DAYTON, Tenn. — Despite living just 15 minutes from Chickamauga Lake, Carl Jocumsen insists he doesn’t have a true home-field advantage on the fishery because he spends so much time traveling the country with the Bassmaster Tournament Trail.
But he sure seemed to feel at home Thursday.
Jocumsen, an Australian pro who relocated to Tennessee a few years back, caught five bass that weighed 24 pounds, 12 ounces to take the opening-round lead in the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake. He holds a narrow advantage over Japanese pro Daisuke Aoki (23-12) and Kentucky pro Matt Robertson (21-13) in an event where the conditions seem destined to change by the day.
“I might not get a bite tomorrow,” Jocumsen said. “A few of those bites I got today, I sort of knew I was going to get. Now, they’re not there anymore, and I’m gonna have to continually adjust.
“With the way the weather is shaping up, the fishing is not going to get better as the week goes on. It’s going to get harder.”
The 94-boat field was treated to a typical spring day on Thursday with sunny skies and an afternoon high of 65 degrees. As a result, there were 30 bags of 15 pounds or more brought to the scales and 14 bass over 5 pounds, including the 10-5 that helped Wisconsin pro Pat Schlapper win Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day.
But daytime highs are supposed to top out in the high 40s to low 50s over the next two days — and Jocumsen said he doesn’t know what that will do to the shallow pattern he’s working with what he only called a “big swimbait.”
“The best day I had in practice was when it was cloudy and rainy and nasty,” Jocumsen said. “That’s how it will be tomorrow, but the cold could hurt. I need it to get warmer, not colder.
“I only know how to catch them one way. Every other way is supertough, so I’m probably just gonna go for it.”
No matter what happens, Jocumsen insists fans shouldn’t expect him to have all the answers just because he lives nearby.
“We’ve come here — the Elite Series and Bassmaster — so often that I haven’t been able to fish this lake much by myself,” he said. “I try to fish every time I’m home, but I haven’t been able to do a big learning curve.
“I’ll be out there trying to figure things out just like everyone else.”
It would seem Jocumsen can’t afford a bad day when six anglers are within 5 pounds of him in the standings. Closest to him is Aoki, whose Thursday bag included two 7-pounders that were caught in distinctly different ways.
“One 7-pounder, I was sight fishing,” said Aoki, who speaks in broken English. “One 7-pounder, I was finesse fishing. Couldn’t see.”
Aoki said he spent his morning sight fishing for bedding bass and then moved offshore — but not necessarily to deeper water.
“There is no current where I’m fishing offshore,” he said. “It’s maybe a shallow flat with bed fish — maybe. But I can’t see them.”
Robertson, who had struggled in the first three Elite Series events this season — placing 61st, 49th and 78th, said he relished the chance to avoid sight fishing for bedding bass and stay a little further away from shore.
His bag included three 6-pounders.
“This year, I haven’t really been fishing my strengths,” Robertson said. “I come here and I know they’re about to spawn and there’s not many out there where I’m fishing. But I decided to go out there anyway and fish how I like to fish.
“All I’ll say is I’m going to go fish for big ones — and I won’t be looking at them when I’m fishing for them.”
After placing 27th for the day with 15-13, Florida pro John Cox retained the lead in the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 359 points. He is followed by Drew Cook of Georgia (333), Brandon Palaniuk of Idaho (330), Brandon Lester of Tennessee (327) and Drew Benton of Georgia (321).
Meanwhile, a new leader emerged in the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race, as Alabamian Joseph Webster, with 271 points, overtook previous leader Jay Przekurat of Wisconsin, who fell to second place in the ROY standings with 256. They are followed by Jonathan Kelley of Pennsylvania (233), Masayuki Matsushita of Japan (192) and Josh Douglas of Minnesota (185).
The tournament will continue Friday with the full field of 94 anglers taking off at 7 a.m. ET from Dayton Boat Dock and weigh-in back at the dock at 3 p.m. After Friday’s weigh-in the field will be trimmed to the Top 47 for Semifinal Saturday.
Full coverage can be streamed on Bassmaster.com.