One of the great things about my fishing activities is that I get to meet a lot of people from all over the world. Through both guiding and competitive fishing, I have been able to cross paths with people from all walks of life and made many friendships. One of my competitors on the Bassmaster Elites Series, Carl Jocumsen, is from Australia. His dream was to fish for bass in the United States and against some pretty crazy odds, he made it. We met several years ago and he is one of my best friends that I’ve made fishing.
Earlier in the year Carl asked if I’d be interested in coming over to Australia in the fall to do some fishing with him. Shelby and I had talked about making a trip over at some point to visit Carl and his wife Kayla but this presented a great opportunity. The fishing would actually be competing in a few tournaments for barramundi, one of the more popular fish species over there. We agreed to go without too much deliberation and it has turned out to be one of the best trips of my life.
With some help from the Australian Bass Tournament organization and Humminbird, we were set up with a boat to use for a week and a half and we competed in four separate tournaments on three different bodies of water. These tournaments were eight hour events, the same as we do in North America, with the exception of one event, which was an all-nighter, fishing a 16 hour session from 4 pm to 8 am!
The other difference from our events was that the tournament hours were from 4 pm to midnight for the regular sessions, so it meant fishing for most of the session in the dark, which was a new experience for me. The reason for fishing late in the day is that it’s the start of summer in Australia and it’s hot. The barra often bite better after dark as well.
We got over here with a couple of days to practice before the tournaments started. Carl had talked about how fun barramundi are to catch for months so I was excited to get that first bite. He explained that there was nothing like it, that these fish are super aggressive when they decide to bite and that landing all of them was impossible.
My first night on the water didn’t go great, but I landed my first barramundi and got a feel for fishing at night. The first fish I hooked was six feet in the air seconds after I set the hook and it was probably the best fight I’ve ever experienced with a fish. I got much better on the night two when we found a big school of barra on a main lake point, catching several. The best way I can describe these fish is that they can jump seven feet in the air and despite being a bit smaller, they could pull a musky backwards. They are that tough.
We ended up having a great trip, finishing 3rd, 6th, 18th and 6th in the four tournaments. We lost several fish in each session that could have helped but I’m sure the other teams all did as well. These fish pull so hard that they were breaking lures, ripping them apart, they were breaking 80 pound leaders and straightening out hooks. Every hookup was an adventure!
The all-night session was a grind. Before we did it, I figured we’d be able to stay up all night and keep casting but by the middle of the night you need to take a seat for a little bit of a rest at least. We each slept in the boat for a couple of hours. This tournament has kind of become a famous test of endurance so you just embrace it. Funny enough, it ended up being our worst finish.
I had the time of my life and will return someday to catch these fish again. Australia is a beautiful country with great people, amazing scenery and some excellent fishing. If anyone is looking for a bucket-list trip, I would recommend it. The flight over there is long but once you’re there, you’ll love every minute.