Aussie angler keeps coming back

WAGONER, Okla. — The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open series is the launch pad into the big league for aspiring anglers. None of them comes close to the effort taken by Carl Jocumsen to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series.

He quite literally has traveled the extra mile.

“My ultimate goal is to be an Elite Series pro,” Jocumsen said. He fell just a few fish shy of making the cut this year. But the resilient angler isn’t ready to give up.

Jocumsen, 28, is from Toowoomba, Queensland. His quest to reach elite status reads like none other ever written. The story might read like fiction. But it’s all fact.

Jocumsen arrived in America with his dream last year. He fished as a co-angler in several Open events and signed up as a marshal at the Elite level. His goal was to learn all he could about American bass fishing from the pros.

He’d already achieved elite status back in the land down under. Jocumsen won the 2008 Australian Bass Fishing Championship. It’s the American version of the Bassmaster Classic. Instead of bass the prized catch is the bass-like Barramundi.

A trip to the United States came with the championship prize. And so did a paid berth in the WON BASS U.S. Open on Lake Mead, Nev. Jocumsen claimed third place in the AAA division, impressing himself and his pro partners.

Fred Roumbanis was one of them. Barramundi met bass and a mutual friendship formed. They shared in learning the other’s fishing strengths and the relationship grew even stronger.

For Jocumsen that meant picking up a flipping stick for the very first time. For Roumbanis, a West Coast native, it meant adding to his already strong repertoire of tactics as a finesse expert.

That was in 2009. Jocumsen returned home and put his dream on the fast track. He managed a cousin’s tackle shop, saving all his earnings to return to the U.S. At the same time, he pitched sponsors about his idea to make a trial run at fishing the 2011 Bassmaster Open tour.

Skeeter Boats came on board. Jocumsen’s welcome gift upon arrival after a 28-hour flight was a new boat. His first stop was a reunion with Roumbanis in Bixby, Okla.

“I’d be lost if I hadn’t run into Fred and Julie,” said Jocumsen. “Fred sped up my learning curve, from being competitive in five years, to probably two years.”

Jocumsen achieved what he set out to do in 2011. He diversified his angling skills as a student of Roumbanis and his peers. He fished the Opens and observed the Elites. He also depleted his funds. That meant going back to work at the tackle shop in Australia.

In January, Jocumsen arrived back in the U.S. with a supercharged attitude and money in the bank. He came prepared for a full season of serious competing in the Southern, Central, and Northern Open series.

Things didn’t go so well at the kickoff event in January on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida. He finished in the back of the pack, although it wasn’t due to lack of effort. Power-Poles weren’t part of the rigging package for his new Skeeter rig.

“I just couldn’t be competitive with the shallow-water bite and it cost me,” he said.

Jocumsen dropped out of the remaining two Southern events and put the focus on the Central and Northern series. That was a wise move. He posted top 20 finishes in all events, with exception of a dismal finish at the Northern held on the Detroit River.

Jocumsen criss-crossed the land fishing to learn and compete. The miles were taking a toll on his used truck. For one trip he’d driven nonstop from Virginia to Nevada. He arrived with bald tires. A friend took note in a big way.

The friend is fellow Australian Casey Stoner, the fastest man in MotoGP motorbike racing. Stoner was going fishing with Jocumsen that day on Lake Mead.

“He’s a good mate and really a keen bass fisherman,” said Jocumsen.

Indeed a good mate. The next day Stoner made Jocumsen steer the worn-out bomb into the nearest Ford dealership. There, the racing celeb bought his friend a 2011 Ford F250 truck.

Jocumsen was still overcome with the reality of what could be in store for him after the final Central Open.

“I’ve had a phenomenal year,” he said while standing on the shoreline of Fort Gibson Lake. “I feel like I can be competitive now. I’m ready to take the next step.”

He also knows taking that step comes with a price. That next step is courting sponsors to offset his expenses so he can continue pursuing his dream next season.

“I’ve got $500 in U.S. dollars and my plane leaves for Australia in two weeks,” he said. “I’ve made it this far and I want to keep the momentum going.”

That means back to work at the tackle shop. And saving it all for next year and another attempt at turning a dream to reality.

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