By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
"Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi."
The famous chant used by Australian fans at major sporting events around the world in support of their native sons and daughters is coming to the Bassmaster Classic. Dozens of fans from Down Under are making preparations to be in Knoxville, Tenn. next March to cheer on Carl Jocumsen as he makes his debut in the event.
It's been a long road to initial qualification – in terms of both distance and time – for Jocumsen, who turned 38 last week. He first came to the U.S. in 2009 after winning an expense-paid trip to compete as a co-angler in the WON Bass U.S. Open via his victory that year in the Australian BASS Pro Series Grand Final, which is his home country's version of the Classic. He finished 2nd on the non-boater side.
He moved here 2 years later and began to pursue the goal that will culminate on the Tennessee River this coming spring.
"It's pretty surreal," Jocumsen said. "It's ridiculous, really – a kid from a country town in Queensland looking at something on TV. Actually fishing it is going to be pretty wild and crazy
"It'll be a life-changing moment."
No Major Bombs
Jocumsen finished higher than 31st in just one of the nine Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments this year – a 7th-place showing at Lake Chickamauga, which is now his home venue in his adopted state. However, he avoided the placements in the 80s or 90s that had plagued him in previous years.
His two worst finishes of the season came right out of the gates in Florida – 70th at the St. Johns River and 72nd at the Harris Chain of Lakes – and he didn't close particularly well (61st at South Dakota's Lake Oahe and 56th at the Mississippi River in Wisconsin last month). But in the middle, he had his single-digit outing at Chickamauga and three finishes in the 30s (Santee Cooper, Lake Fork and Pickwick), along with a 48th at the St. Lawrence River.
He ended up at No. 43 in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race. Only the Top 40 are guaranteed slots in the following year's Classic, but double qualifiers got him in with at least one spot to spare.
"It was kind of like my worst nightmare, coming out of Florida in a hole like that," he said. "I've worked hard to learn as much as I can about Florida and I'd started to have some good finishes down there, so this year it was super-frustrating, but I'm pretty used to fighting my way out of a corner. I just told myself I had to put my head down and chip away. That's what I did and I just kept moving up."
The winner of the 2019 Elite Series event at Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma said that staying away from bombs has been something he's emphasized for several years, and this year he was finally able to do it.
"Before that I had the try-to-win mentality and I still have it and I'll never get rid of it," he said. "But you also have to know when to go for it and when to fish to survive. It's been all about becoming a better angler, making better decisions and being more consistent."
Ironically, he said he lost more key fish this year than he ever has before, but still ended up having his best tour-level campaign to date. Two big ones that spit out glide baits on Day 2 at Chickamauga were particularly gut-wrenching, as their absence from his weigh-in bag likely prevented him from claiming his second Elite victory.
"That part was pretty frustrating," he said. "I spoke to Gerald Swindle about it and told him I was losing bass on things I never lose them on. He told me that the year before he won his (second) Angler of the Year, he lost just about every fish that mattered. He told me I just had to keep casting and keep fishing.
Opportunity to Prepare
Next year's Classic venue is less than a 90-minute drive from Jocumsen's home, so he plans to do a lot of pre-practicing before it goes off limits.
"I'm definitely going to put more time into it than I have any other event in my life," he said. "My plan is really to wait until winter sets in, but I'm hoping some warm weather comes in (during the tournament) because that'll allow me to do some things I'd really like to do to try to get the bites I need.
"With it being so close, I'm going to learn it as best as I can."