BOSSIER CITY, La. — The most effective way to quickly master a foreign language is total immersion. You live it, eat it and breath it. And you do it all in the native environment.
That’s also how Australian Carl Jocumsen is mastering the sport of professional bass fishing in a foreign land. His American English is good. His bass fishing is getting even better. It must. There’s more to come later about that.
Jocumsen’s intent to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series is well documented. It’s a quest that began in earnest four years ago.
What’s not so well known is Jocumsen’s fast-track strategy for coming close. And he is getting close. How he’s doing it is no coincidence. It’s a strategy that any angler considering a run for the pro ranks should study.
“It’s taken some harsh lessons over the last three years,” he said. “I’ve dedicated my life to learning, step-by-step, how to excel at this in the short amount of time I have to make it.”
One of those harsh lessons came this week at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open presented by Allstate, on the Red River. Jocmusen was well on his way to breaking a third consecutive top 12 cut of the season. He lost the clincher, a 5-pounder, early in the day.
“Losing that fish didn’t even phase me,” he said. “I’ve finally mastered the mental strength the Kevn VanDam’s of the sport use to quickly overcome mistakes.”
The lost fish caused him to miss the cut. The disappointment wore off quickly. His sharply focused mind shifted to the next event in May at Douglas Lake, Tenn.
Note to wannabes: Mental strength is key in this grueling game of win and lose.
How Jocumsen gained that mental strength is through healthy eating at the tournaments. The produce aisle of the grocery store is the first stop he makes when arriving in tournament town. He shuns fried foods and avoids eating in restaurants.
“It makes a tremendous difference,” he said. “My thinking is more focused and my mind stays sharp all week.”
The take away is staying in a rental property with a kitchen. He splits the fee with a roommate to make the stay more affordable. It’s not unrealistic because many Open pros spend more than a week at the tournament location. In the end, groceries are cheaper. And the mind stays more focused.
Healthy eating is accompanied by exercise. Jocumsen avoids working out at tournaments. His initial workout attempts were cut short due to exhaustion from the long days on the water.
Instead, in his temporary home of Dallas he does CrossFit. That’s the barbell-and-burpee-heavy regime that employs grueling “workouts of the day.” It’s not for everyone. At 29, youth is on his side.
“It’s really improved my core strength, stamina and endurance in the boat,” he said.
Don’t be turned off just yet by the young Aussie’s squeaky-clean diet and exercise regime. There is hope for the average American bass angler aspiring to become a pro angler.
Jocumsen fished the Open tour as a co-angler in his first year, while riding along as a marshal in Elite events. He didn’t stop there.
“I’d launch my boat on the Monday after an event and try out every technique and pattern I observed as a marshal,” he said. “The patterns were still good then and it gave me hand’s-on training.”
Variety in the schedule put Jocumsen’s immersion plan on the fast track. In the South he learned how to fish river systems and lowland reservoirs. He learned the nuances of highland lakes and the Great Lakes on trips to the North and Midwest.
Jocumsen kept going up. He did so slowly and deliberately.
He completed a moderately successful season as an Open rookie pro in his second year. He missed the Elite Series by one point.
Jocumsen bounced back last year. He fished all three Open trails and wound up with a fourth-place finish at the season finale.
“That’s when it struck me that I was good enough to go with these guys over here. I feel like I belong.”
Belonging has come with a price. Jocumsen used a tourist Visa to gain access to American bass fishing in his first year. That meant a costly 90-day rotation of intercontinental travel to legally maintain the Visa. He burned through his savings after four consecutive rotations. Round-trip airfare averaged $3,000.
The bleeding didn’t end there. Jocumsen hired an attorney to get a Sports Visitor Visa. That cost another $6,000. The Visa’s three-year run ends this year.
That means every B.A.S.S. check Jocumsen earns this season is worth more than it’s face value. That’s because he’ll apply the total earnings to prove to the U.S. government that bass fishing is his source of American income.
With enough money he’ll be eligible for a Green Card. But there’s another more important card coming into view.
It’s the membership card he so desperately wants. The one embossed with the logo of the Bassmaster Elite Series.