Things have definitely taken an upbeat swing for me over the past few
months, sorting my Social Security number and drivers Licence out and
along with the rest of the time-consuming paper work that needed to be
done. I’ve never been more ready to just fish and with all top 20
finishes in my last 4 tournaments and having an Elites series berth in
sight for next year, I’ve been feeling great and enjoying everyday I’m
out on the water catching fish and learning more and more!
With a month or so with no major tournaments on I was doing plenty of practice fishing around Oklahoma while waiting for the next tournament to arrive. Before that happened late on Friday night Fred was told about a big teams tournament on at Grand Lake on the Sunday worth 20 grand! So that night we loaded the boat and headed out on the Saturday morning to see if we could find some fish. Well It was one of the worst practice days we had ever had and found nothing worth fishing for over the whole day. To make it worse, when we came in there was another big tournament weigh-in happening and everyone caught 17-18lb plus bags and we were lucky to catch 10lb that day.
With our spirits dampened a little, Fred asked me do you really want to waste your money on an entry fee? Maybe we should just go fishing somewhere! I was quick to let him know I hadn’t travelled from Australia to chicken out and not fish so I said let’s just jump in it and see what happens.
I knew if we could just catch one decent fish early we would then be able to run a pattern and get them! The problem with these teams tournaments is they are pretty close to impossible to win, there are 250 boats out there filled with locals who know the place backwards and have fished for the majority of their lives. They also build their own fish habitats and plant them in ideal positions to draw the fish in and even feed it with crayfish and food and then on tournament day they just cast their jigs in there and smash a huge limit off of it! So that’s what you have to compete with.
But if there’s anything I’ve learnt it’s that nothing is a guarantee in fishing and on tournament day a small cold front came in and made the fish spread out and not concentrate on the planted brush piles as much. We fished the first few hours for a small limit and at about 10 o’clock we hit a steep bluff wall with a lay down on it. I made a small flip to the front of the tree and the jig never made it to the bottom. A giant 6.2lb largemouth intercepted it and I was hooked up to the giant! On its first jump I said that fish would be Big Bass of the tournament and Fred was quick to agree. Two more big jumps later and it hit the net and was ours.
That’s when everything changed. That one fish changed how we have both fished over these last few months. Fred went on a rampage and we hit every spot he could think of that was similar and we just started to put a big limit together. At the end of the day we came in with just over 19lb and just got knocked into second place but my 6lb got us the Big Bass for the tournament as well!
We walked away with $11,000 for a day’s fishing. It was an unreal day and one I won’t forget for a while. The top two teams were put on lie detector tests which was really cool as at least you know that you got beat fair and square. Fred did it for our team as the guy couldn’t understand anything I was saying; my accent doesn’t interpret well in Oklahoma.
With both our confidences sky high and some big tournaments ahead of us we were ready to go! Fred has a ridiculous schedule with the Elites and the Opens and he has a full month of fishing coming up. He will be on the road travelling half the country with a tournament every weekend. In his first two tournaments in this gruelling schedule he has had top 20 finishes, cashing good cheques with two more tournies to go.
While Fred and his family (Julie Jackson and Avery) hit the road, I had Ian (Barra) Miller from Millerods Australia fly in to spend a few weeks with me fishing around the country and to fish the first Northern Bassmaster Open on the James River in Virginia. But the main purpose was to sort my rod range out.
We had an awesome few weeks fishing all over Oklahoma and Arkansas fishing as many techniques as possible and really putting the Millerods to the test. We want to make these rods not only ideal for my U.S. bass fishing but to cross over for Aussie fishing as well. I think the changes we are making are going to be huge for the way we fish in Australia from everything I’m learning over here and what I’ve learnt from my Australian fishing and putting it together it’s going to make an insane range of rods. I can’t wait to see the finished product.
After giving Ian a week of non-stop bass fishing we were on the road and heading to the James River. This time was a lot different to the James River last year. I had added many new techniques to my arsenal and understood the tides better from making mistakes last year. We found a great frog bite in the lily pads and had a great back up plan casting my Bassman TW Spinnerbaits around duck blinds and flooded grass at high tide.
Once again I did the huge run up the top of the Chickaharmony River. I’d taken a lot of my tackle out of my boat and just went with the bare essentials so I could run my new Skeeter/Yamaha at its full potential. At 75 MPH and a few sneaky but risky short cuts we found from last year, I rounded up a lot of boats and was able to hit my preferred starting spots first each morning.
I fished well with only one big fish getting off that would have made a difference and it was the first of the morning too, which hurt, but it was my fault and a mistake I’ll only make once. It was a big fish we found in the pre-fish under a small group of lily pads. It tried to eat Ian’s frog and it took every ounce of self control he had not to set the hook which I thanked him for as it would have been his biggest fish for the trip. It was a 5-6lb fish, huge for the James River but I knew if I could get there first she might be waiting under there for my frog on tournament morning!
