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Christmas more than any other holiday we celebrate has a presence around it. You have decorations that appear weeks, or sometimes months, in advance of the holiday, and thousands of songs that have been written just to celebrate that one event.
We have special TV shows and movies we sit around and watch as the holidays approach. Ther are so many different ideas we have about Christmas. There's a chill in the air that begins a few weeks before the holiday arrives. I think we're more aware of the approach of Christmas than anything else that we celebrate. Its presence is truly unrivaled.
There's also the anticipation of gifts. The best gifts I've ever received in my life were gifts I got as Christmas presents as a child. In 1967, I was four years old when I got an electric truck I could sit on and ride around the house. It was something I'd seen in the store, wanted it and hoped for it. I even sat on Santa's lap and asked for it.
I can remember when I was about eight getting a Dallas Cowboys football uniform. I saw it and thought, "No way I'll ever get that."
I also remember at age 10 my dad got me a Benjamin pump pellet gun. After I got that, I just knew there was nothing else I'd ever need in my entire life. I could die a happy boy.
I got my first baitcasting reel at age 11.
The Christmas after I met my wife Jimmye Sue, she got me my first deer rifle.
When I reflect back on Christmases past, some of the greatest gifts I've ever received have been given to me on that day. Something else that adds to the presence of the holiday is the fact that it's followed by a new year. It's a time of renewed hope and a time to make resolutions to change our lives. If you're like me, those are usually a flash in the pan. They last for a few weeks then they're gone and you make them again next year. But you know all these great things that give presence to the holiday of Christmas are reflections of its true meaning. Christmas is a time when God gave mankind its greatest gift ever. That's what we celebrate.
John 1:14 says: "He became flesh and dwelled among us." That's what we celebrate at Christmas. God became man and dwelled among us in flesh in the form of Jesus Christ. It was a much anticipated gift. It had been foretold in the Prophets for more than 1,000 years before His coming. It is given as a gift, but like any gift, it is not yours until you receive it.
If you leave a gift under the tree and never unwrap the box, it's never truly yours. That's the same way it is with the gift God offers us with the gift of His son.
I would urge everybody who reads this blog to do a little bit of soul searching and ask yourself if you've ever taken the time to open the gift. This gift is followed by a renewed hope and an anticipation of a changed life because the things that we want to change in our lives we oftentimes find we can't change on our own. However, with God's help we can change them. It is not the high hopes of resolutions we never fulfill, but true anticipation of a changed life.
History has been filled with men who have tried to become gods. But there is only one God who became a man. The true meaning of Christmas can only be realized with his presence in your life.
As great as fishing is, it's also good to get out in the field. Little Alton and I are heading to South Dakota for a father-son pheasant hunt. Also, Christmas came a little early for us.
The weather in the area we're going to be in ranges from three below during the night to 13 in the afternoon. Now, I have a lot of cold-weather gear, but it's all bright-colored and has Yamaha and Skeeter all over it. I've also got a lot of hunting clothes for Texas, but nothing for these extremes. Needless to say, Little A and I ran to Academy yesterday and picked up some new gear. That's always fun.
We'll be staying at a place called Pheasant City Lodge in central South Dakota. It's one of those deals where they provide everything, except we're taking our own guns. It's going to be nice father-son time along with some ministry. We'll be there with a group called God's Great Outdoors, and they put on a father-son pheasant hunt, so I'll be speaking to the group while there. I'll get some photos from the hunt next week, so stay tuned.
Also, Little Alton is feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. He just finished his first full semester of college. He's supposed to be a senior in high school this year, but he finished early. We felt that 17 is a little too young to start at Baylor, so he's at McLennan Community College. Next fall he should be starting at Baylor.
I'll be back in class myself next week. I've been taking classes on and off all fall to be a professional trader in the stock market. This isn't something I'll do to trade somebody else's money, just something for fun and to help my portfolio. I've always had a keen interest in the stock market, and I want to become more of an expert in it. It's something you can do between tournaments.
I've had a bad cold lately, but I finally found out how to cure it: fishing. For some reason I always feel better outdoors. I don't know what it is about it, but if I was a doctor I'd tell people to take two fishing rods and call me in the morning. While I realize that's bad medical advice, it always works for me.
I headed out to Fayette County Lake and immediately started feeling better. We caught about 35 fish, with the largest about 6 pounds. Tons of 3- to 5-pound fish, too. It's a power plant lake, and it's one of those that does better the colder it gets. The colder it is outside, the more generators they kick on and the more hot water pours into the lake. It's a really neat place. It's only 3,400 acres, but it's like a scaled-down version of a major reservoir. It's a great place to learn different techniques and learn to follow the fish through their seasonal patterns. And it's loaded with bass.
Going back to last week's entry, I played a trick on LaTroy Hawkins while we were at his Big League Bass Classic. Click here to check out the video.
The other folks at the table were in on the joke. I told them to go along with it. The bad part of it is at the end of it you can hear LaTroy say, "Oh, it's on now!" So I've been looking over my shoulder for the past few weeks. I'm not sure I picked the best guy to mess with. He'll probably get me worse than I got him.
In other news, it's snowing here in central Texas, which is something it seldom does. It isn't really all that cold it's about 33 degrees so the snow is melting as soon as it hits the ground. My youngest puppy OK, so she's over a year old Grace got out in it and had a ball. She seemed to run and retrieve harder than ever before. It was kind of neat watching her.
Speaking of watching things, I'm on a mission to lose 20 pounds before the Elites. I've lost 8 already, but those are the easy ones. I'm on an exercise bike at home for a spell each day, and it's paying off so far. One other thing: I'm updating my status on Facebook a few times a week, so look me up and let's be friends!
I just got home from the Yamaha dealer meeting and I barely had time to kiss Jimmye Sue and hug the kids before I had to start packing to head out again. I'm headed over to Hawk's Big League Bass Classic, put on by LaTroy Hawkins benefitting LifeLine Youth and Family Services.
Last year, Torii Hunter was my major league partner, and while I'm not sure who I'm fishing with this year, Torii will be back. Torii and I won last year, but who's counting? After this event, I've got something coming up I've been looking forward to for some time: nothing.
Being away from my family for 10 days at a time is hard, and it's nice knowing I'll have the Thanksgiving holiday to spend with them. This will be the first time in a long time I don't have anything on the calendar. I can hardly believe it myself. However, time off is almost never time completely off. We're about midway through the offseason, and it's time I start thinking about the next big thing: the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.
I got over to Lay Lake for what I consider some very valuable time on the river this past week. The Coosa River has gotten a whole lot of rain from the last storm that came through, and the river is extremely flooded. I've never seen Lay Lake like it is now. While it may not be like this in February, I think the more conditions you experience on a body of water, the fewer curve balls it can throw you.
It's really a different place when it gets full of red mud and floods up into the woods. They don't let Lay Lake get real high, but there's so much water going through it that it may be a foot high on the lake but ten feet high up the river. This happens when they're letting it in real heavy at one end and out real heavy at the other. I said I wasn't going to fish any, but with the conditions being that different I couldn't resist.
I managed to catch a couple of really nice spotted bass in the 4-pound range, and I had a ball riding around and looking. I count it as a very productive trip. The most important thing it did was re-orient my thinking toward the Classic because it had been "out of sight, and out of mind" for a while. Now that I've been and pre-fished, I'm starting to get excited about it. Even this far in advance, it starts the thought processes toward preparation for the Classic. It was a good transition.
Now for the good stuff.
The new Yamaha motor is very appropriately called the VMAX SHO, which stands for Super High Output. It delivers in every respect. It's a 4-stroke 4.2-liter V6. The incredible acceleration and top speed are produced largely from the additional cubic inches. They also put the VMAX on a serious diet. They saved weight in lots of places, the most notable being in the block itself. There are no more sleeves in the block which saves weight and allows for larger displacement. Rather than sleeves, they put a micro-coating on the cylinder walls that reduces friction and heat which also makes it more efficient. The advantage 2-strokes had over 4-strokes is gone with the SHO because it's lighter than a comparable 2-stroke. This is not a revamped and repackaged VMAX, it's new from the top down.
