Less than 1 ounce separates Slater, Danes

NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia — Last week, I wrote about the biggest event on the bass fishing tournament calendar for pro anglers in Australia. The inaugural B.A.S.S Australia Nation Championship took place over four days of intense competition. The highly coveted prize of a ticket to the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship in Monroe, La., Nov. 6-8, was awarded to the winner at the end of the weigh-in on Sunday afternoon.

It is hard to convey the emotional experience of competing in such an important event. For years now, I’ve watched the Elite Series online, in awe of the anglers who chased their dream and were living it out. My dream.

I missed a giant opportunity to fast track that dream this past weekend — and I missed it by less than half an ounce.

The tournament was a two-day event, just like all the rest of our qualifiers this year. Except this time, we had a two-day practice period. I’d only ever been to Lake Glenbawn once, a month ago for the last of our qualifying rounds, and I didn’t catch a full limit that tournament. I was determined to make up for it this time.

During practice, I went back to fish the areas I located one month previous. The fish were still there, and they were the right size to contend for the win. I quickly locked in on a technique and lure choice and spent the rest of the practice eliminating water and finding back-up plans.

Day 1 rolled around, and I don’t think I got much sleep the night before. I was Boat No. 1 in the morning thanks to my finish in the AOY race. I had loaned my friend’s Phoenix with a Mercury 225 Pro XS, so there was no way anyone was beating me to my honey hole.

To my surprise, no one stopped. Not one boat fished within a mile of me for the first four hours of the session. By that stage I had a limit, albeit a small one. My co-angler, Cody Haynes, had gotten the bites I needed and had a healthy limit in the livewell.

I bit the bullet and left with an hour to go, to fish the inside of a steep bluff wall in the main basin. Luck was on my side that day. About 5 minutes after pulling up, I made an important upgrade that I needed to stay in striking distance.

I weighed just more than 2.2kg or (4 pounds, 14 ounces) on the first day, which placed me exactly midfield at a tie for 15th. The leader was 11 pounds, 5 ounces clear — a weight I knew was within reach if I could just land the big bites on the second day.

Day 2 started well. I had a limit very early and, halfway through the session, I had what turned out to be the biggest sack of the tournament, weighing 3.03 kg (6 pounds, 11 ounces).

It was to be the most electrifying weigh-in of the season, and a crowd had gathered to witness history being made. I weighed in early, as the Top 10 competitors were saved until last. Tenth place came and went. Just like ninth, eighth, seventh and sixth. The overnight leader stumbled, and just like that, I had a 1 in 4 shot at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. I had a 1 in 4 shot at living out a dream I’ve had for years, to fish in America at the top level.

Troy Danes stepped up to the stage, with a limit of fish. Rumours were going round he had a big bag. The scales went down and it stopped. I couldn’t see the screen, but I could hear my girlfriend, Georgia, gasp and knew it was going to be a close call. As the scales read 2.72 kg (6 pounds), the crowd erupted.

The weight he needed for the win? 2.71 kg.

I had lost by 10 grams! Just for some perspective, 10 grams is equal in weight to two U.S. nickels. To think that two nickels was the difference between losing and hopping on that plane in November was gut-wrenching.

As it turned out, no one would better Troy’s two-day limit. He was crowned the champion and will represent Australia in the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S Nation Championship. I want to congratulate him on what is an incredible accomplishment and something he should be very proud of. You have the full support of Australia behind you, mate, go and give it your all.

This season has been an incredible learning experience for me, and every day I am getting closer to realising my own dreams of taking on bass fishing in America. It’s all about resilience — chasing the dream and never giving up.

The next few weeks could very well be the turning point for tournament fishing in Australia. With Troy headed stateside, everyone’s attention now turns to the Arkansas River, and the third stop of the Bassmaster Central Opens, where our very own Carl Jocumsen is representing Australia and showing the world that no dream is too big to tackle!