Mind of a Champion

Professional bass angler Brandon Palaniuk is not your average 30 year old.

His laundry list of accomplishments in the world of competitive bass fishing is a long one. I could bore you with his tournament wins, times he’s finished top three, total career poundage, and so on. The point being: yes, Brandon is an incredible fisherman—however, I knew nothing about him. I met up with Brandon in his hometown of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I flew to Idaho to shoot photos of Brandon fishing on his home turf: on the lakes he’d grown up fishing.

When I got out of the airport I noted that it was significantly colder than anticipated. I asked, You all run those boats at 70 MPH in this temperature? I knew the answer but hoped, for my Floridian body temperature’s sake, it wasn’t true. Growing up in Florida, I didn’t pay much attention to bass fishing, so this was new territory for me. Fishing at home is divided between tarpon fishing inshore and trolling/kite fishing offshore.

We’ll want to be putting in a little before sunrise, and it’s about an hour drive to the lake, Brandon continues, So I’ll pick you up at 4:30. I rubbed my eyes half-jokingly. Up to my room I went, where I feverishly put camera batteries on charge and made sure everything was in order for tomorrow.

4:00 A.M.

4:03 A.M.

4:10 A.M.

4:15 A.M.

I was prepared to sleep through my first (few) alarms, however, I woke up on the first one. Down I went, where Brandon was waiting for me in his infinitely cool, lifted Tundra, with boat in tow. The exhaust steam enshrouded the whole rig, and I could barely see him through the tinted windows. He was all business at this point.

He drove fast, but I wasn’t nervous—probably because he knew these winding roads better than anyone. Or maybe because it was still pitch-black outside. It was dark, but what was quickly illuminated from the headlights looked incredible. Black in the sky drained away into a purplish-blue, and I could see how steep the sides of the road were. It made my hands sweat.

To occupy my mind, I asked him the usual questions, to which he obligingly answered—I got the 30,000-foot view of Brandon Palaniuk. He and his girlfriend are travelling almost year-round. And, like any travelling sport fishing team, the boat goes where they go. Brandon and Tiffanie have probably passed you on the interstate at some point. I imagined it being grueling, in a way. A dream job, sure, but life on the road with only a few days at home takes a certain type of human. A human with a deep passion for their craft. There was a clearing in the road, and before we started down a steep grade, I got a sweeping view of Lake Coeur d’Alene. I'm moving, I told him.


In Florida, we have a short so-called winter, where the prevailing wind direction is north and is generally stiff. It gets rough. But Brandon and the other bass fishermen on the tournament trail deal with really ugly conditions. For example, during my visit, he didn’t seem to think the temperature was impressive, when all I could think about was how many pairs of socks I needed in order to keep my feet warm. In fact, just the other day, I saw a video of Brandon pulling his boat out from the same ramp we went used, but it was fully iced over—and he was laughing at how well his truck handled the conditions. Snow and ice up north and out west, and beating summer sun in the south.

When I got back on the plane in Spokane, I couldn’t help but reflect on my newfound appreciation for Brandon’s craft. As with every type of fishing, after a little research, they’re all complicated in their own respect. They all take dedication. They all involve early mornings. We all deal with ugly weather. We all have a passion for the sport. And, I thought, in that way, we’re all connected.

Words and Photos : Austin Coit

“If you wanna do it the way I think it should be done, it’s a 24/7 deal and my mind never sleeps. Even when my body’s sleeping my mind is still going. That’s difficult sometimes because you never shut off. You never really relax. - Brandon