All I can say is that Yamaha is not going to have to sell this motor. If you ride in one, the chances of you buying a different motor are almost nil. This is a quantum leap in 4-stroke outboard technology. I knew they were coming out with a new motor, but I was skeptical. Not any longer, though. They've told me I'll have one for the Classic, and I'm pumped. It really is going to change everything. The bottom line is it's a kick-butt engine that's going to take the bass boat world by storm.
It's called the SHO, but I have three other letters that describe it just as well: WOW.
I am at the Yamaha dealer meeting getting a special sneak peek at all the new top secret stuff, and I've even gotten to drive the new beast. The only word that comes to mind is un-be-liev-able.
Over the years, the marine industry has seen a lot of smoke and mirrors, but this is truly revolutionary for the bass fishing market. I'm not yet allowed to reveal the details, but I will tell you that keeping up with this Jones is about to get a whole lot harder!
I'm going to have one of these new engines for the Classic, and I can't wait. The dealers left with their jaws dragging on the ground and their tongues hanging out drooling. The excitement in the air is phenomenal. Let me put it this way: Never before have I wondered what the 0-to-60 time of a bass boat is, but this time I had to check it. I can't tell you what it is yet, but I will next week. The bar has been raised significantly. I hope you can tell how excited I am.
As far as the rumors out there, none of them are right.
Anyhow, LifeLine's "Fish with the Pros Texas" was a fantastic event. I got to fish on a lake that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is using as a genetic development lake for the Share Lunker program, and it was fantastic. One day we caught 151 bass, and the next day was slower we only caught 115. Everybody had a good time, and the fact that we raised a lot of money for LifeLine in the process is awesome.
Over the weekend I'm going to be on Lay Lake; it's just a few hours away from Yamaha's test facility. I'm just going to ride around and try not to fish. I want to use this time to scout for the Classic. I'm a little concerned with all the rain Alabama and Tennessee had recently, so the river may be extremely flooded; but it shouldn't prevent me from graphing around. This will be my fourth Classic on Lay, and I've also fished two Mark's Outdoors tournaments there. I just want to stick my nose in some nooks and crannies I haven't seen before and try to gain an intimate understanding of it and learn its personality on a deeper level.
The second half of next week I have another LifeLine event, Hawk's Big League Bass Classic. It's going to be several Major League Baseball players fishing Lake Amistad. It's put on by LaTroy Hawkins. Last year Torii Hunter was there, and this year there will be even more MLB stars.
Check back next week for the skinny on the new Yamaha powerhouse and see how the major league sluggers fared on Amistad.
Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I go and catch my biggest five-fish stringer of bass ever: 50 1/2 pounds worth of Lake Falcon largemouth. I still haven't reached my goal of my best single fish ever, but without thinking about it, I topped my best day ever. I think right now on that spot there's one big enough to be my personal best, the bass of a lifetime. My lifetime, anyway.
All three of us (Andy Carroll, brand manager for PRADCO, and Ronnie Manrose, senior tackle buyer for Bass Pro Shops) were in amazement. We were just fun fishing and had no idea what was about to happen.
We caught 19 bass over 8 pounds, nine of those were over 9 pounds, and two were over 10 with the biggest being 11-2. When you're catching them like that you don't even count 6s and 7s. Most of the big ones ate a Bomber Fat Free Shad in Citrus Shad. None of the fish over 8 ate anything but a Fat Free Shad.
Want to know how I caught it? OK.
The fish down in Falcon are in a classic pre-spawn mode. The first spawn will take place sometime in December, so we're still about six weeks out. You have fish beginning to move back into creeks and stage in the creek channel dropoffs, and that's what this magical place is.
There's a rock point that comes out and drops abruptly from 12-13 feet into 19-20 feet, and it's solid rock. On real flat lakes like Falcon, anytime you find rock, it's automatically going to have a drop on it just because it's hard structure. They like the steeper drops because it gives them protection from cold fronts that may blow through, and it gives them a good ambush point. It's the kind of place the big gizzard shad and giant crawfish hang out in.
When they're resting, they pull out over the creek channels, and when the dinner bell rings they move to the rock point. Usually the bell is catching the first one. In the case of this spot, it's a magic cast. If you're ten feet left or right, you won't get a bite. But if you bring it through the kitchen, hold on. It may take 20 or 30 casts to fire them up, but once you do, it's 15 or 20 minutes of pure chaos, especially with three people in the boat. There are 9 and 10 pounders twisting lines and jumping, it's something everyone should experience.
I look back on it and still can't believe it. I posted stuff on Facebook about it, and when I look at it I think, "No way," it's that incredible. Ronnie just had rotator cuff surgery, so it was hurting his shoulder to hold that 11-2 up, so I just held it for him. That fish is in my left hand, and the other one is a 9-8. We weighed every big fish. It was a ball.
Now I'm headed to east Texas to LifeLine's "Fish with the Pros." We'll be fishing some fantastic private lakes over there. The pros we have this year are myself, Brian Clark, Matt Reed, Ben Matsubu and David Gregg, a former Bassmaster Tour angler who retired several years ago. We're there to raise money for LifeLine, but the coolest thing about it is the fact that we get to have fun while doing it.
There are always ways for us as individuals to use the skills we have to benefit others in a significant way, so I'm really excited about this. The fishing there will be good, but when you walk away from catching 8s, 9s and 10s, it's a little different. However, I did have my best numbers day there last year. My partner and I caught 200 and some odd in one day. That's amazingly good fishing, but it's still no Falcon. There won't be 19 bass over 8 pounds in one day.
I'm in the middle of a really busy offseason. After "Fish with the Pros," I'm off to a Yamaha event where I'll get to learn more about the new motor and possibly get to test drive it. I know they've been working on it for several years, and if it's as good as it looks, it really will change our world. Then in two weeks there's another LifeLine event on Amistad!
This past weekend I got to fish with retired NFL players Burton Lawless and Randy White.
White is an NFL hall of famer who played for the Dallas Cowboys. Those of you who are Cowboys fans know Mr. White as "The Manster." We're going in support of Legacy Outfitters to a private lake here in Texas.
It was really fun for me because I wanted to talk about the old Cowboys he played for them from 1975 through 1988 but he wanted to talk fishing! It was a win-win for sure.
Actually, it was a win-win-win because Legacy Outfitters benefitted, too. It was cool hearing the old stories. Randy even asked me to sign a jersey for his chain of BBQ restaurants in the area; it was ironic that he asked me for a jersey.
After that, we left for Falcon.
Matt Reed met us there, and we're taking Bruce Stanton, general manager of PRADCO, fishing. It promises to be full of hospitality, fellowship and big fish. I'll report back on Friday with more.
Oct. 23, 2009
A true game changer
This November, Yamaha is going to turn the outboard world on its ear. They have a new motor that is quicker and faster than anything on the market, even Yamaha's current top dog, the VMax Series 2. Check out the video of two Skeeters, one with the Series 2 and one with the new motor.
Watch how the new one blows the VMax away. There's something I never thought I'd say! Anyhow, it's at www.yamahagamechanger.com. I'm chomping at the bit to get one of these new motors.
I got in from Houston last night around midnight after talking to about 400 folks, so I'm still really busy. I'm amazed at how excited people still are about fishing. It punches a hole right through economic, racial and religious boundaries. That's pretty cool stuff.
I left this morning at about five o'clock, and now I'm heading to east Texas for a charity event that I'm proud to be a part of. It's a hospitality event I'm hosting as a way of saying "thanks" to the biggest donors to the Dallas Theological Seminary. This will be the fifth year I've done it, and it's definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. We'll be eating good, fishing good private lakes and enjoying lots of fellowship. It's a little cooler now than it usually is in this part of the state, and it's been pretty rainy, but that shouldn't affect the fishing too much.
This is another example of how the Lord is using me and my platform as a fisherman to spread the good news and His word. The best part about it is that I get to take people fishing!
