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JOCUMSEN BREAKING SCHNEID
Carl Jocumsen, the only Australian to fish on the Bassmaster Elite Series, broke through on his 35th birthday to win the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah event on Lake Tenkiller in dramatic fashion Sunday. His amazing victory, after years of ups and downs, tops the list of The Daily Limit’s 10 killer things from Tenkiller.
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Jocumsen’s Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams. were realized after an amazing morning stretch on what had been a stingy fishery. After catching a 3-pound, 8-ounce bass early, Jocumsen had a huge flurry around 8:30 a.m.
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Within a roughly seven-minute span, Jocumsen landed fish entered in BASSTrakk as 4-8, 4-0 and 4-0, a run that topped the two-day totals for about a third of the field. His estimated weight of 16 pounds made up a 4-8 deficit on the leader, gave him a nearly 8-pound lead and high hopes of shining on Championship Sunday. The video of his catches went viral — they were shots heard round the world — but he still needed one more fish.
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About three hours sweating it, Jocumsen landed that bass, a smallmouth that he announced on Bassmaster LIVE could very well be a $100,000 fish. “I’ve waited my life to catch that fish,” he said, choking up with emotion. “I had gone three hours without a bite and I said, ‘It can’t go down this way. I have to finish it.’ When I caught that smallmouth, the weight of the world came off my shoulders.”
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The world was seemingly behind Jocumsen, as his grit, determination and desire along with bumps to make it in the bass fishing world were well-known. To see his struggles finally pay off was gratifying to most everyone who follows the sport.
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“Since I was 4 years old, I’ve loved fishing and I’ve dreamed of the day I would do this,” he 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.” Jocumsen has adopted the mantra of 'Fear My Heart,' speaking of his resolution to keep fighting.
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Jocumsen, a three-time angler of the year in his home country, culled again with a 5-1 bass to complete his climb from third place. He weighed the event’s biggest bag of 19-12 to total 54-14 and win his first American title. On stage, the magnitude of his incredible journey hit him. We’ll get back to Carl a bit later.
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ZALDAIN AGAIN ZALDANGEROUS
Jocumsen’s winning margin was 3-10 over Chris Zaldain, who turned 35 just 11 days before Jocumsen. While disappointed he couldn’t win his third B.A.S.S. title and first full-field Elite event, Zaldain was magnanimous behind stage congratulating Jocumsen. He posted this photo, writing: “I finished second again, and let me say that it’s been a pleasure fishing with and against this group of dudes during the 2019 Elite Series regular season. The camaraderie is real.”
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Zaldain once again he lived up to his nickname, ‘Zaldangerous,’ as he’s shown he’s a threat to win almost every time out. It was the third runner-up finish this Elite season for Zaldain, who also scored a third and went into the final day of the Bassmaster Classic with a chance to win.
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Zaldain led after two days on Lake Tenkiller, and he was one of only two anglers who weighed in more than 10 pounds on all four days. His high finish gave him hopes as the top 50 in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race head to Lake St. Clair this week for the AOY Championship.
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AOY RACE TIGHTENS
Before the event, Zaldain was third in the season-long point standings, 26 points behind leader Scott Canterbury. The 99 points Zaldain gained from finishing second at Tenkiller moved him within striking distance at 9 points.
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There are five anglers within 28 points of Canterbury, setting up the tightest finish in AOY Championship history. Yet Canterbury had to pull this event out of the fire to keep the lead. He started 30th on Day 1 and lost his AOY lead to Drew Cook, then he was struggling on Day 2 and would have missed the 35 cut if not for an afternoon flurry that put him 29th. He then salvaged 10 more points on Saturday to finish 19th.
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Cory Johnston kept his title hopes alive with a third-place finish at Tenkiller, cutting his deficit on the leader from 30 to 14 points. He has proven to be a force on most fisheries this season, and he’s a well-known commodity wrangling smallmouth on Lake St. Clair. Pundits give him a great shot at making up his deficit and becoming the first Canadian to take a major B.A.S.S. title.
