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The making of a Great Bass Angler

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

Sharing a great article on how important it is to follow the spawn!!!

What’s the difference between a good bass angler and a great bass angler?

That’s the million-dollar question for many of you reading this article. Unfortunately for us, there isn’t a single, all-encompassing answer. If there were, I probably wouldn’t have a job. But I’ll be honest with you: I got really darn close to that answer when I recently talked with 2017 Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk.

It wasn’t some stuffy, rigid interview with a bunch of generic questions and canned answers. That kind of stuff does not and will not make anyone a better fisherman. You come to this website to learn how to be a better angler, so I wanted to learn the how and the why behind his monumental success and let you in on our hour-long candid conversation. It was one of the more interesting—and revealing—conversations of my career.

Assessing the factors

Most of all, I was curious to know whether Palaniuk’s success revolved around his technique or his mind. Had he become really good at a bunch of techniques or had he simply learned how to read and break down water more efficiently than other anglers?

In his opinion, it was his open-mindedness that allowed him to consistenly stay on top of the bass. Stubborness can be the Achilles’ heel of even the most naturally gifted angler.

“You absolutely have to have an open mind in this game,” Palaniuk said. “Even if you’re just fun fishing, you cannot be stubborn. Fish live based on conditions; they don’t have a time clock and they never have to be somewhere at a certain time. They’re in an ever-changing environment. As humans, our whole lives are dictated by time. Joining those two drastically different worlds can be really difficult if you’re not willing to roll with the punches and keep your wheels turning.

“I looked at maps of every lake and found what I thought were their spawning grounds. From there, I changed my gameplan based on the current stage of the spawn. I essentially worked my way out from their spawning locations. The spawn is really the only thing we can use as a baseline when finding fish. You know every year they’re going to spawn. It may not be the same time every year, but if you can figure out when they spawn, you’re ahead of the game. You’ll know where they’re going, now you just have to figure out how they get to and from that location.”

“They’ll be where you find ’em”

Palaniuk chuckled as he recited that quote on the phone. He admits that it sounds pretty stupid, but it’s what helped him win one of the most coveted trophies in bass fishing.

“I know it seems like a crazy quote, but it keeps me searching and helps me keep the fish honest in a way,” Palaniuk said. “If the fish aren’t where you are, they’re somewhere else. Don’t try to force an area on any body of water. You’ll know when you run into ’em. If you have to ask yourself if you’ve found ’em, you probably haven’t.”

Palaniuk started practicing a little differently this season. Instead of stressing over the menial details each practice day, he’d purposely try to find as many small clues as possible. He never tried to dial anything in until the tournament began. If you’re too honed-in on one bite or technique going into competition, he believes you’re much less likely to adapt to changing conditions.

“I just barely wanted to scratch the surface in practice,” Palaniuk said. “I’d move a lot throughout practice because eliminating water is just as important as finding the mother lode. Each section of the lake or each pattern you eliminate is one less thing you have to check or worry about during the tournament.

“I wanted to see as much as I could during practice, especially during the first two days. Even if I thought I had found potentially winning fish, I always believed I would find something better. This process allowed me to focus on smaller, more precise areas during the tournament and learn how they were using and relating to it.”

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