By this time next week, I'll be heading back down to Lake Falcon in the quest for my best-ever bass. I'm pretty sure I had her last time. I just need to keep her on, which is harder than it sounds. Stay tuned!
Oct. 16, 2009
My best day of bass fishing ever
I mentioned last week that I was going to Lake Falcon to try for my biggest bass ever. While I didn't land her (more on that), I came very close. I did, however have my best day of bass fishing ever, which included my best five-fish stringer. They weighed a touch over 46 pounds and were anchored by an 11-pounder (check out the picture).
Every one of these fish came from a single spot. To say it's loaded is an understatement. That was the first time I've caught back-to-back double-digit fish, too. The 11 came first, and then I caught a 10-pounder on the very next cast. It was unreal. In about 30 minutes we had about a dozen fish that went 8 pounds and heavier. That was on Friday. Needless to say, we went back to the same spot Saturday.
Little Alton's first cast to the spot on Saturday netted him a 9-pounder. My first cast was when I hooked into the giant. While I never got a good look at her because she was too big to jump, I have a feeling she was a teenager. It's a good "one that got away story."
There are plenty of submerged trees in Falcon, so you have to know where the casting lanes are to keep from getting hung up. The fish know where the trees are, too. I was using 17-pound-test Silver Thread fluorocarbon, so getting the 7-, 8- and 9-pounders up and out wasn't too much of a problem, but this fish was an absolute beast. It was the strongest fish I've ever fought. She was hooked well, but the enormous pressure I had to put on this fish to keep her from getting in the trees was too much for even 17-pound line. There was no stopping her.
She eventually came off, otherwise I would have culled an 8 and my stringer would have been bumped up to north of 50 pounds. I think I'm going back in a few weeks because there's a giant fish there with my name on it. Before I go, I need to figure a way to put stronger hooks on a Fat Free Shad without affecting the action. We tried throwing swimbaits, both hard and soft, and even some bottom-bouncing ones, but they wanted the crankbait.
Another cool thing happened while we were there. Little Alton's friend Tim Weatherly is sort of a new fisherman and he hooked, as he put it, "a strange one." Little A and I paid no mind to his fish, because it was a 14-incher, but when we looked at the strange fish we realized there was a smallmouth bouncing around in the bottom of the boat. I've never known them to be that far south. He must've been pretty lost.
All in all, it was a bittersweet trip. I got my heaviest stringer ever, but lost my biggest bass ever. I'll be back, though.
Right now I'm writing an article for Legacy Outfitters' publication The Outfitter. It's going to be about God's power in our lives over the things that are out of our control and how we need to trust Him.
In other news, I'm involved with what I think is a positive trend in our industry, and it may even reach beyond that and into the whole economy. I'm presenting for two new sponsors, one that I have been courting for some time and another that recently came about.
For the past year or so, a lot of companies have been inattentive to pitches for sponsorships; they're just trying to maintain the relationships they have. Most companies wouldn't even talk to you. It's not that they're being rude, it's just that there hasn't been any money for new ventures. Now they're starting to nibble, and I hope this is a sign of what's on the horizon for not only the fishing industry but the economy as a whole.
Check back next week as I'm shoulder deep in the first of three charity events I'm planning this fall.
It's time to hit the water again, and this time we're (myself, Little A and a buddy of his) out to break some records. Not the world record, state record or even the lake record I want to catch the biggest bass I've ever caught. Right now that stands at 11 1/2 pounds, which I caught at Falcon. A 12-pounder is the goal for me. While that could prove tricky, there's another record that won't last for too many casts. The biggest bass little Alton's buddy has caught is 4 1/2 pounds. That shouldn't be too hard.
This is also the first fishing I've done in a while. Since the postseason, the only time I've gotten on the water was for some crappie fishing on Lake Waco. I'm in charge of rounding up enough fish for the Jones Thanksgiving family fish fry. I think I need enough fish for about 30 people. That's a lot of crappie. Needless to say, I'm ready to get back on the water and after some big bass.
Falcon is one of those places that calls to you if you haven't been there in about two months. It's so rugged and barren out there it's like you're on an African safari. I left the motor home down there last time, so we'll stay for three days. I'm hoping to get some good pictures to e-mail and put in the blog, so check back.
There has been a good topwater bite in the morning; the XCalibur One Knocker Spook should kill them. After that, it's off to flip bushes in 5 to 10 feet of water. Most fish are 15 feet and shallower this time of year. Another thing to look for this time of year is rattlesnakes. They're swimming around more as the weather cools.
After we get back (hopefully with new biggest fish under our belts) I'll continue to put together a charity event I'm hosting. More on that later. Also, the Jones clan is going to the Heart O' Texas Rodeo as celebrity guests. We'll get to go to the rodeo, fair and all the carnival rides the kids can handle.
Until next week!
Oct. 2, 2009
Alton goes to jail
While I did in fact go to jail, it was under my own volition. To describe the place more accurately, I went to a maximum security juvenile detention center outside of Waco, Texas. It was a life changing experience for me, and I hope it was as meaningful for the young men I spoke to.
A friend of mine volunteers there regularly, and he thought it would be nice if I could talk to the boys there. I agreed, and a week later he was telling me what to expect as we pulled up. He said some may be disrespectful, some may ignore me and that I may be speaking to just a few men. On the way in, I had to check the rod and reel I brought, and the officers cut the hook off my jig. Undaunted, I went into the recreational part of the cell block.
Before I started talking to them, the TV was flipped on. What happened next is an amazing example of God's timing. It was about 3:45 CT, and the channel was set to ESPN. What was on was ESPN's coverage of the postseason, and it happened to be a part on me. It was a little bit of background on me and how I got to the postseason. When the boys saw that, then looked at me, I instantly had credibility and a captive audience. I really had no knowledge that would be on. The timing was unreal.
I was there not to just talk to these boys, but to befriend them and try to get them to start fresh once they get out. I left feeling really good about the time I spent there and hope it hit home with the boys. I felt encouraged that God let me use that time to do my best to help these boys out because they need a second chance, and only God can provide second chances.
This week is extremely busy for me, I've got some sponsor events and appearances and a speaking engagement. It seems like everyone wants you at the same exact time, so I'm still working on scheduling. You can bet that I'll be back to the juvenile detention center in the near future.
Sept. 22, 2009
Way to go, Kevin
Well, the postseason's over now, and I have to tip my hat to Mr. VanDam and Mr. Reese. They played head and shoulders above everyone else this season, and it came down to the wire.
If you asked me last week how I felt about my season, I would've said not too great. After stepping back and putting it into perspective, I think it was pretty fine. I only missed one top 20 cut all season. I'm very grateful for the year I've had, it was an exciting season to say the least.
All the guys in the postseason were consistent, but Skeet and Kevin were just a notch above everyone else. The bar continues to be raised in the Elite Series. I don't think you can win a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title without a regular season win anymore. Top 20s are no longer good enough; you need top 12s. While it was quite a ride, I'm glad to be back home and back to normal life.
It was nice getting back to church and reconnecting with local friends and just being home. I'm doing several volunteer things in the upcoming weeks, including one I'm particularly excited about. I'm going to a youth detention facility in a little town outside of Waco next week. A friend of mine who does a lot there invited me, and I'm not sure what to expect. There will be about 20 kids, and I hope I can make an impact. I'm sure this will affect me too.
As a final note, I'd like to thank my sponsors. I've learned that being involved with a company is more about a relationship than a paycheck. I feel so lucky that I'm able to surround myself with the best manufacturers and get to deal with the great folks who work at them. I know I would not have been able to have such an awesome season without them. They are:
Costa Del Mar sunglasses
I look forward to a great 2010 season with these fine folks, and thanks to each one of you for following my saga during this season. Stay tuned as I take on the offseason!
I'm not a huge tackle junky. I mean, I like it and have plenty, but I can't spend marathon hours in the boat getting things organized. An hour at a time for four or five days works best for me. I'm still finding things from the first Elite Series event of the year at Amistad stuck in weird places.
