My two sons, Louie and Jake Panichi, 15 and 18, respectively, started their passion for fishing when they were boys. As soon as they could walk, they carried fishing sticks and nets around. They both had those little versions of short fishing poles, but we went through a lot of Whuppin (Cabela’s version of the Ugly Stick).
They went with us on several walleye fishing trips and fished fast. I can remember they were very young and playing live and baitwell in the boat and they would be happy. They loved the fish! Jake called the Lifewell “The Lipari”.
They knew that their grandfather Joe, a guide in the Crimson Lake, had a passion for fishing and would often take them to go fishing. They also enjoyed many grandfather and wali stories about fishing.
We found we couldn’t keep them out of the water. When they couldn’t be in the lake, they would ride their bikes to the bridges and fish the rivers or take a kayak or canoe.
Our boys started fishing with us in the evening after work. We have taken our family vacations in the summer where we can venture to Canada in search of the great valleys. As they got older, they found the bass put up a good fight and soon we were shopping for bass fishing gear.
My husband, Jason, and I were fishing from one side of the boat and the boys were fishing for bass from the other side of the boat. They soon became good at flipping and pitching techniques. They soon became interested in bass fishing and competition.
The sport of bass fishing has grown tremendously. You have to be quick to sign up for tournaments as there are boating limits. Their biggest mentor during this process was their father – he is their coach and boat captain. Matt Clines from Timbuktu Marina has been a really big help getting them started on the championship circuits.
They definitely get a lot of advice from Grandpa Joe, too. Their grandfather Joe still guides them in Crimson Lake and helps the boys by taking them fishing often. He teaches them techniques involving magic and bait and positively encourages them before and after tournaments. He’s always sure to ask them what they’ve learned after every tournament.
Not only do the boys love sports, but they also look forward to the challenge of winning the championship, especially because of the many variables involved.
I coordinate hotels, snacks, bag lunches, and lots of drinks. I also try to defuse arguments in the boat or during pre-championship strategy sessions.
Jake will get frustrated with Lowe after long days of pre-tournament hunting. It can be freezing, raining, hotter than heck, and either windy or, sometimes worse, no wind at all.
Jake has more motivation to win, but he’s three years older, too. Lowe would sometimes wrinkle at the bottom of the boat and kind of give up. Now, we can see more competitiveness coming from Louie.
They both really like sports. I don’t know many kids or families who would or could commit to two days of pre-fishing just to locate the fish for the third day of fishing in a tournament.
They do a lot of exploration and a lot of research. Two days of pre-hunting (8-10 hours each day) which includes looking at contour maps, watching YouTube videos, and reading fishing reports.
During pre-fishing, they mark spots on the GPS / fish finder. They spend the night before the tournament hooking up several bars to make sure they’re ready for the early morning start.
Their skill level requires a little luck, a lot of research and study, and hundreds of hours on the water. They started with handmade equipment and now every holiday and birthday, they order new gear.
While they do well in some tournaments, they find that some lakes are tougher than others. They talk about all the things they could have done differently for weeks afterward.
Lines of weeds, rocks, different baits, different speeds, sticking somewhere or moving away from somewhere more quickly are all things I hear about as they try to improve the next course.
Our role as parents has certainly been a hands-on deck effort. We’ve gone miles to take them to lakes and rivers all over the state. I think they fished 15 different lakes and each lake has its own personality.
They both agree that Swan Lake in Ur is their favorite lake for fishing. However, Lake Vermilion is one of Jake’s top favorites, while Louie Mille Lacs prefers.
I would say COVID was the main reason we jumped onto the championship circuit. We might have done it anyway, but we wouldn’t have fallen into this so quickly.
When other sports were canceled and even when boys were sent home to go to school online, we couldn’t get them out of the water. While I was teaching online, they would take canoes and boats down the nearby rivers. They discovered waters I had never seen before.
They have the same passion for winning, but Jake is more serious about the career side of things. At school he was told to follow his passion and he sure is! I envy him.
I would also say that it is difficult to find other partners to be “all together” in terms of travel, expense and time. So, Louie had no choice but to be a partner at first, but now he’s not going to let his brother down and become an asset, often pulling off the bigger bass. This year, Jake will be the captain of the boat and Lowe will be fishing with another teammate, Alex Burckhardt, in some tournaments.
There are two different types of anglers. Lowe is less impatient. Three Cast Louie often changes the charm and tries everything. Jake is very patient and sticks to using the temptations he searched for a specific body of water and insists on going to the “proven” places. This makes a great team because there are a variety of strategies going on at all times.
Jake definitely sees fishing as a business opportunity. He is very excited about it. (But he needs to set up a Go- FundMe!) If it doesn’t work out for him to become a professional fisherman, he knows he’d like to channel it. Wants to be on the water! In fact, last summer, he started directing and found it very useful.
Jake plans to attend St. Cloud State University to obtain a degree in Marketing. He plans a hunting contest with the college team. His dream is to one day become a professional bass tournament fisherman. He would like to be an “influencer” in the fishing products market.
Lowe says it could possibly be a second career. It’s something he can do in tandem after he’s done a “good job”. Lowe says his goal is to get through the fourth quadrant of the ninth grade—always a card.
He wants to go to college, play sports (his favorite sport is baseball, second is fishing) and get a good job. He is fortunate to have an experience of lakes that we have not visited before. Sailing the lakes and knowing how to catch them will put him in a prime position for future tournaments.
Although fishing is not yet a school sport, Jake and Louie were the first to receive a fishing trophy on behalf of the North Woods School. The boys wanted to make sure they recognized the school’s name because they were proud of Grizzly. This sport is not allowed in school, but I see it becoming an MSHSL sport in the near future.
Most recently, Jake did the BASSMASTER All-State team. Information from the BASSMASTER website explains the process.
Fifty-three top high school anglers from around the country have been named to the 2022 Basmaster High School All-State Fishing Team presented by the Academy of Outdoor Sports +.
Students were selected for this honor based on their success in the bass competition competition, academic achievement and leadership in conservation and community service.
A student must be nominated by a parent, coach, teacher, or other school official to be considered for participation in a statewide hunting team. Students enrolled in grades 10-12 with an average of 2.5 points in the current year or higher were eligible.
BASS has received nearly 400 nominations from all over the country. Of these, the judges selected 53 student fishermen from 34 states to form the All-State Fishing Team. In addition, 40 students received honorable mentions in recognition of their success in the tournament as well as community service and academic achievement.
Louie and Jake also qualified for Nationals on both the High School Bass Nation and Student Angler Tournament Trail. We’ll be traveling to the Tennessee River in Alabama this June and Lake Hartwell in South Carolina this August.
It’s very clear that hunting is in their blood. It’s not a cheap sport, but we view it as a family adventure. We consider ourselves lucky to have the time to do this with our boys.
Jenny Banishi lives in Cook with her husband Jason and sons Louie and Jake. She is a fifth grade teacher at Northwoods School in Cook.