You know someone is an amazing angler when they have qualified for and fished the Bassmaster Classic. Maine bass angler Jonathan Carter did just that in 2013. He shares with us all about his bass fishing in this Angler Profile.
When did you start fishing?
I started fishing as young as I can remember. We always fished as a family at our grandparent’s camp. I just always seemed to be the only one who stayed longer, fished in the rain and went every time!
I love fishing because it constantly presents new challenges. There is always something to learn and always be excitement of catching bigger fish. I still love the feeling of the thump and setting the hook on a giant after all these years.
How long have you been fishing tournaments?
I’ve been fishing tournaments since I was about 16. I joined a club and saved enough money to buy a very beat up boat before I even had a truck to tow it. I always had to borrow my step dad’s truck to get to tournaments.
I quickly started fishing local opens and the B.A.S.S. Nation and then worked my way up. I’m a competitive person by nature and combining competition with my love of fishing is just exhilarating. I can’t get enough. There is such a great feeling that comes with figuring out how to consistently catch big fish.
What makes you good as a tournament angler?
I think experience and time on the water are some of the most important things for me as a tournament angler. I have found that my most successful seasons are the ones where I’m in the water and competing constantly. It makes it easier to stay in a groove and be in tune with what the fish are doing.
The other thing that I have realized is extremely important is confidence. It’s something every tournament angler struggles with. It’s extremely easy to lose confidence after a bad day or bad period of time, but when your confidence is high it leads to better decisions and fishing more freely.
What adjustments have you had to make when fishing southern waters like Lake Norman?
The biggest adjustment coming from Maine is getting used to the size of the waterways in the South. Most of the lakes in Maine are fairly small in comparison. It can be intimidating at first and it also takes some discipline to focus on one or two areas of a large lake instead of spending all your time running around the entire thing.
Then there are the tidal fisheries that are completely different. It’s all about timing and hitting that window when the bite is on. I struggled with that for a few years, but through my own experience and with advice from tidal guys like Greg Diploma I’m getting more comfortable all the time.
Overall though, bass are the same everywhere you go. They all like isolated cover, bait, and feeling safe. I can usually find some lake or pond in Maine that resembles the lakes I’ll visit out of state.
This year you took 25th on Champlain. Congrats. How did that tournament go for you overall?
Champlain was a great event. I fished the series on the pro side. I felt like I fished the event well for having a somewhat sporadic practice. I had found several areas with bigger than average smallmouth, a few schools of largemouth, and one area where I could catch some flipping.
In the tournament however, most of the smallmouth vanished but were replaced by largemouth. It was a surprise, but not a bad one! I think the best part of the whole deal was pulling up on two of my areas and popping 5’s on the first cast. I fished clean the whole event and my only regret was not spending more time on my deepest area looking for one more big bite on day two. I thought I would be able to pick up a big one flipping and that just didn’t pan out.
What were your key baits throughout the tournament?
My main bait was a dropshot. I caught my numbers and my biggest fish on it. I used a Roboworm on an Owner Covershot hook with a 3/8oz weight. I fished it on 10lb PowerPro braid with an 10lb Berkely 100% fluorocarbon leader. The key to getting bit was just keeping it in the prime targets and shaking it until the fish came over to suck it in.
My secondary baits that caught most of my upgrades were a Carolina rigged speed craw for deep rock piles and a Greenfish Tackle Chibi Jig. That jig is one bad animal! It’s very compact and big fish just seem to love it. I flipped it through holes in the milfoil and caught multiple important fish on it both days. If you haven’t seen it yet you are missing out!
What have been some of your other highlights from your time fishing tournaments?
The biggest highlight of my tournament career so far was fishing in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. It was an unbelievable experience! It’s impossible to put into words how I felt coming across the stage on day one with a big bag and getting to pull the fish out in front of a giant crowd. It is such a long road qualifying the the B.A.S.S. Nation and to finally be there was a dream come true.
