For Carl Jocumsen, the first Australian to fish competitively in America, reaching Bassmaster Elite status was so desirable he had to do it twice. But the 34-year-old believes things are all coming together for him, and he plans on sticking around this time.
Attempting to find success on a different continent isn’t on many people’s to-do lists — “It’s very hard, does that explain it?” — but the bass fishing dream hit Jocumsen young. When he got the opportunity, he knew he had to go all-in to realize it.
“There was no footpath in front of me,” he said. “No Aussie had come through and done it. I learned the hard way all the way through. There were constant brick walls every which way I turned because I didn’t have that direct path on what to do.”
When sinking is the other option, you learn to swim pretty quick, he said. Although that path was filled with adversity, Jocumsen tried to map every step through the minefield to the end goal of professional angler. That’s taken him from being a co-angler in Bassmaster Opens, to Opens pro, to Elites then FLW and back to the Elites.
“I didn’t want to come here, give it a go and have to come home,” he said. “I wanted to make sure so I had a long-term career.”
Jocumsen was arguably the top tournament angler on his continent. He started competing at 14, turned pro at 17 and went on to win three Australian angler of the year titles and his big chance in that country’s classic. His earnings are still double of the next best competitor, and anglers there say they all finish one spot higher because of his departure.
His life-altering tournament win came at 26 when he won the Australian Bass Fishing Championship. The prize included an expenses-paid trip to compete as a co-angler in the U.S. Open on Lake Mead.
“The idea was to create an angler who could come over here and succeed,” he said. “I had never even left the country before. Everything here is like a dreamland. Everything is small in Australia. You have to work full time, fishing’s mostly a weekend thing, money’s tiny. Even now it’s that way.”
Fate found him competing on Lake Mead, a super clear fishery not unlike lakes at home. Using 2-pound braid with 4-pound leader, he caught fish everywhere. He had the good fortune of fishing Day 3 with Fred Roumbanis, who he had followed from Australia.
“I caught them really good, and I caught big bass and finished third in tournament with Fred in the top 10,” Jocumsen said. “Fred was saying all day, ‘Dude, you’ve got what it take to make it over here. I can tell.’ Basically, he was giving me all this confidence. Little did I know months later I’d be fishing the Red River and not have a clue.”
The great experience and the connection with Roumbanis helped fuel Jocumsen’s desire to return. Fred and his wife, Julie, let him stay with them as he gained footing on the U.S. circuits. Not that Jocumsen wouldn’t have come back without their help.
“I was just wide-eyed and I fell in love with the fish and how they react, and how to catch them. The weights were bigger,” he said. “I went home and that’s what I wanted to do. I sold everything, my truck, boat, everything. I saved money for a year and I literally flew back over here.”