Consider how unlikely Carl Jocumsen’s victory was Sunday at Lake Tenkiller: When the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule was released, there wasn’t a tournament scheduled at Lake Tenkiller or on Sept. 22, his 35th birthday.
Last week’s tournament was originally scheduled for Oklahoma’s Fort Gibson Lake in May, until a flood of biblical proportions forced its postponement. Jocumsen planned to be in Idaho on this date, making final preparations for his Oct. 12 wedding at Lake Couer d’Alene to longtime companion Kayla Palaniuk.
And based on Jocumsen’s 2019 return to the Elite Series, after two previous seasons in which he had only two top 10 finishes — both in 2015 — he was an unlikely candidate to even be in the top 10 Sunday at Tenkiller. He came into the tournament ranked 66th in the 75-man Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
The first and only native Australian to qualify for the Elite Series entered the final day in third place, 4 pounds, 8 ounces behind leader Kyle Monti. Between Monti and Jocumsen, only 2-13 out of first, was Chris Zaldain, who is in contention for the 2019 Toyota AOY title and had recorded finishes of second, ninth and third in the previous three tournaments. Zaldain appeared to be in prime position to secure the victory that had barely eluded him all season.
So what did Jocumsen do? He stuck strictly to the plan that had come together for him the previous three days, casting a 3/4th-ounce football jig in deep structure, and weighed the biggest five-bass limit of the tournament — 19 pounds, 12 ounces – en route to a $100,000 birthday/wedding present.
Jocumsen’s highly unlikely victory made for an emotionally charged weigh-in at Tahlequah’s Cherokee Casino.
“Since I was 4 years old, I’ve loved fishing and I’ve dreamed of the day I would do this,” Jocumsen said. “Today is that day. This is a lifetime of work, a lifetime of passion and loving this sport with every ounce of my body.”
That’s the thing about Jocumsen. Although he didn’t have many previous accomplishments to indicate a win was likely, if you’ve been around him you never doubted that his drive and passion for the sport would payoff some day. Sunday just seemed like a most unlikely day.
And it provided a perfectly fitting finish to a 2019 Elite Series regular season schedule that has been storybook from the beginning. When B.A.S.S. rolled out the rather audacious motto — “Big bass. Big dreams. Big stage.” — it seemed more wishful than factual after the uproar in the professional bass fishing world that took place after the 2018 season.
However, the facts began to pile up from the start, like when 72-year-old B.A.S.S. legend Rick Clunn caught two 9-pound bass in the final hours on Day 4 at Florida’s St. Johns River. Clunn weighed 34-14 on Feb. 10 and jumped from eighth place, 11-13 out of the lead, to first place with 98-14. It was his 16th B.A.S.S. victory.
The next week at Georgia’s Lake Lanier there was a foreshadowing of the season ahead when Paul Mueller edged Zaldain by 14 ounces — 69-0 to 68-2 — to win his first Elite Series title. It was the first of five final day weigh-ins that were decided by ounces, not pounds.
On April 14, Stetson Blaylock won at South Carolina’s Winyah Bay by 9 ounces over Scott Canterbury. On June 24, Jamie Hartman came from 10th place on the final day to edge Zaldain and Matt Arey by 6 ounces. On Aug. 18, Micah Frazier came from 10th place on the final day to top Chris Johnston by 14 ounces. On Aug. 25, Hartman did it again, catching a 4-pound bass in the last half-hour to edge Jeff Gustafson by 10 ounces.
There were also two of the coveted century belts awarded on May 6 at Lake Fork during Texas Fest when Brandon Cobb’s first place total was 114-0 and Garrett Paquette took second place with 101-15. It marked Cobb’s second victory in a row, after winning at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell on April 7.
In summation, the “Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams.” season, produced:
- a victory by the legendary Clunn to kickoff the schedule;
- five tournaments decided by ounces on the final day;
- two two-time winners in Cobb and Hartman;
- two anglers who came from 10th place to win on the final day;
- two century belts for topping 100 pounds at Lake Fork;
- and Jocumsen’s ultimate “Big Dreams.” victory on the final day of the regular season.
Of course there’s a considerable bit of unfinished excitement left. This season also created a nail-biter of a Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Going into the three-day AOY Championship Sept. 29-Oct. 1 on Lake St. Clair, Scott Canterbury holds a nine-point lead over Chris Zaldain, 14 points over Cory Johnston and 20 points over Stetson Blaylock.
So, yeah Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams. — no brag, just fact.