By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Carl Jocumsen had a nice opening day at the Lake Tenkiller Bassmaster Elite Series, then appeared to fall out of serious contention when he boated just four keepers for 6-04 in the second round.
When the weekend arrived, however, the Australian put on a performance for the ages. His 35-pound combined haul on days 3 and 4 was a shocking figure from a fishery that was in a serious funk due to rapidly falling water levels, a recent spate of hot weather the normal September slow-down as bass await the cooler conditions of autumn. Throw in a 16-inch minimum-length requirement for largemouths and smallmouths, and quality keepers just weren't easy to come by.
His 19-12 stringer on the final day – which was also his 35th birthday – gave him a victory he'd hankered for since he was a child living on the other side of the planet. His 54-15 total outdistanced Chris Zaldain, a three-time runner-up this year, by more than 3 1/2 pounds.
An Insane Morning
Unlike most in the 75-angler field, Jocumsen committed himself to fishing offshore for the entire derby. He'd spent his 2 1/2 days of official practice scanning as much of the 13,000-acre impoundment as he could with his electronics units and eventually settled on half a dozen locales that he rotated through each day. He caught all of his fish on football-head jigs – mostly 3/4-ounce, but with some 1/2-ounces mixed in early.
He compiled most of his massive final-day sack well before Sunday church-goers in northeastern Oklahoma had even left their homes. He pulled a 3 1/2-pound largemouth from his first stop – a deep point that surrendered one or two good fish each morning, but one where he'd spent too much time on previous days hoping to connect with additional quality specimens.
He was determined to make an earlier initial move on day 4, and that paid off handsomely. After 30 minutes without a second bite, he transitioned to a tree that he'd found late on the previous day and caught a solid keeper from.
"I got there and fished my way up until I could see the tree on my Humminbird 360," he said. "On my first cast, the bite almost pulled me into the tree."
Within a span of less than 7 minutes, he caught three largemouths that averaged about 4 pounds apiece. On just four bites, he'd at least equaled his 15-04 bag from the previous day and put himself in position to garner the top prize.
A Long Lull Before Relief
Jocumsen fished the tree for the next half-hour without another bite. After that he bounced between his other places for more than 3 1/2 hours in a futile quest to complete his limit.
The final two fish that Jocumsen caught at Lake Tenkiller combined to weigh about 8 1/2 pounds.
Most of those were blown out due to steadily increasing winds, preventing him from making productive casts. He returned to the tree with the same number of fish in his livewell he'd had when he left and caught a 3 1/2-pound smallmouth – just his second brown fish of the week – that he knew was potentially the game-winner. For good measure, he added a 5-pound largemouth from a smaller tree in the same vicinity.
"Honestly, I never felt at ease," he said. "I knew (day-3 leader Kyle Monti) had a solid chance to catch 16 pounds, so I figured it would be close.
"Once I had that fifth one, I had to keep fishing as hard as I could. I'm glad I kept up the pace and caught that 5-pounder. That one made me feel a lot better."
> Jocumsen began the event fishing bluff walls, but switched his focus to submerged ledges as the water level continued to fall.
> Some of his bites came as his jig was falling, some came while he was dragging it and some occurred as he was pulling it through brush. The big day-4 smallmouth bit after the jig had become snagged in a branch of the tree and he gave his rod a hard pull to free it. "When it popped off, the line just went slack, so I set the hook," he said.
Winning Gear Notes
> Jig gear – 7'6" medium-heavy Millerods JigFreak LC Power rod, Shimano Curado K 200 casting reel (8.5:1 ratio), 16-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line, 3/4-ounce Molix GT Football Jig (green-pumpkin/brown), Strike King Rage Craw trailer (green-pumpkin).
> He started the tournament with five of the GT jigs, which aren't yet on the market, but lost three of them over the first two days. "After that I started mixing in another jig just because I didn't want all of my confidence to be tied up on that one bait that I only had two of," he said. "I probably lost 20 to 30 jigs during the tournament. What I realized toward the end was the unique head of the GT just comes through everything – brush, rocks or whatever."
> He believes that using Bang crawfish-scented spray on his jigs had a positive effect. "I was literally soaking it toward the end – I was spraying it on after every couple of casts."
> As usual, he was heavily reliant on his electronics for locating fish. "Nearly every bass I've caught all year was because of the Humminbird 360," he said. "If it goes out or something happens with the power, I'm lost. That's what happened on day 2 (when he weighed only four fish for a 1 1/2-pound average) – I had a power issue and my 360 was out for the last 3 hours. I didn't know where to cast."
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