Sure enough after the huge run and the adrenaline pumping I pull up settled down and put the cast over the pads where she was and just like a typical big fish she come up and sucked it under but she let it go before I could set the hooks. I cranked it in as fast as I could to put another cast in and here’s where I made the mistake: when that happens it often crushes the frog and the frog sucks up air and water making it super hard and almost impossible to set the hook on a fish through. You should always squeeze it to make sure it’s empty and soft but in the heat of the moment the frog swang up and I punched it straight back there like a bullet. It lands and I think to myself I should have checked that and then it explodes off the top. This time there was no mucking around, she ate it so good she came all the way out of the water to eat it and I was on… for about 5 seconds before it simply fell out because the hooks couldn’t get set.
But I didn’t let it get to me and I hardly missed a fish for the next two days. If a bass so much as thought about eating my frog I hooked it but just didn’t get that big bite I needed!
My two key fish came on my TW Bassman Spinnerbaits. They are going to be big over here as there’s just not a spinnerbait like them and the fish are loving them!
Ian held second big fish and was in 5th place mostly fishing the Bassman behind his pro.
After we weighed in the second day I had moved from 27th to 2nd and Ian was in 7th out of the 140 boat field with half the weigh-in to go. It was looking at being close to both of us making the elusive 12 cut to fish the final day!
It was like watching a slow death as we both got knocked down until Ian hit 13th with only 10 anglers to weigh and I was in 12th with one angler to weigh.
I had a knot in my stomach just wanting that opportunity to fish the top 12 and have a chance at making a move to the top, as the pro makes his way to the stage Ian says surely not, the weigh in director says you need 12lb 6oz ounces to make the cut: 12lb 11oz is the weight. The last angler to weigh in knocked me to 13th.
That was kind of hard to take at the time being so close I couldn’t believe it but it didn’t take long until we were laughing about it and celebrating our two 13th positions.
Fred had a great tournament as well considering he only got a day to pre-fish as he had to travel from the Texas Elite Series to get there, and a 19th place paid some expenses. Before I could give him hell about beating him for the first time he let me know I beat him with a technique he taught me in his practice pond, so I didn’t get to give it to him too much (like Aussies like to do). He said he was super proud of that and also said he could see a change in how I was fishing and said I was ready! Fred just gives me a world of confidence.
This has now given me a second shot at making the Elites through the Northern Opens.
The next day you would think we would have the day off and relax after a hectic few weeks? Not us. It was Ian’s last day and we were up early fuelling the truck up and heading to the Potomac River where we had an insane session on bass and snakeheads on frogs.
As we were pulling the boat out at close to 10 o’clock at night Ian let me know that we must have a serious problem as normal people don’t just keep fishing after 2 weeks of non-stop fishing. We had dinner plans and it all got scrapped when the fish started biting!
Ian flew out the next day and I hit the road north through Pennsylvania and into New York to do some early pre-fishing on Lake Cayuga, the location for the last Northern Open in August.
I camped in my truck for the week at the State Park on the north end then packed up and drove to the southern end and stayed in Ithaca to get a grip on which end was the better. It was an insane lake with lots of big fish. I’m excited to get back there in August.
I’ve now been in Detroit Michigan pre-fishing the Great Lakes for the past week for the next Northern Open in July. This is one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the world and the fishing has been great. I’ve found some good spots but will need to look for more during the official pre-fish in a few weeks time.
The place is just so big. I need 3 fishing licences (Michigan, Ohio and Canadian). There are no off limits so we can fish Lake St Clair, Lake Erie and Lake Huron and that is just a stupid amount of water to find the winning fish in. I’ve been all over the place and it’s hectic out there. It’s getting close to the 4th of July and the celebrations have already started. It’s absolute mayhem on the water with thousands of boats from shipping containers to massive million dollar offshore boats to jet boats all going in every direction.
A guy told me once that during the summer time at Lake Lewisville someone basically gets killed there every weekend in a boating accident. I didn’t really believe him till I saw the chaos out there this week.
It has been super rough and it’s hard on your body and I’m ready for a rest mentally and physically after over a month of non-stop fishing everyday bar a few days on the road. So I’m tapping out for a week or so to recoup.
I head back to Oklahoma tomorrow and will celebrate July 4 back there and really just chill out. I will be letting some fireworks off like everyone is doing here 24/7. It looks like fun and I’ve never been able to do it in QLD, but ill mainly be getting some well-needed rest so I’m ready and 100% for mid next month.
Some exciting times ahead and hopefully we get the video blogs sorted out soon I have some good clips to get up there, so until then: Fish hard
– Carl Jocumsen