Offseason prep will enhance efficiency and enjoyment

Carl Jocumsen

During this past winter, I worked specifically on several areas of my professional fishing game that I believe will pay dividends as we roll into the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series season, especially in terms of being more efficient all the way around.

First, I made the commitment to tow a fifth-wheel camper to have my family on the road with me at all times. Quite honestly, I don’t even care to be out here fishing if my wife, Kayla; my 2-year-old daughter, Rivah; our dog, Roo; and I can’t be together.

For the last eight years, we have lived in a Lance truck bed camper when fishing the Elite Series. Riv attended her first Elite tournament when she was just 2 weeks old and has basically been raised in the Lance camper. Camping together as a family has been an absolute blast, but things are a little tight in an 8- x 18-foot space.

Plus, the truck was pulling multiple duties: carrying the camper, towing the boat, and it’s our only transport into town or grocery stores. If I took the truck for practice, Kayla didn’t have any personal transportation. If she put me in at a ramp for practice and took the truck, I didn’t have a truck to change ramps on a whim if I wanted. And lastly, space for a growing amount of tackle and gear was getting challenging.

Late last year, we tried leaving the Lance at home and staying in cheap motels and Airbnbs, and we didn’t like it. We missed camping by the water or at a nice park and living in our own space – even as tiny as it was.

So, this offseason, I set out to secure a fifth-wheel camper and another truck so we could dedicate a truck to the boat and a truck to the camper. Thanks to Toyota — they helped get me into a new Tundra — which now pulls the boat. And I’m happy to say I’m finally eligible for Toyota Bonus Bucks.

Now, I have a dedicated truck and boat for fishing, and Kayla has a dedicated truck for the camper. This is going to make my work more efficient and our outdoor lifestyle on the road much more enjoyable. Instead of zipping back and forth to our house in Tennessee between tournaments, this will give us the freedom to truly live on the road. In between tournaments, we can enjoy the natural world of the region with day hikes and fishing instead of rushing home. It will let us enjoy the camping community we have on the Elites with evening dinners and campfires. This is the way I want to raise my family – living the outdoors lifestyle with great people.

As for improving my fishing game, I always spend a lot of time on the water during the offseason experimenting with new equipment, lures and techniques. These days there is so much new product coming out, it’s overwhelming. Personally, I’m not one to experiment with new tackle during tournaments or even practice.

The offseason is when I do all the testing of new lures, line, leaders, hooks, rod actions, electronics — you name it — and I’m trying to find the best mousetrap. I need to catch multiple fish on something new when there is no competition before I use it with full confidence in a tournament. This offseason was an excellent time for trial-and-error testing. From it, I’ve gained confidence in a few new tricks I think will pay off with our schedule.

Being in top physical condition when a new season begins is also a top priority. I cannot stress enough to young anglers coming into pro tournament fishing how taxing this sport is on the human body. I have trained for and participated in CrossFit competitions, Spartan beast races, fight camps and triathlons, and none of those come close to the physical exertion and exhaustion endured during a week of Elite Series competition.

I bet physical therapists and chiropractors would agree the beating of boat driving, hours of poor fishing posture and repetitive use of certain ligaments and muscles found in professional bass fishing is a recipe for problems later in life.

People would probably be stunned at the untold stories of shoulder, elbow, wrist, back and knee surgeries from the tours. I predict in the next five to 10 years, neck problems are going to skyrocket with so many anglers staring down at screens intently for hours. With that, during the offseason, I stay dedicated to daily workout sessions to help fend off such wear and tear on the body.

Though I do a certain amount of strength training, much of my daily regimen involves low-impact core and balance exercises, band work, stretching, decompression movements and cold plunges. Each day I spend up to two hours on these routines alone. I also run 3 to 5 miles about three or four times a week. But the running is mostly a mental exercise that clears my mind.

Taking care of my body is the best investment I can make in assuring a long, healthy career in this sport. Rick Clunn is an inspiration to me in terms of dedicated self-care. He is still getting after it out here on the Elites at the age of 77 – that is absolutely amazing to me and proof that taking care of your body works.

As we roll into the Texas swing to start the 2024 Elite season, I’m looking forward to being in our new home away from home and living the greatest outdoors life possible. I feel like my body is ready for battle, and I have a few new fishing tricks up my sleeve for those little green fish.