Mostly it's stuff from Falcon and Oneida, but the Alabama River and Jordan are very different fisheries from those two. For the postseason I'm placing organization at a premium. If you have to fumble around for 10 seconds here, 30 seconds there, that's time that your line isn't in the water and potentially missed fish.
In the garage there is a grease board with two lists: one of things I will use and another of things that may come into play. I need to get all the "must-have" stuff in the boat or in the mail and kick around the "maybe" list items. All of it needs to be accounted for and go with me. I'm shooting for efficiency.
Speaking of shooting, next weekend we're headed to Coleman, Texas, which is a few hours west of us, to Jimmye Sue's folks' house.
What we usually do is hunt dove, eat and watch college football. Our "puppy" Grace will get her first experience with real birds. She's a year old now, and has been around gun shots and had lots of training, so I'm excited to see how she'll do in the field with real birds. She thinks she's a lap dog still, but I don't care to have a 70-pound dog in my lap.
I think she's got the potential and I hesitate to say this because my older dog Sandy has been a great dog to be the best hunting dog I've ever had. Her disposition and willingness to obey make her a great bird dog. While I've put in a lot of time training her, the weak link is probably the skill of her trainer.
All in all, it promises to be a good weekend.
I've been on a therapeutic vacation to Falcon Lake to get mentally prepared for the postseason, and boy did it do wonders for me. There is no one here right now, it's about 107 degrees and we just about had run of the place. The whole time we were there we saw maybe five other bass boats.
On Friday I got the privilege of taking Baylor basketball head coach Scott Drew out to a private lake in east Texas. Not only am I a huge Baylor fan, I'm a huge Scott Drew fan. Being around him is very uplifting. He is one of the most positive people I know. He is convinced that every cast will bring him a big fish, and I can learn from that, because keeping that positive mental attitude on the water is critical and can help you take advantage of opportunities when they come up.
On Sunday I got to take out my old fishing buddy Brian to Falcon. This is where the serious healing took place. It was one of my best trips to Falcon ever. I've been milking a spot Little Alton and I found, and the fish that live on it seem to be getting bigger. On our best day our top five went over 40 pounds. Tuesday was slower; we only had about 37 pounds in our best five. We caught around 100 bass and probably 20 that went 7 pounds or better.
Every fifth fish a 7-pound plus? That's good mental therapy if there ever was any.
The water is dropping, so I think the fish that were up in the flooded timber are running out of room. They're moving to brushy points in deeper water. If you find one, you will get bit, and sometimes you can pull a few fish off of one. We did as good as 20 in a row.
Falcon truly is on fire.
August 18, 2009
On to the postseason
The regular season is over; now it's time for the postseason. It makes me proud honored even to be a part of something the first time it's done, especially this. It makes you feel special.
I've gotten a few calls and e-mails from my sponsors congratulating me on my appearance in the postseason, and that makes me proud. Being involved in something like this is great because it goes above and beyond the Elite Series in terms of exposure because of how BASS is promoting it. It should be exciting to see how it plays out. From now on, I'm all business.
I'm in a somewhat unique position. I knew a few months ago that I would be in the postseason, while a lot of guys who thought they'd be there aren't, and a few who didn't think they would be are. Since I knew that, I was able to pre-fish a bit on the way to Oneida. I didn't pre-fish so much as scout around. In three days on the waters, I fished maybe two hours. I tried to fast forward to late September and think about where they'd be then, because if you fish too much a long ways in advance, you'll get those ideas stuck in your head and come back to them when you don't really want to. You'll put places on your list that will be dry when the actual tournament comes. I'll spend the two days before the event hammering that out.
Oneida was a good event for me, and while I'm disappointed when I don't make the Top 12 cut, my goal going up there was to close the gap on the AOY points. I was able to do that, so I'm happy.
The postseason is a star-studded event. There are Classic winners, past Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year winners and millions of dollars of winnings accounted for by this group of guys. With this much talent, you can't slip up once. You lose one big fish, and you're done. From here on in I'm all about execution, mental toughness and preparation. I couldn't have gotten to where I am without help, though.
I'm so grateful to the Lord for putting me in the position to be able to achieve an Angler of the Year title. It is His doing, not mine. If I win, the glory is His. If I come in 12th, I'll still trust Him because He knows what He's doing.
On another note, thanks to everyone who has become "friends" with me on Facebook. I'm doing my best to update every day, and your encouragement and prayers mean a lot to me. It's a lot of fun keeping my fans in the loop. If you haven't looked me up already, search for Alton Jones.
August 6, 2009
Pearl Harbor and Paradise Lost
The Jones Clan is stateside again, and while I'd like to say I'm well-rested, that's just not the case. I've had a cold for the last few days, and I think that I recovered from Hawaii time just yesterday. That took a whole six days; that flight was brutal!
On our last day there, we went to Pearl Harbor. I knew it was going to be touching, but I didn't know I'd get emotional over it. World War II was before my generation, so my experience with it up until then had been in school mostly. You read about it, watch film clips, movies and study it in a book, but when you're actually there where that event happened, it really moves you. To be at a place where so many men lost their lives and the course of our country was changed makes quite an impression.
Seeing firsthand the resting place of so many servicemen really gives you an appreciation for the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made on behalf of freedom. Pearl Harbor also made me appreciate the ongoing efforts they're involved in today fighting terrorism and America's enemies. Most of all, it makes me proud to be an American.
While we all didn't want to leave, we had to get back to Texas so I could hit the road for some scouting on the Alabama River and Lake Jordan. I have some previous experience on the river, but not on Jordan, so I spent one day on the river and two on Jordan. I took the same approach to these that I have for the past few Classics; I hardly fish at all.
I didn't make a single cast on the river, but in two days of scouting on Jordan I probably fished for two hours, just to break up the monotony. I poked my head into every major backwater I could find and graphed around, just to get acquainted. When I did fish, it wasn't reassuring.
Part of the reason I don't fish too much far in advance of an event is because I don't want to get discouraged. Hopefully it'll pick up for the postseason. For now though, it's on to New York for the last event of the regular season.
By the way, I've joined Facebook in an attempt to learn social networking over the Web. I'm accepting all friend requests and am trying to get in there every day sometimes twice a day and update my status to give everyone an idea what's going on. Check me out, but when you search for "Alton Jones," know that Little A has one, too!
Well, Monday and Tuesday were fishing days for Little A and me and shopping days for the girls. They might've done better than we did freshwater fishing at least. Monday we went to Lake Wilson on Oahu, with dreams of catching a largemouth, smallmouth and peacock bass.
Lake Wilson is an interesting lake. It's seven miles long and very narrow. With a long cast you could just about cast across the whole thing. The closest I can compare it to is the back of a creek on the Potomac.
Wilson turned out to be one tough cookie. It looks like a very productive fishery, and Chris, the guide, normally catches between 20 and 50 peacocks a day. We didn't catch anywhere near ... OK, we got skunked. Not because of incompetent guiding or angler error, though. Being a fisherman, I always have an excuse for not catching what we were going after.
The lake is owned by the Dole pineapple folks, and they had just dropped the lake 20 feet not long ago to check the integrity of the dam, and when we were there they were filling it back up really quickly. This scattered the fish big time. We did get a few bites from peacocks on an XR50 One Knocker, a Big O and we caught all the red devils on Yum Dingers. It was a very relaxing day on the water, and Chris really knew what he was doing. If you go, schedule a trip with him at www.hawaiibassfishing.com.
With the bass not biting, Little Alton and I hoped for a better day out at sea, and boy did we get more than we were bargaining for.
It was a phenomenal trip. Even the crew was excited over how many fish we were catching. They Live Bait 2, (www.live-bait.com) were actually cheaper than a lot of the charters. They can do this because they ask that you not keep many of the fish you catch. The crew keeps them and sells them to keep their prices low. It's kind of clever, really. They made about $1,500 off our catch of 10 mahi-mahi, 3 ahi tuna and 26 aku tuna.
