Through the excitement of it all, my concentration never diverted for a second. I was 100 percent focused on every single cast, constantly imagining where my lure was, what the conditions were doing, how fast I was winding. I was finally putting it all together.
Reality kicked in when my one boat support crew yelled out to me at 1 o’clock “Front page of Bassmaster.com: Jocumsen has five, Tharp with two.”
I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. I’d seen a few of the Top 5 in the last hour and they were also struggling. It was a tough day. I knew I needed a miracle fish to win and anything can happen in fishing, so I wasn’t going to let up because these guys just don’t slip up very often.
There was 10 minutes to go, and I had one small fish in the well that I really wanted to get rid of, but time crept up and I was soon running flat out back to check in at 3 o’clock after one of the greatest tournament days I’d ever had.
As I was approaching check-in, I looked at the GPS time and I had 4 minutes to go. I recalled the guys from Minnesota telling me that they saw Mike Iaconelli make a move at the Red River Classic at 3 p.m. when he was due in at 3 p.m., made five flips at a duck blind and still made it back in before he was late.
He fished until the last second, leaving nothing out there. So knowing I had a few minutes left. I made a sharp left-hand turn for the nearest riprap wall. My co-aangler looked at his watch then at me like I was crazy.
I was on the deck making a cast before my Skeeter was off pad. On the second cast, I hooked up on a nice upgrade, swung it in the boat, let the small bass go, put the upgrade in and was heading back to the check-in on an adrenaline rush I could never explain.
A police escort through Jackson to weigh in at Bass Pro Shops was something special. My turn came to weigh in and I got to pull out a 4-pounder from the well and show the crowd.
I’d dreamt of that exact moment for almost 15 years. It was amazing. That last upgrade I made put me to fourth place overall, the highest place by any Australian in any major U.S. open bass tournament.
Just like Ike says: “Never give up.”
I’m back in Australia now working on support for the 2014 season. I hope to do all three Bassmaster Open divisions. It’s my last year on my U.S.A. Sporting Visa, and I need to make the Elites to continue my Visa. The pressure is on — and I can’t wait!
Whatever it takes.