the new products that they have coming out,” said Palaniuk.  

Another portion of the trip took him to the Yamaha Outboard factory and Yamaha musical museum, where Palaniuk was surprisingly fascinated.  “I wasn’t sure if I’d like the musical museum that much, but it was a super cool place,” he allowed.  “It had a ton of history and old memorabilia, but there were all these instruments that you could actually touch and play.  I had no idea that Yamaha made so many different products.”  

The next stop was a visit to the Basser Allstar Classic located just outside Tokyo.  “From what I could understand, this tournament doesn’t have the biggest payday, but it is the biggest ‘bragging rights’ tournament in Japan,” he explained.  “All of the biggest anglers in the country competed in it including guys like Morizo (Shimizu) and Ken Iyobe.  

“It was mind blowing how many people were there,” Palaniuk continued.  “It was way bigger than I expected it to be.  I didn’t fish in the tournament, but I did receive an invitation to fish in it next year so I’m super excited about that opportunity.”

Palaniuk’s Japan trip concluded with a train ride back to Lake Biwa, where he met up with Japanese angler Daisuke Aoki.  Early in the year, Aoki traveled to the United States where he fished with Palaniuk in New York for the first half of an Angler Of the Year exchange program.  

“This was the second half of the exchange, so I met up with him and his team and we filmed on Lake Biwa.  That footage should be coming out within the next week,” he explained.  “Overall, I got to meet a lot of great people that we don’t get to see in the United States who do a lot of work in Japan.  It was a great relationship building trip.”

The next leg of the journey took Palaniuk to Thailand.  

“Before this Japan trip came up, Tiff and I had already planned on going to Thailand this year.  It was a birthday present from me a couple years ago that I was making good on.  We just decided to push up our Thailand trip because we had already flown all the way over there,” said Palaniuk.  

The duo left all their luggage and equipment at the Rapala office in Japan and flew to Thailand with just a backpack each.  “We literally spent two weeks backpacking Thailand with zero plan of where we were going to stay and who we were going to stay with,” explained Palaniuk with a laugh.  

“Japan is one of the cleanest countries that I’ve ever seen and everything is super organized and sophisticated.  Once you understand the train system, it’s really orderly and easy to understand.  Thailand is a little bit more chaotic and not as clean, but there are still a lot of good people.  We really liked the northern part of Thailand in the mountains.
“Most of the places we had WiFi so I could upload pictures, but as far as phone calls, I made like three calls in two weeks.   It put a lot of things in perspective and made me view things in a different way,” Palaniuk concluded.  

Following the Thailand adventure, they flew back to Japan where the Rapala team met them at the airport with their luggage.  They returned to the United States on November 16th, just in time for Thanksgiving. 

"It was an incredible trip that was super eye-opening.  I would do it all over again.  It probably wasn’t the most convenient time of the year to do it with everything that’s going on in the industry, but it’s a trip that you can’t turn down.  There’s no substitution for having that face-to-face interaction with people and having that personal contact." 

The fun didn’t stop there, however.  After Thanksgiving, Palaniuk was summoned for five days of jury duty.  

“Essentially, I’ve been staying up until 1:00am every day trying to get caught up on everything and then getting up at 6:00am to start working again,” he explained.  “The last week has been pretty hectic.”  

Outside of the time he spent on Lake Biwa in Japan, Palaniuk’s last day on the water bass fishing was at the TAOY Championship.  “You just have to prioritize what has to be done now and what can wait a few days.   The new boat is in the shop and I’ll start rigging on it here in the next week and I’m making sure sponsorship contracts are squared away.”