Being a fisherman, I can tell when someone else is as passionate about fishing as I am. This guy knew what he was doing. Sitting there at the helm with him reminded me of bass fishing, but at the same time was nothing like it.
He was reading his electronics looking for structure and talking about the seasonal patterns of the fish very much like a bass fisherman. What I couldn't wrap my head around was the depth and scale we were fishing. They don't measure it in feet, it's too deep. They use fathoms, and we were fishing at about 1,500 fathoms, which is around 9,000 feet. That's amazing!
Out on the water, the action was non-stop. We left at 3:30 p.m., and they were still biting, but we'd had enough. Little Alton's 150-pound ahi tuna took it out of him. He had another one on, but lost it to a shark. At first he was fighting it, then the drag started screaming and he said, "Dad, this fish just found another gear."
Not the case.
The drag took off because a shark decided to latch onto our tuna and devour it. Look at the picture and see what was left of a 50 or 60 pound tuna. We lost three to sharks. While I would've liked to have hooked into one, to the guides they are trash fish the carp of the sea, I suppose.
Another thing I would've liked to have done is take a bass rod. At times we went through schools of these little tuna called aku. They'd come up hundreds at a time and blow up on the surface to the point that it looked like the water was boiling. If I had a Kistler with 20-pound-test mono and a Spook, that would've been loads of fun. We did catch them, however. The boat was only set up to troll, so when we went through them, all four of the rods bent over at almost the same time.
While fishing was lots of fun, today will take on a more serious tone. We're going to Pearl Harbor. That will be for another blog. Friday we're getting on a plane and heading home, then I'm going to Alabama to pre-fish on the way to Oneida.
July 28, 2009
Freshwater fishing in Hawaii?
We recently got to Oahu from Maui and are staying at Waikiki Beach. Maui was lots of fun. We did lots of snorkeling, but I think today and tomorrow will beat that out by a bit. Little A and I are going fishing. While we're out pursuing our passion, the girls will be out pursuing theirs: shopping.
We're headed to Lake Wilson (Wahiawa in Hawaiian) for some freshwater fishing. There are peacock bass in it and supposedly some largemouth as well. I'm hoping to get both species so I can say I caught a largemouth in Hawaii and notch the peacock bass on my belt. This is vacation fishing, too. We're meeting the guide at eight in the morning!
On our most recent snorkeling outing, we added a few more critters to our "cool stuff we've seen" list. They include an octopus, a manta ray and two white-tipped reef sharks.
We took a snorkeling boat out to the Molokini Crater before we left Maui. The water out there is so clear it makes Lake Erie look like a mud hole. I asked the captain what the visibility was, and he told me it's usually 200 feet or greater. The water was so clear and deep it really put a lot more visibility into my life.
Coming all the way out to Hawaii and into a drastically different time zone means we're out of sync with most of the US. When we get home in the evening the kids aren't text messaging their friends or anything. Even though there are plenty of people here, it seems like it's just us. Gazing down into that crystal clear water really let me take a step back and put things into perspective and enjoy the time I am spending with my family. It really amplified the important things in my life my wife and kids. This has also been a very relaxing time. I've gotten to charge my batteries to get ready to come back to the contiguous states and take care of business up in New York.
Stay tuned for a fishing update Wednesday, if all goes according to plan, I'll have a largemouth, peacock and marlin.
We arrived in Hawaii a few days ago, and it's unreal. I've had a lot of fun so far, but the best is yet to come.
We're staying in a house on Maui at Makena Surf with a private beach right outside. Take a look at the picture, that's what I've been waking up to each morning. I think I could get used to this. This truly is paradise.
First thing the water is slick calm, but occasionally a three-foot wave will break on the beach, it's pretty cool. Usually in the morning we'll head out to the beach while it's still to do some snorkeling. I'm so used to knowing what all the fish are wherever I go this is kind of a shock. I don't know what a lot of them are. What I do know is that I've finally found a place with no mudfish!
Yesterday we got in the Jeep and drove around the island to see some waterfalls, and they were beautiful. That's me with Little Alton, Kristen and Jamie in front of one. We had to go to the other side of the island to see them, which was supposed to be a three-hour trip, one and a half each way, but on the GPS it was equidistant to go make a complete circle around the island so we ignored the GPS. Boy, am I glad we did. The trip ended up taking seven hours total, but it was worth it. We had to get on a dirt road that was a sheer drop 2,000 feet on one side and 1,000 on the other. The views were incredible.
While making the circle, we found that Maui is really diverse. On one side it's a rain forest and on the other it's a desert. You can look up to the mountains where we're at and see where the jungle begins. I'm also glad we filled up on gas before we left.
I've really enjoyed snorkeling and hanging out in the water, but like I said, the best is yet to come. True to my character, I can't wait to go fishing. We're going bass fishing on Monday, and then later we're going offshore to try for marlin. I hope it's as good as I think it will be.
Check back next week for an update.
July 21, 2009
ICAST is like a family reunion for me. It is for a lot of pros, actually. You get the chance to see the business and behind the scenes folks you don't see all year. This is a big industry, but we're a small family. Aside from catching up with lots of people, it's the place to roll out the new gear.
Remember that blacked out bait in my last entry? It's a bait that puts a new spin on an old favorite, a One Knocker Spook. The rhythmic clacking was too much for that bass to stand. The One Knocker also lets you cast this thing really far. Besides that, I was there on behalf of Ardent reels.
It was a good show for Ardent. Folks are excited to see there are reels still reasonably priced and made in the USA. Our newest addition is the F700 Denny Brauer Flip-N-Pitch reel. It has been tweaked a little by Denny to make the ultimate purpose-built reel there is. It has a locked down drag, tough components to take lots of abuse and a flippin' switch that automatically engages the spool when you release the button. It's worth a look. It was a good show for us, and it's nice to know that you can still get people excited about fishing in a difficult economy.
ICAST has taken on a different feel for me since my Classic win. Before, I'd walk the aisles and people would see me and continue talking. Not that I minded, I'd be back around later. Post-Classic win, people will drop what they're doing to chat. It's not a bad thing, it just takes me a little longer to get around. It has made me realize that we as anglers have a lot of influence over the industry and affect a lot of people. That is very humbling for me, and I don't take it lightly.
I left ICAST with a sense of being overwhelmed. The fact that God has placed me in a position to do what I love and reach so many people leaves me with a grateful heart.
The show was great, and it's nice to see the business side of the industry, but I'm ready to be back on the water now. I'll be taking a vacation with the family and doing some interesting fishing. Where we're going I'm going to try for a largemouth bass, peacock bass and something bigger than me. Come on back next week, and I'll tell you where we are and what we're after.
July 8, 2009
Falcon hawgin' and ICAST
Little A and I finished up our prefishing for Classic Patterns, which will run next spring. We blistered 'em and had a great time. The big ones have yet to show up for the filming, but they're here. It's just a matter of time before we get into them. It's quite warm here now. Today it's 106 degrees, and it's forecasted to be 110 tomorrow.
The show will feature the lake and what a phenomenal fishery it is, as well as shed some light on how a pro approaches it. We've been getting them on Yum Dingers and Fat Free Shad crankbaits. Once we're done here, I'm headed to Florida for the biggest thing in the fishing industry this month: ICAST.
I'll be there on behalf of Ardent reels. They're going to be formally introducing their new Flip 'n' Pitch reel. This thing is really cool. It's got a small spool that holds less than 50 yards of line, depending on what kind of braid you use. It also has a little peg on the arbor that you tie the line to so there is no line slippage whatsoever. It doesn't have a level wind, as the spool is really narrow and is made to take the heavy shock flipping and pitching entails. It's truly a purpose-built reel. Check it out!
I'm proud to have Ardent on my side. It's been cool watching them grow. I'd like to believe my Classic win helped them get off the ground, so watching them expand has been quite amazing. Their thought was that if we make a quality product in the USA and keep it reasonably priced, people will find it, and they have. It's neat when I go places and they tell me their Ardent is the best reel they've ever fished. It makes me glad to be involved with them.
