The wonder from Down Under

I feel like I should be writing something about Aaron Martens this week, after all that he’s done lately. It’s tough not to stand in awe of what he accomplished at the Chesapeake, over the course of this season, and indeed over his entire career. He’s just fishing at a level that few of the top pros, let alone us weekend goobers, will ever attain.

When one angler dominates like that, as Edwin Evers did earlier in the season, or Skeet did in 2010, or KVD did over the course of several years, it tends to eclipse the achievements of others. As Martens well knows from past experience, when you’re earning second-place finishes instead of wins no one pays attention to you for the right reasons. You may get a little TV time, but it’s winners who get the prime time slots.

Instead of focusing on AMart, though, I want to focus on a pro who was almost at the other end of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings. Normally, I wouldn’t have reason to write about the pro who finished 94th overall, but the more I think about it, the more incredible what Carl Jocumsen did becomes. I was on the water all four days at the Chesapeake, watching a variety of different pros practice their trade as I’ve done many times before, and Jocumsen was the one who impressed me the most. It’s not necessarily solely because of his finish – he ended up 10th overall, while several others I watched did better – but how he comported himself and what his ascendance means to the sport.

First, I want all of you weekend tournament anglers to give yourself a little pat on the back. What you do is difficult. If you fish regularly, there are dozens of skills and tasks that you accomplish every day that you probably take for granted. For example, you can back a trailer and run a trolling motor with your foot. You can drive a boat in rough water. You can read a topo map. You can skip, flip, cast and pitch. Not hard, you say? Imagine taking someone who’d never fished out on the water tomorrow – by the end of the day how many of those skills would they be competent at, let alone have mastered?

Of course Carl had developed most of those skills before he got here. He was already an acclaimed angler back in Australia. But here’s the rub – they don’t have largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass over there. He certainly knew how to cast well, probably knew how to read current, but five years ago the guy had no firsthand knowledge of bass behavior. Like many of my readers, I’ve been fishing for the slimy green suckers for decades, and there’s still no chance I’m qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series, let alone beating KVD and Randy Howell on Guntersville, or Ike and 10 other Classic winners at the Chesapeake Bay. It may seem routine now, to expect the unexpected in our sport, but if you’ve ever competed in bass tournaments at any level you need to step back and realize just how incredible it is for someone with comparatively little experience to achieve those results. Sure, he suffered through three triple-digit finishes to go with his two Top 10s, but I’m sure in some respects, the highest highs outweighed those lowest lows for the first Aussie on the tour.

What makes his rapid rise even more astounding is the fact that he comes to us from halfway around the world. Granted, he didn’t come with the language barrier that burdened Japanese newcomers like Takahiro and Morizo (although I suppose it could be argued that the U.S. and Australia are two countries separated by a common language), but at least the Japanese competitors could fish for bass in their home country, so we’ll call it a draw.

Seriously, imagine if you were to go to Australia next January to chase a fish you’d never caught before for a living. Would you know how to get around – or even which side of the road to drive on? Would you know where and how to get a fishing license? Would you understand the fishing regulations? Could you locate your comfort foods? Moreover, could you establish a sponsorship network, a group of traveling partners and a way to market yourself? I’d be lucky if I didn’t end up paying 10 times what everything cost when I didn’t understand how to exchange currency. What Jocumsen did, not only on the water, but off of it, defies logic. Put yourself in his shoes, going to fish tournaments for some new species in Australia, and I think you’ll see just how hard it could be to get where he is today in such a short time.

Aaron Martens has experienced a season for the record books, a truly remarkable campaign, but we expected as much from The Natural. You can explain it based on past results. What Carl Jocumsen has done, on the other hand, is almost preposterous. It defies explanation. If he’s come this far in five years, it’s hard to imagine where he’ll be in five more.