The record book shows the 2019 Bassmaster®
Elite Series tournament at Lake Tenkiller lasted four days, but for Australian angler Carl Jocumsen, who won that season-ending event, the tournament really lasted nine years. The Yamaha Pro had been in America that long struggling to fulfill his dream of having a professional fishing career in the United States.
“It has been a struggle in a lot of ways, but that win made me even more determined to keep working at it,” explains Jocumsen, 35, “because then I knew I could do it, no matter how many obstacles I had to face. As a very young fisherman in Australia I would fill my backpack with fishing gear and ride my bicycle to small lakes near my home, then watch American fishing programs on television to learn new techniques I could use the next time.
“We don’t even have largemouth bass in Australia, but I knew from an early age I wanted to bass fish for a living, and America is the only place in the world you can do it.”
When he won the Australian fishing championship in 2008, part of his prize included a three-week fishing trip to America, and that’s when he finalized his dream. He returned home, sold practically everything he owned, and flew back to the States in 2010 to become a bass fisherman. “I had a suitcase full of fishing tackle, a case for my rods, and not much else,” laughs the Yamaha Pro. “I knew one American who lived in Los Angeles, so that’s where I started, and he helped me more than I can ever thank him for. After a year there, I moved to Oklahoma and lived with an American bass pro, Fred Roumbanis, then moved to Texas, and finally to east Tennessee where I live now.
“I started as a co-angler in the Bassmaster®
Open events in 2011, then moved to the front of the boat in 2013 and 2014. I was still going through a major adjustment in my fishing, because in Australia we don’t have a single lake as large as the smallest lake we fish on the Bassmaster®
“At the same time, I was also going through the challenge of getting a visa that would allow me to stay in the United States,” he continues. “My first year over here, I had to fly back to Australia every 90 days because that’s only as long as I could remain in the country before having to return home. After a couple of days, I’d fly back to the States for another 90 days.”
Eventually, Jocumsen obtained a P-1A Athlete visa, designed specifically for foreign athletes. He had to hire an attorney to help fill out all the paperwork it requires.
Then in 2015, Jocumsen climbed another step in his fishing dream by qualifying for the Bassmaster®
Elite Series through his success in the Opens. He finished 105th on the Sabine River, his first Elite tournament, but followed with a 6th place finish at Lake Guntersville in his second event.
“On the second day at Lake Guntersvile, I weighed in 26 pounds of bass that I caught on a jig and a swimbait,” he remembers. “It was absolutely all I’d dreamed about, but I was still struggling on all the new lakes. I was able to fish the Elites for two years but then missed qualifying for the 2017 season, so I moved to the FLW®
Tour and also started fishing the Opens again.
“I re-qualified for Elites in 2018 and again in 2019, and that’s when I won at Lake Tenkiller. During this past 2020 season I finished second at the Santee Cooper Elite Series tournament, getting beaten by my close friend and fellow Yamaha Pro Brandon Palaniuk. Brandon and I have known each other since my initial 2011 season as a co-angler, and it was absolutely thrilling to be in that position. I didn’t mind losing to him at all.”
“What I admire so much about Carl is his positive mental attitude,” says Palaniuk, who started his own professional fishing career the same year Jocumsen began his. “Being around him is not only fun but also truly inspiring. The words ‘giving up’ are not in his vocabulary.”