After ICAST, the Joneses are headed to Hawaii for some fishing, but that's for another blog.
If you get a minute, go to YouTube and search "Alton Jones Falcon," and check out Little A and me catching some real nice fish from late last month.
I haven't had a week off now in quite a while, so when I finally got a few down days, my body kind of collapsed. If I haven't been at a tournament, I was fulfilling sponsor obligations or attending to other business. Doing nothing, left me with one of those summer colds that hangs around for a few days. I just laid low. It has been nice spending time with my family, though. If there's a time to get sick, it's when you have a few weeks off for sure.
This next week is pretty low key. We're taking my youngest daughter, Jamie, to camp, and then Little Alton and I are heading south to Falcon Lake. The official reason we're going is to find fish when I'll be filming for Classic Patterns in a few weeks, but what I'm really looking forward to is ripping some big lips with Little Alton.
All in all, this is a nice change of pace, but I don't plan on getting used to it.
Check back in a week, I do have some cool stuff on the calendar for July.
I along with every other angler in the hunt for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year have a long wait ahead. There is only one event left in the regular season, but it's six weeks away. You can't help but think about it, but there's nothing you can do. However, I think I've found a few distractions for the time being.
Right now I'm down in Zapata, Texas, at Falcon Lake for a photo shoot. I'm here with some people from PRADCO and a writer testing a new bait from Heddon. The fish you see in the picture fell prey to this new bait; it's wild. It will debut at ICAST in July, but for now, just know it's going to make quite a splash. We'll reveal it later.
About the fishing though. When we first arrived at Falcon, I actually thought the fishing was a little bit tough for the first few hours, but then we figured it out. Funny how fast a day on the water can change. We went from a slow day to "It can't be this easy!" in the flick of a switch. Once you figure out the deal bass fishing always seems simple, it's just the process of figuring it out that is sometimes difficult. Our pattern quickly began to produce quality fish including four fish over 8 pounds, the biggest being a 10-6, all within about three hours.
I came here straight from Iowa, and let me tell you, it's quite a haul. I left there Sunday and had to be here Tuesday. Today I head north to Lake Fork for the Skeeter Owner's Tournament which is Friday to Sunday. I really encourage anyone in Texas or anyone who can make it to go, I always look forward to meeting folks and talking fishing.
With the Angler of the Year race tight, more and more of my thoughts are on that. It's hard not to think about it, but like I said, there is nothing you can do about it ... at least until August. For me, the best thing is to go fishing, but with this long of a break, the Jones Clan is going to be doing a little traveling, which will be pretty interesting. I'll get back to you on where we're going and what we'll be catching. That's right, I'm changing gears ... and species.
June 9, 2009
River Rumble warm up
Today I and every other Elite guy was out on the Mississippi River practicing for the next Elite event out of Ft. Madison. It is a 180-degree departure from the last two events.
Guntersville and Kentucky Lake were smash-a-thons, while the river is looking like it will be the toughest tournament of the year, hands down. Right now it's not a matter of finding big fish; it's a matter of finding anything with fins. Guntersville and Kentucky Lake are wide open. You can run around a lot and be successful, use your graph and spread out. This event is going to fish really small.
Last night the area got 3-5 inches of rain, and that dirtied up every creek to the point of mud. Look for a lot of boats in a few areas. Even though this event will be tough, I need a good finish to stay alive to have a shot at a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
While 19th last week was pretty good, I need to do better than Top 20 to keep the Angler of the Year point standings tight. I'm pretty satisfied with 19th, but that won't cut it with just two events left. You need to be at the top of your game, because everyone above you will be just as intense. My goal is to be in strong contention when the postseason starts.
For now, all I can do is keep looking for some fish.
May 27, 2009
Idle Time and Summer Bait Guide
The off periods are difficult for me, especially since I'm in the points race. I want to be 100 percent involved in my fishing, but it's hard to live my life when I'm totally immersed and not fishing. It's nearly gotten me in trouble.
I'll be talking to someone and all of a sudden zone out and think about fishing and then have to ask whoever I was talking to to repeat themselves. I'm sure it's happened to you a time or two when you haven't been out in a while. I want to be there fishing for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. The anticipation is killing me.
I know I need to get better at relaxing during off periods. It should be the time to revitalize my body and spirit, but I think I've found a few things to help. I spend more time with my family, I'm sleeping in (which means 6:30 a.m.) and fishing. Yes, fishing.
I've been spending time on the lakes around here fishing for fun. We (little Alton and I) went to Lake Whitney yesterday, and while it was a slow day for numbers, the quality was there. I caught seven fish, and the biggest five went 20 pounds. Whitney has an interesting story as well.
A number of years ago there was a golden algae bloom there that killed everything from zero to 15 feet deep, and since it was in the spring, the bass were in that zone. It was a wasteland for years, and everyone forgot about poor old Lake Whitney. They stocked it with some Florida bass and gave it six or seven years to replenish, and now it's a fantastic fishery. That goes to show that fish kills aren't the worst thing in the world. I can finally show little Alton what it used to be like when I guided there.
We hit the road Thursday morning for Kentucky Lake, where I'll get to put my new sticks to the test.
I just got some new Kistler rods in, which is always fun no matter who you are. Getting new gear makes you ache to get out on the water to try it out. UPS has been buying Kistler rods, too. The first box Kistler sent looked like it had been backed over by a delivery truck, and when I opened it, the rods were in pieces. Needless to say, they were paid for and Kistler sent a few more. It sure is nice having a sponsor as great as Kistler. I get to use some of the best (and lightest) rods on the market, and I get to give input on rod specs. These sticks are perfectly suited for the techniques they're made for. I used to work for a whole month to buy a new fishing rod. Now I get them tailor-made to my liking to best fit a particular style of fishing. That's really something else.
Speaking of tackle, I told you I'd mention some of my bait choices for summer fishing.
I took all my finesse stuff out of the motor home, except for one box. I don't want to be high and dry if the conditions call for subtle presentations, so I always have one box ready, but no longer carry the mother lode. The small tubes, four-inch worms, shaky heads and sight fishing gear are gone. What's in is the summer structure fishing baits like Carolina rigs, crankbaits, jigs, Texas rig worms and topwaters. I'll also keep a few small flipping baits. And, in all of that gear, there is almost always a shortage of one thing or another.
This is how it usually goes. As soon as I find a Booyah jig color that works, I only have two of them, and I just lost one. There is seldom an event I go to where I don't have to go to the tackle shop. Besides being one of PRADCO's biggest promoters and supporters, it seems I'm also one of their biggest buyers!
May 19, 2009
Playing Catch Up
I've been really busy the last few weeks, and most interestingly I emceed a local charity event that raised scholarship money for the Future Farmers of America (FFA) around here. I got to play Keith Alan for a day. It was fun. I think I may be better at it. I mean, I am much better looking (kidding, Keith!). Maybe there's a career change on the horizon for me. Nah, I like to fish too much.
This weekend I'm doing something very special. I get to fish with a celebrity, but I can't talk too much about that. It's under wraps for a while. You'll be hearing about it later though in Bassmaster.
Today I went out with a friend of mine to Lake Whitey, which is where I will be hosting my celebrity. It's not too far from the house and my buddy got a 6-pound bass, so I think we'll do pretty well. The topwater bite was killer later in the day. I think we'll give that a shot tomorrow. I'll let you all know how it went next week. It was a lot of fun. Probably more fun than little Alton is having. He just had his wisdom teeth taken out.
In the upcoming weeks I have a Skeeter event to attend in Beaumont, Texas. Then I have to get my tackle ready for the next few events. This will be more involved than you think because I'm taking out all the stuff I had for spawn and postspawn fishing and swapping in my summer baits. I'll have to pull a lot of stuff out from the belly of the motor home to get this done, and I'll let you all know what's involved next week. Maybe you can get a few ideas of what you could use in the summer months.
May 6, 2009
Blown Away at Guntersville
Every so often you get to go to a lake where everything is just right and every fish has its mouth open waiting to eat something. That would describe Lake Guntersville right now. Well, that and wet ... and tornado-ey.
