Over a three-day stretch in which anglers struggled to put bass in their boats, Jonathan Carter stuck to his chosen strategy and emerged victorious over anglers representing their states and nations in the recent Cabela’s Bassmaster Federation Nation Eastern Divisional.
For his efforts, Carter, an Orrington native who now teaches in South Portland, earned a spot in the prestigious national championship bass tournament that will be held on Alabama’s Wheeler Lake in late October.
The regional tourney took place in Medford, Mass., and anglers had a choice of fishing the Mystic or Charles rivers. Carter opted to target fish in the shallows of the Mystic, and despite landing only three fish on Sept. 14 — the final day of the event — his three-day total of 20 pounds, 14 ounces, was good enough for the win.
Carter, a Brewer High School and University of Maine graduate who now teaches first grade at Dyer Elementary School, held the lead heading into the third day of the tournament and kept with the shallow-water game plan that had worked well through the first two days.
“I knew I just had to go out and catch fish [on the third day],” Carter said. “I knew it was a complete possibility in that body of water to go out and catch nothing. I kept telling myself that most of my bites hadn’t come until 10:30, so anything else was a bonus. I caught two of my three fish on the last day at 9:30, so that kind of relaxed me a little bit.”
Carter explained that he and the rest of the 12-angler Maine team qualified for the tournament a year ago. And though no cash prizes were awarded, many view the regional event as a potential stepping stone toward a professional fishing career.
“I think everybody, including myself, thinks we can go down there [to southern tournaments] and compete if we get the chance, and fortunately I was able to get the chance,” Carter said.
The overall champ at the national tournament will earn a slot on the pro tour.
“Everybody [at the regional tournament] has another career. We’re all trying to qualify [to fish professionally],” Carter said. “Eighty, 90 percent of the guys would like to be a full-time professional, and this is the way we can afford to try to do it.”
Carter explained that after winning the regional tournament, much of his expenses will be paid for the national event.
“That’s the benefit of it,” he said.
Carter, a member of Full Throttle Bassmasters, participates in large “open” tournaments all summer, and has been fishing competitively for about 12 years.
“I’ve always loved fishing and catching the fish, but I’m kind of a competitive person and when you add that to it, it makes it exciting,” Carter said. “Knowing that you can go out there and prove you can catch bigger fish and more fish, although it doesn’t always work out that way.”
Carter said he hopes to use his tournament experiences in the classroom, whether to teach math, social studies, or geography lessons.
But he admits that a win at the national championships might have an impact on his long-range goals.
“I haven’t worked out the details, but if I were to win the whole thing and get a spot on the elite series, I think I’d have to give it a go because I’ve been dreaming about it since I was seven years old,” Carter said.