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Another angler who closed the gap is Arkansas’ Stetson Blaylock, an event winner this season who made up 11 points on the lead and goes into the AOY Championship only 20 points back.
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Drew Cook was given extra media attention after standing third at Tenkiller on Day 2, which gave him the unofficial AOY lead. Cook, who had left practice to attend a friend’s funeral, practiced only Wednesday and struggled on Saturday after being among the leaders. With only one fish, he fell to 28th in the event and goes to St. Clair fifth in the AOY standings, 28 points back. With one fish catch there, he will secure the Rookie of the Year title and its $10,000 windfall courtesy of DICK’S Sporting Goods, as he leads that race by 58 points.
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TOP 50 FOR AOY SET
There were a number anglers outside the cut who had a chance to excel at Tenkiller and climb into the AOY Championship, and Ed Loughran III was the longest shot among them. Starting the event at 61st in the standings, Loughran recorded his best Elite finish at 12th to climb over 11 anglers and make the AOY event in 49th place.
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Another moving story is Derek Hudnall, who took a zero for the Lake Hartwell event due to disqualification. Hudnall, given his Phoenix Boats Big Bass check for his 8-1 on Cayuga Lake, held ground at 46th with his 40th-place finish at Tenkiller. His Classic hopes are alive, but he’ll have to pass four anglers.
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The Classic picture is coming more into focus. The top 42 after St. Clair advance to the 50th anniversary event on Lake Guntersville out of Birmingham, Ala., and Todd Auten improved his hopes at Tenkiller. He entered on the outside looking in, and things looked rather grim after weighing only four fish on Day 1 and standing 51st. A steady climb saw him finish ninth and jump to 39th in the AOY standings with a 20-point cushion of falling out.
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Jake Whitaker, last year’s Rookie of the Year, had an interesting ride as well, starting 48th in the points before landing only one fish — albeit a nice one at 4-6 — on Day 1 and falling to bubble position at 50th. He rebounded to finish 26th and moved to first man out of the Classic at 43rd, only two points behind Paul Mueller for the last spot.
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Tyler Rivet made one of the biggest jumps from the AOY bubble spot of 50th in points. His 18th place on Tenkiller puts him 41st with 538 points. As last man in, Mueller is two points back of Rivet but has three anglers within six points gunning for him — Whitaker (543), Kelley Jaye 530 and Skylar Hamilton (530).
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FINISHING YEAR ON HIGH NOTE
Tenkiller was the end of the line for 25 anglers, including Jocumsen, but several others also put nice exclamation points on their seasons. Frank Talley (13th) and Harvey Horne (16th) had great finishes and were in the Top 10 to make appearances on LIVE. Kyle Monti, who took the lead going into Championship Sunday, led the crew who fished their final days of the Elite season. He finished fifth but left saying his showing made him feel more like he really belongs.
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TENKILLER SHOWED ITS POTENTIAL
Conditions are tough in the fall on most southern fisheries, but heat, dropping water levels and a length limit made good bags even harder to come by. There were still decent bags and big fish caught, like Caleb Sumrall’s 5-7 he landed in the final 15 minutes of Day 1 that earned him Phoenix Boats Big Bass.
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Zaldain’s catch showed the disparity on the length limits. Smallmouth and largemouth had to be 16 inches to keep and spotted bass only 12 inches, which helped fill a number of limits.
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Keith Combs, who finished seventh, weighed Day 3’s biggest bass of 4-13, and Carl Jocumsen’s 5-1 led the way on Championship Sunday. Rivet scored a 5-3 on Day 2. The average fish on Day 2 (1.92) dropped from Day 1 (1.97), but things got better on Saturday (2.06) on Saturday then climbed to 2.47 on Championship Sunday, helped immensely by Jocumsen’s big bag.
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RED CARPET TREATMENT
Cherokee Casino Tahlequah rolled out the red carpet in hosting the tournament festivities. The Elites had been booked for its grand opening in May, but extreme floods forced postponement.