I was fishing today and came upon a spot you could tell had been hit hard by a tornado a few weeks ago. These things wiped out whole hillsides houses, trees, anything there. It even sucked some milfoil up out of the water. The weather folks have blown the siren and announced a tornado warning a few times, and it's hard not to take it seriously when you're looking right at some of the destruction.
This is going to be a two rainsuit deal I think. It has been pouring so hard you'll need to change mid-day! I think part of the reason why the fishing is so good is because of the rain. It has been pouring so bad that they have no choice but to pull water, and they're pulling a lot. You can't even hold position with your trolling motor in some parts because the current is so swift. A drastic current like this really turns on a feeding frenzy. This weigh-in is going to be one you'll want to watch.
The fishing here is so good right now you can catch fish however and wherever you want. I think you'll need 17 pounds a day just to get a check. A few years ago I was leading here going into Day 3, and I was catching 20 pounds a day. But 20 pounds in this tournament won't be leading. I think there will be a lot of bags that big. Everyone I've talked to is whacking them.
Usually in practice when you talk to other guys they'll sandbag a little and say they're not getting much, or they hope they can scrape something together. But if you tried to pull that stuff here right now, you'd be branded a fool and incompetent fisherman. It's impossible not to get a ton of bites in these conditions. Catching this many fish means that this is some of the most fun I've had in a while on the water.
If the rain holds up and the current keeps pulling hard this should be a phenomenal tournament. Let's just pray it's tornado-less.
April 28, 2009
Kentucky Lake Solace
The Jones Clan left Virginia a few days ago, had planned on stopping at Kentucky Lake for a little pre-fishing for the Elite event coming up in a few weeks, then go on to Birmingham to fish Lay Lake in preparation for the 2010 Classic. But we decided to stay here in Tennessee for a while. We found something more fun than practicing.
My original intention was to learn to fish the offshore river ledges on Kentucky, but the winds were blowing so hard it was impossible. We just headed to the bank to flip bushes. By "we" I mean little Alton and I. What we found that is more fun than anything is fishing just fun fishing. Not trying to hammer out a pattern or idling around graphing the bottom out, but fishing where we know we'll get bit and not really care about size.
It's amazing how many fish there are here. We got bit everywhere we went. What's more important, since co-anglers are a thing of the past in the Elites, is little Alton and I don't get to spend as much time together fishing. I think it's important that I take advantage of this rather than going to Birmingham. I can practice for the Classic later. I do have to get to Birmingham, before long.
Mark's Outdoor Sports which is in Birmingham is holding a 700-boat tournament. Yes, 700 boats. A few pros are going to be paired with local guys, for a fun tournament. After that, it's on to Guntersville.
One quick story: After we spent all day yesterday on the water, we pulled the boat up to the motor home, which is just 10 feet from the water, and parked the boat. As soon as I got out, little Alton was gone! A quick search found him on the bank, casting into the night. He just can't get enough.
I think he gets it from his mother.
I've had a good practice so far. I'm taking the same sort of approach to this tournament that I did to Wheeler. I'm practicing for the conditions that will be present in the tournament, not right now fishing the forecast, if you will. It's been rainy, but it should clear up by Day 1. I can't wait to stow the rain suit.
This is one of the prettiest lakes I've seen in a while. The dogwoods are in bloom, the birds are chirping, and it's just pleasant to be out on the water. Also, the fact that I can breathe is nice. That is something that has changed since last year; being Classic champ, it was one thing after another.
I think I've gotten to the point that I can concentrate 100 percent on fishing. Getting all my business taken care of is nice. I've gotten all my ducks in a row. This time last year no way. Once I thought I had them all lined up, there were more kicking the door down. Hopefully Skeet is dealing with it well. There is always business on the table when you're the Classic champion. Now, if I can catch some bass I'll be all set.
This should be a good spawn/spring tournament; there are a few fish on beds, so I think that will be the winning pattern. It's forecasted to be in the 70s and 80s, so that should push them up a bit, so it's back to fishing the forecast so I can keep leading this race for Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
I'll get back with you all Monday for more.
April 13, 2009
Easter and AOY Thoughts
If you look to the right of my column, you'll see I'm leading the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. While it's nice to see myself there, it doesn't mean too much yet.
The way I see it, we're halfway through the second quarter, and while it's gratifying to be leading now, the only thing that matters is who is leading at the end of the fourth quarter. That said, I think I have a decent shot at keeping this thing going, but there's a lot of fishing left to do.
I remember seeing the schedule and thinking it plays well to my strengths, so I was excited about that. I also love spring fishing, be it prespawn, spawn or postspawn, and I think Smith Mountain offers me a good shot at maintaining my lead. All I can do is try my hardest and leave the results in God's hands.
I've been asked several times if leading the race paints a target on my back, and I think it does and doesn't.
I don't think there's anything special about leading at this point. There are still lots of fish to catch, but each fish I've caught is one less I need to get in the future. While winning Angler of the Year has always been one of my goals even more so this year it's not the thing I focus hardest on.
If I'm only looking at winning Angler of the Year it distracts from the little goals that need to be met before I can attain the larger one. I need to go practice at Smith Mountain with the intention of finding enough fish to last one day in competition. I have three days to practice, so if I can find those fish and can get them during the tournament, that automatically puts me through to Day 4. By focusing on small goals, my mind stays on the fish and what I need to do to get them.
We hit the road Tuesday to head up to Virginia, but on the way we're stopping by Decatur, Ala., to pick up the motor home and boat we left after the last tournament. I'm not sure what we're going to find because the news said that that area saw some softball- and grapefruit-sized hail since we left. I'm praying for the best. On a different note, Easter was fantastic.
Easter is my favorite Christian holiday because it celebrates the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ provides all Christians the promise that since He was raised from the dead, we will be given eternal life as well. That is truly something to celebrate.
I just got out of the Fellowship of Christian Anglers meeting, or FOCAS. It's a really cool deal that is gaining momentum with a recent addition. We now have a full time chaplain/minister, Chris Wells.
I met Chris a number of years ago while working at an instructional fishing camp for kids put on by Jay Yelas. I met up with him again last year as he was drawn to be my partner the last day of practice for the 2008 Classic, the day I put everything together. We got to talking that day about FOCAS, and I mentioned in passing we had been praying for God to send us the right man for the job. The problem was that FOCAS is a volunteer organization, so there's no money to bring on someone full-time. Little did I know that at that very moment God was determining how Chris could serve Him.
He called me a few weeks after the Classic and asked if he could come along the trail and hold FOCAS meetings if he got support for them. I think my answer went something like this:
"Let me pray about it ... yes."
It was a quick prayer, to say the least.
He started campaigning and eventually had enough support pledged to enable him to travel with us on tour and hold FOCAS at every event. He's like a missionary to the pros. He not only heads the FOCAS meetings, he's there for us in times of need.
Out here on the Elite trail, we're real men with real families who have real needs and real concerns, so sometimes you need a counselor as well as a Godly man. Chris fills both those roles extremely well. He is infinitely qualified for this task. He's been involved in men's ministries for 20 something years, he's got a theological degree, and he's an angler so he can relate to us. He truly is a fisher of men. We are blessed to have him on board.
You can reach Chris, find out more about him and pledge support so he can continue God's work on the Elite trail at www.chriswells.org.
On the fishing front, I feel like my practice for Wheeler was how should I put this risky. I ignored the conditions that were present during practice and fished for the forecasted conditions. There was flooding and a cold front earlier this week and the lake was really high, so they dropped the bottom out of it really quick. Right now it's two feet below normal, and it's supposed to hold.
The areas I found in practice yielded a few small bass, but, like I said, most fish should move into them during the tournament. If my plan works, it will be beautiful. If not, I go to Plan B, which will be on the fly. I think there's a 50/50 chance of me pulling this off, but if I come to the scales with 7 pounds, you'll know I had to resort to B.
Hopefully the water will be right and the Lord sends some good ones swimming my way.
