Fishing News Skeeter/Yamaha Pro Brandon Palaniuk Claims 2017 Toyota® Bassmaster® Angler of the Year Title Posted 9/18/2017 Yamaha Pro Keith Combs is Toyota® Mille Lacs Champion Onamia, Minn., Sept. 18, 2017 - Skeeter/Yamaha Pro Brandon Palaniuk is the 2017 Toyota® Bassmaster® Angler of the Year. Palaniuk caught 62 pounds, 3 ounces of bass to finish in 20th place, earning the points he needed to surpass Oklahoma Pro Jason Christie by a final margin of 902 to 888 points, and claim his first Angler of the Year title during the Toyota® Mille Lacs Championship tournament. For the 29-year-old pro from Hayden, Idaho, hoisting the AOY trophy was the culmination of a phenomenal season that saw Palaniuk record six Top 12 finishes, including a victory on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The $100,000 he claimed with the AOY title pushed his career earnings past $1 million with B.A.S.S. ® “I didn’t know if it would ever happen,” said Palaniuk, “This has been a dream of mine since I was 8 years old. I decided 21 years ago that this is what I was going to do. I just made up my mind that I wanted to fish for a living — and every decision I’ve made for 21 years has led to this point.” Palaniuk said he feared that finish might haunt him for the rest of the career — until he worked some late magic during Friday’s second round. With only six minutes left before check-in, Palaniuk landed a 6-pound Mille Lacs smallmouth that proved to be his biggest fish of the event. He put the bass in his livewell and made it back to the weigh-in with only 40 seconds to spare. “That’s when I really got the feeling that this was meant to be, and I think that’s why I was so calm,” he said. “When that happened, it gave me a completely different mental outlook on the whole week.” Unlike the first three years of the Toyota® Bassmaster® Angler of the Year Championship, a trophy and prize money was awarded this year to the angler with the heaviest weight for the week. The title of Toyota® Mille Lacs Champion and the $25,000 bonus that came with it went to veteran Texas Yamaha Pro Keith Combs, who bested the field with 72-5. “I’m a Texas guy, and that means I’m a long way from home up here this week,” Combs said. “So, to get to come up here and jack these big smallmouth with a big bait and a big stick was just an awesome experience for me.” Combs won the Livingston Lures Day 2 Leader Award of $500 for leading the tournament on Friday’s second day of competition. He also won the Toyota® Bonus Bucks Award of $3,000 for being the highest-placing eligible entrant in the program. Yamaha Marine products are marketed throughout the United States and around the world. Yamaha Marine Group, based in Kennesaw, Ga., supports its 2,000 U.S. dealers and boat builder partners with marketing, training and parts for Yamaha’s full line of products and strives to be the industry leader in reliability, technology and customer service. Yamaha Marine is the only outboard brand to have earned NMMA®’s C.S.I. Customer Satisfaction Index award every year since its inception.