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The Elites enjoyed their angler meeting at the casino, and they were invited to take part in an angler social, and the Expo and weigh-ins were right alongside the 92,000-square-foot destination.
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In 1993, Japan’s Norio Tanabe became the first international angler to win a B.A.S.S. event. There have been a number of Japanese anglers to win since, but Jocumsen is the first from any other nation. And Australian fans were over the moon, including several in the weigh-in audience. Many in the Land Down Under stayed up all night to watch LIVE and the weigh-in, including Jocumsen’s mother, Shelly.
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With Carl in the hot seat, his nation’s flag was at the ready. Shelly responded to questions online about the long-anticipated win. “I am so, so proud and elated for my boy … so heartfelt and deserving … waiting for him to land it was gut wrenching,” she wrote about his fifth fish. “Anyone who watches that, whether they’re into fishing or not, couldn’t help to feel the elation.”
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Roo the Bass Dog was representing, too, and many on the Team Jocumsen Facebook page said they couldn’t be more proud for him. Clayton Black wrote: “YEAH BOI!!! Following all your highs and lows over the last few years. All I can say is that you have paid for this win with all that you have given and all that you have sacrificed ... Thanks for being an inspiration to me and thousands of other Aussies mate. Enjoy mate!!! Cheers.” Craig Watters said it made him emotional. “Beautiful to see those tears of joy. It brought a tear to my eye.”
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B.A.S.S. emcee Dave Mercer took in a bit of Aussie culture. Jocumsen had him taste Vegemite, a thick, black food spread made from brewer’s yeast extract with some veggies and spices. It is said to be salty, slightly bitter and malty. Dave loved it! Not. Expect more Australia culture, and maybe even anglers, as the country has rallied around Jocumsen. “People feel they’ve been a part it, and I think that’s really cool, being along on the journey,” he said. “There’s people I’ve never even met that are just hardcore. It’s pretty cool to have a country behind you.”
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To win is one thing, but to do it on his 35th birthday was super special for Jocumsen, who said mental maturity might have played a factor. “Unbelievable. It’s ridiculous. I’m literally like the happiest man alive.”
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Jocumsen and fiancé Kayla Palaniuk and Roo the Bass Dog have been a fixture on the Elites this year. They travel in a camper and spend all their time together on the road chasing his dream. This shot comes on Championship Sunday as they wait to launch. “I’ve seen this thousands of times in my mind. I’ve played it over and over again every day of my life and then I’ve got up and chased it. (This) will be the closest shot I’ve had in my nine years competing here — giving it everything I have,” he posted the night before.
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Palaniuk flashes a winning smile as she peeks out from behind stage to see if it’s time to come out and celebrate.
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The couple share a tender moment, all the days of ups and downs and frustrations put behind them. “I never dreamt of it like this one moment,” he said. “I thought it would be steps. I’ve done that, but I’ve gone down and up. It’s almost to the point where you’re like, is it ever going to happen? The crazy thing is all of those setbacks, it’s erased in one second.”
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Sunday night was like a dream, he said, and he might have had the best Monday ever. “I woke up to this view this morning and it all became very real. (Kayla) sat it on the table so I’d see it when I woke up this morning. Just blown away by this experience and everyone’s positive messages. Life is good!!”
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The couple is set to travel to Kayla’s home in Idaho to get married Oct. 12, and the victory will just add to the big day. Jocumsen has 35 friends and family flying in from Australia to attend, including his 82-year-old granddad who started him fishing. “It's gonna be a party!” Jocsumsen wrote, adding that they might put the trophy next to the wedding cake.
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Before heading on their long drive, the couple took a detour to Little Rock to shoot his Winning Ways at the JM studio. Smiles were abundant, everything in his life coming together. “Words can’t describe the feeling I have right now. All I can promise you is I’m the happiest guy on the planet! We are overwhelmed with the calls and messages and I promise I will get back to everyone. Your words mean everything to us. We just got done with photo shoots and interviews and now about to go celebrate my birthday and this unbelievable day. I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life! Thank you to everyone that has been there through this journey you know who you are, this was for you!”