Another moment during that tournament that really stands out happened on the water. I had just told my marshal, Clark, that I wasn’t really sure what kind of fish were here since I shook them all off. I made my first cast and caught a 12 inch keeper and said, “well at least I get to go across stage”. I was lamenting that they may all be small ones on the stretch and made another cast. THUNK! This one felt heavy and I fought it to the boat and belly landed it. My second fish of the Classic was a 5 pounder and the jerkbait didn’t have a single hook in the fish. The bait was just wedged sideways across its mouth, and I had to pry it free. Talk about everything going right! I went on to catch 18-11, if my memory serves me correctly, in the next half hour.
Maine lakes can have amazing largemouth and smallmouth fishing. What do you consider your favorite Maine lake with both largemouth and smallmouth?
My favorite lakes tend to change as they cycle through hot and cold periods for big fish. Some year classes just do really well for a bit and then it cycles down for a bit then back again. Right now, I’d have to say Pushaw Lake is my favorite. It was terrible for years, but now it’s full of 5 plus pound largemouth. In fact I caught an 8-3 there last fall.
There are also plenty of smallmouth and it’s rarely hard to catch numbers too. It sets up well for my style, I can power fish all day and not wonder if I should be finessing them.
What are 2 other favorite Maine bodies of water to fish for largemouth and or smallmouth?
Two other great Maine fisheries for me are China lake and Wassokeag lake. China day in and day out is probably the most consistent big fish lake in Maine. There are so many solid fish and you can fish for them any way you want to. It’s a very diverse fishery and I’ve caught them just about any way you can think of out there.
Wassokeag has amazing smallmouth! Unfortunately, the state cut it off to fishing during the prime time to catch the best quality. It is fantastic in late fall but for reasons I’m not sure of, it has no fishing after September 30th. There are plenty of 5 pound plus smallmouth to be caught and I wouldn’t be surprised if a new state record was swimming there right now.
Who are your sponsors?
My most important sponsors are my family, they help me in anyway they can. Without my girlfriend, my mom, and my aunts and grandfather I’d be lost.
Right now I have a few out of industry sponsors that really came through for me this year too! I wouldn’t have been fishing the Eastern Opens without them. ACC Cabinets out of Michigan came though big time! If you are looking for a remodel in your kitchen or need windows in Michigan or Missouri give them a call. I also have a local paving company, Wellman Paving, that does a fantastic job. Fitts insurance has been with me for years and it puts my mind at ease knowing I don’t have to worry if the worst happens while on the road.
In the industry I have Optima batteries. Even if I wasn’t part of their team I’d tell you that these are the best batteries I’ve ever run. I can do 12 to 13 hours on high with the trolling motor and not worry. I did it at Norman just covering water and searching for post spawn fish under docks.
I also have a new company that makes a culling beam that makes a huge difference in tournaments like Champlain where ounces make all the difference. It’s called “It’s your cull” and you can get it at Honey Creek Outdoors. I have been deciding in fish that weighed 2 ounces apart on my scale and put them on this beam and the one I thought was suppose to stay was the one that actually weighed less. A standard culling beam isn’t this sensitive. I believe this one is accurate to .027 of an ounce. If you look through some FLW and BASS tour photos you’ll see it popping up in the hands of some of the top pros.
Gambler lures has also been a long time partner. I have so much confidence in their baits I don’t have to doubt that I’m throwing the right thing. I drop shot the Shakey Shad all the time in the northeast when baitfish are small and I flip the burner craw almost all the time. Those are my two favorite baits but the EZ series swimbaits are phenomenal too. They work in grass better than any other I’ve tried.
Twin City Tire in Brewer Maine keeps my truck on the road…literally. Without quality tires and repairs I’d be sitting out the season!
Finally, with the push for conservation cull tags I have found no better way than with Glory Bags. It’s a mesh bag you zip the fish into and it’s fast and easy! I tried a few of the new clip tags and I believe fish died as a result. The Glory bags keep the fish calm, the don’t regurgitate nearly as much, saving you ounces, and I never lose fish in them! I’ve been with them since the Classic in 2013 and I know there is nothing better. Tommy, the owner, was ahead of the game in conservation when he came up with them but he also made them a highly effective product!
Thank you Jonathan! Will be following on Instagram @jcarterfishing.