Without knowing it at the time, the dreams of Carl Jocumsen and Brandon Palaniuk merged simultaneously, and without either angler knowing the other. Dreams soon turned to reality for them both. Jocumsen became the first Australian Bassmaster Elite Series pro, and he hoisted a coveted blue trophy last season. Palaniuk has three Elite Series titles, qualified for nine Bassmaster Classics and was the 2017 Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
In 2011, Palaniuk competed in his first Bassmaster Classic after winning the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship the previous year. Following the Classic, he launched his Bassmaster Elite Series career.
That same year, Jocumsen took a flight from Sydney, Australia, to the U.S. to pursue that same dream. Arriving only with a rod tube, tacklebox and his clothes, Jocumsen took the first step on Douglas Lake in east Tennessee, where he competed as a 27-year-old co-angler. He finished 38th and earned his first B.A.S.S. paycheck in the amount of $373.33. Four years later, he finally punched his Elite Series ticket. Then, on Sept. 22, 2019, Jocumsen won $100,000 at the Elite Series event on Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma.
Eight years ago, Jocumsen met Palaniuk’s cousin, Kayla. A courtship began, and they were married last October. That now makes Jocumsen and Palaniuk more family than bros, although the overtones of how they work together are very similar.
When did you meet?
Brandon: It was 2011 during my Elite Series rookie season at the Arkansas River. He was a marshal with Kenyon Hill, and we locked through together.
Carl: It was in a lock on the Arkansas River. I was marshaling for Kenyon Hill. Brandon’s boat broke down and he had to jump in our boat to get to the weigh-in. I was starstruck, didn’t know what to say to him. I just sat there speechless, watching it all go down. It’s funny that I had to remind him that it was me, because back then I marshaled for so many of those guys.
Using Carl’s term for friends, what made you decide to be mates?
Brandon: Early on I was impressed by his drive. Sometimes you meet people that you can see it in them at some point they will succeed. They have that "it" factor. Whatever it is I always felt like Carl had that. He’d already been super successful in Australia but when he came over, he’d never fished for largemouth. I always found it inspiring that he was willing to up and leave everything for a fish that he’d never even caught.
Carl: I was shooting video recaps of my Opens tournaments, editing those and putting them on Facebook and YouTube. He messaged me wanting to know why he couldn’t watch them in high definition video. I replied that all I had was an old, clunky PC. At the next tournament he came from nowhere and asked me to go with him to get something. Riding in his truck I was freaking out, because I didn’t even really know him. We went to Best Buy and he bought me a MacBook Pro. Then, on my last chance to qualify for the Elite Series at the final Open, he texted me inspirational quotes. That was pretty cool. We became good friends from then on.
How do you work together?
Brandon: When he first qualified for the Elites we had already had gotten close, and we’d bounce ideas off each other. I think a lot of our initial connection was on the media and content side of it, building GoPro videos, things like that. We had lot of conversations about evolving fishing techniques and ideas, but also about camera angles, how to mount stuff, how to run wires. He’s always been one of those go-to guys to talk about that stuff.
Carl: Early on when fishing the Elite Series, he was the only one I knew well enough to reach out to and trust. He gave me words of encouragement along the way. It’s been a slow buildup of trust over the years. We throw ideas back and forth and basically want the best for each other, whether it’s taking our social media to the next level or the tournaments.
What makes him a competitor?
Brandon: His "Fear My Heart" motto best sums it up. He is a fierce competitor, and I think he’s only getting better. When you think about it, he’s really only been chasing bass for 10 years and that’s at the highest level. That’s not really that long for guys that compete at that level. He is very open minded, always willing to learn.
Carl: He never settles. He constantly pushes himself to reach new boundaries and bigger goals. What that also does is as he achieves more, he continues to inspire and motivate other people, myself included. His energy is contagious and it rubs off on others striving to do their best, no matter what.
What’s he like without the game face?
Brandon: He is probably one of the most caring people as far as just wanting to help other people out. He’s always been that way, and you see that in all aspects of his life. He missed 80% of practice at the first 2019 Elite Series event to be in his cousin’s wedding in Australia. He just has a very good moral compass on and off the water.
Carl: He is fun to hang around with, always likes to have a good time. We both share a mutual interest in the outdoors, so there is always that to talk about outside of fishing. When we get in the boat for fun it’s always a good time. We mess with each other.
What do you admire about him?
Brandon: His amazingly always positive mental attitude. Pro angling has a lot of ups and downs, mostly the latter, and it’s easy to get yourself down and have it wreck your mind. Surrounding myself with guys like him, who always find the positive in the negative, helps me balance it out.
Carl: His work ethic and love of the sport. What he’s done with his videos and how he represents the sport takes it to a different level. When I first came here from Australia what I wanted to do wasn’t thought of as cool. It was like being considered an outcast, being looked at like what I wanted to do was crazy. Now, everyone wants to get in the boat and go fishing. He’s been a big part of changing the perception of being successful in the sport. He wants the best of success for everyone, not just himself.
What was a defining moment in your friendship?
Brandon: (laughs) It was actually when he asked me, or told me, that he was dating my cousin (at the time Kayla Palaniuk). I remember cautioning him about letting a new relationship affect his fishing and that he’d come too far to risk it, unless he was absolutely sure, which he was. It was a telling sign of our friendship. We both knew where we wanted to get to in our careers, and we kept each other level-headed, humbled and made sure our dreams were kept in front of us.
Carl: There have been many, not one defining moment. It’s been more a lot of different things along the way. Brandon has done far much more for me than I have for him. He wants nothing back in return. He respects what I’ve been through and we have a mutual trust.