A special week for Aussies

First off, I’d like to introduce myself as Tom Slater, an Aussie angler based in Brisbane, and your source of info for all things B.A.S.S. Australia. I’m proud to be offering our international fishing community a unique Australian perspective on B.A.S.S. issues worldwide.

It’s a special week for B.A.S.S. anglers in Australia. By the end of it, one of us will be lucky enough to have won a trip across the world for a coveted starting position in the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S Nation Championship out of Monroe, La.

Competing in America — that’s a big deal for us! Competitive fishing as a sport in Australia has yet to achieve the standards of professionalism practiced in the U.S. We have similar tournaments, and some of us have similar boats (jonboats are still common in high class events in Australia), but no one in Australia manages to make a living from fishing tournaments.

Australian anglers, such as Carl Jocumsen, have ventured to the U.S. to compete. Carl originally competed in the 2009 U.S. Open on Lake Mead. He finished second in that tournament and since then has worked extremely hard, with unbelievable dedication to relocate to the U.S. He is currently fourth in the points in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens presented by Allstate, with one tournament to go on the Arkansas River. He is an inspiration to many of us Aussies attempting to follow a similar path. Go Carl!

As an Australian, I understand that winning this trip and getting a chance to compete in the big leagues is an awesome opportunity. Fishing in Australia is still seen by most as a hobby or a pastime, not a professional sport. With guys like Carl leading the charge, I think it’s just a matter of time before fishing gains more recognition and gets the credit it deserves as a professional and regarded sport in Australia. Like cricket, but underwater!

Without aspirations like these, what else is there? Something I try to live by every day is that if you aren’t moving forward, you’re falling behind. It’s all about chasing the dream, one step at a time.

Which is why in two days, I’ll be making the 750-km (465-mile) journey to Lake Glenbawn in New South Wales. Glenbawn is like our version of Guntersville, or Erie. Not by its landscape or fishing style, but for its reputation. Glenbawn is the premier bass fishing impoundment in Australia. This week it plays host to the B.A.S.S Australia Nation Championship.

We are part of the Southern Division of the B.A.S.S. Nation, competing against powerhouse states like Florida, Alabama and Georgia — not to mention one of Australia’s biggest sporting rivals, South Africa. Australia is the underdog as we don’t have experience with largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass. We don’t use techniques like flipping and pitching much, if at all.It’s going to be a tough road to travel for the successful angler, no doubt about it.

But here’s a warning for all those anglers representing their states or countries in the Southern Division: Never underestimate the underdog. It’s a position Australian athletes find ourselves in quite often. We’re comfortable with challenges and we’ll do everything we can to overcome them.

On Sunday at approximately 3 p.m., one of us will have punched a ticket to the U.S.A.

But for whoever wins, it’s not just a win for himself. It’s a win for fishing in Australia.

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