March 16, 2009
Anyone seen my $25,000?
We just got back from Del Rio this morning, and had a bit of a scare when we got here; the $25,000 check I earned for second place at Amistad was gone. Nowhere to be found. Talk about panic and mayhem; I was looking in places in the Sequoia and motor home I never thought I'd see. What may be more surprising is Jimmye Sue cleaned out her purse for the first time in a year! Luckily we found it under a seat in the Sequoia in time to divert the heart attack I was about to have. The hair I pulled out will grow back, too. Let's hope that never happens again.
Anyhow, we left Del Rio at about seven last night, and stopped in Brady, Texas, on the way home. We like to take back roads between Del Rio and Waco; it's more fun. And you get to stay at the Wal-Mart Hilton. They're always good about letting folks in motor homes park overnight to get some shut eye. A good thing about taking the back roads is the scenery. We started seeing deer once we left, and we counted over 450 deer on the sides of the road. That was in just a few hours. I think it works out to a deer every 300 yards or so. I don't know what it is, but every so often the conditions get just right and the deer will get right up next to the road. We missed a few of them by 10 feet as they bounded across the road. We had to slow down to 55 or risk getting in an accident. That would've piled on more disappointment to my second place finish.
It may sound strange that I'm not happy with second. After all, second is a really good place to finish, just not when you move out of first to get there. If you move up from tenth and take second, that's great; but if you fall from first, that makes you feel really crummy. When I say I'm disappointed with second, I'm not taking anything away from Jason Williamson; it's just that I wanted to win so bad in front of a Texas crowd. I was really consistent, and thought I had a good chance at winning the whole thing which I did. The only thing that could oust me from the lead was if Jason beat me, and he did just that. He hauled in a huge bag and just outdid me on the last day. He deserved to win with catches like that on Saturday and Sunday.
It must've been harder for him with the pressure, too. I don't know if he's had a camera in his boat too many times. If you've never dealt with that, it can wear on you really fast, especially the first few times. Those big catches and the mental toughness he showed deserves a round of applause from everyone. Second place makes you hungry, though. I feel the need for a win now. But for the meantime: Congratulations, Jason!
March 12, 2009
Amistad Practice and Preview
I just got done practicing here in Del Rio, and it couldn't have been over fast enough. The weather here has been miserable lately. It was supposed to be 60 degrees, but it's 43 with 30-mile per hour winds and rain. We got a half-inch last night, and more is on the way.
BASS has once again proven that they can break droughts with their schedule; this is the first rain Del Rio has seen since August. And as usual, a cold front hit the day that practice ends so what you found working in practice is sure not to work on game day. This will stir the pot a little and probably make the lake fish a little tougher, but that's why I practiced for most any scenario.
The water temperature should be in the high 50s instead of the low 60s, and there are already a few fish on beds. I think one of the keys is going to be fishing the areas that are the most protected by the wind because the weather can really limit what you can do. This strong north wind can actually make deciding what to do a little easier. There will most always be a spot or two that take less of a beating than most of the lake.
While the drop in temperature was dramatic, the lake shouldn't change that much; these huge reservoirs are slow to heat and cool. I'm just going to have to slow down and fish them thoroughly. It's not all doom and gloom, though. I think this will be a good tournament, it should probably take a hair over 100 pounds to win it.
I'll get back with you all next week with a post-game wrap-up, for now, I'm off to the Fellowship of Christian Anglers (FOCAS) meeting.
March 6, 2009
Danger: Rabid Bass Fans!
I'm in Suffern, N.Y., and am learning the meaning of cabin fever. These folks have been holed up under 3 feet of snow, and that brings the "I want to get back out on the lake" feeling to a new level. I'm the most excitable person I know when it comes to fishing, but I may have met my match here.
I'll be speaking at the Bass Fishing Academy which is part of the Toyota World Fishing and Outdoor Expo along with Hank Parker, Pete Gluszek, and Gene Ellison. The seats in the lecture hall were half-way full a full hour and a half before the first speaker came on! That's how ready these folks are to get back out there. We're each lecturing on different topics, and mine is about learning to find and follow bass superhighways. I've always felt the professor gets the most out of a lecture, so this is perfect timing for a refresher for me because my test starts Monday at Amistad.
The concept of finding and fishing bass superhighways is not a technique, it's not a magic lure, it's a philosophy. As my career has progressed, I've learned more and more about this, and once I finally wrapped my head around it, it has made me a better fisherman. I hope I can help these folks out, too. Maybe I'll share more on this later. I'm glad I get to teach this because thinking about it and preparing it helps me more than most anything else could. I'm forced to organize my thoughts and review the things I've learned to be able to present them effectively. It'll also be good because I'm sure the audience will be very receptive.
The mood up here is contagious. Before I got here I was ready to go to Amistad, but once I leave I'll be even more excited and ready to go than before. That's hard to do because like I said, I'm very excitable about going fishing. I can't wait to get back to Texas and get the Elite season started.
I'll get back with you all Monday or Tuesday for a post-practice update.
March 4, 2009
A Return to Normalcy
Well, it's a week and a half after the Classic, and things are back to normal. But normal now is different than what was normal last year. Last year's normal was a phone ringing nonstop and interviews and appearances booked solid. Now it has died down from overwhelming to busy.
I know just what Skeet is going through right now. He feels like there aren't enough hours in the day. The upside of all these interviews and appearances is that it exponentially ups your recognition within the industry and even outside of it. It brings more credibility to the things you do and the sponsors you represent. It is quite a boon to your career.
While it was hard handing the trophy over, I know Skeet will be a great ambassador for our sport. It wasn't hard because it was Skeet; it was difficult because as I look back at how hard I worked to earn that trophy, it makes me appreciate it that much more. It also makes me want to win it again.
It was such a memorable ride; it's like a roller coaster you don't want to stop. You just want to hit the button and go all over again. I wish Skeet the best of luck as he embarks on this journey and hope he enjoys it as much as I did. The end of that period of my life is also the start of a new one, which begins very soon at Lake Amistad.
With the first Elite Series event coming up in just over a week, that's all I can think about. Even while I'm doing these tackle shows, I catch myself dreaming about Amistad. Even though I haven't fished there since a charity event in October, I'm already thinking up a game plan. Amistad is going to fish differently this year. It's higher than most of these guys have ever seen it 13 feet higher than it was when we fished it last year. It's currently 2 feet above normal. That opens up a lot of new water and can take some away on the deep end. It's still going to be a slug fest. I'd wager at least one guy gets 100 pounds, and maybe as many as four guys will join the Century Club. But the thing I'm most excited about is taking the long underwear out of the motor home. I'm tired of all this cold weather.
Shifting gears, this weekend I'll be at a tackle show in New Jersey. If it's anything like the shows I've been doing lately, it should be good. I was very impressed at how packed these things are, and it was all kicked off at the Classic Expo. It's good to know that even with such a crummy stock market people are still buying rods and reels and going fishing. Sure, the big ticket items are going to sell slow, but the fact that folks are still getting out there and enjoying the water is encouraging.
I'll report from up there and let you all know how a Southern boy does in a Yankee tackle shop.
Feb. 22, 2009
Passing on the crown?
As I write this I'm in the boatyard before the weigh-in of the 2009 Classic. I don't think I have what it will take to win. I think I did a good job finding fish, but it just came down to making the right or in this case wrong decisions.
It took 'til today for me to recover from my Day 1 mistakes. I had to choose between two spots and it just turns out I picked the wrong one. I think I would have fared much better if I had switched it up. But at the same time there are no wrong decisions while you're out there because you don't know how things are going to turn out. You have to choose based on the information at hand.
God continues to give me new reasons every day to trust Him. I trust Him because He doesn't make mistakes. Even if I don't like the outcome, I know it's what is best for me. Thanks for following along this past week as I fished this Classic.
Stay tuned next week because I get to continue blogging with you all on Bassmaster.com, and I look forward to keeping you all in the loop the rest of this year.
Feb. 20, 2009
Day 1: Still On Track
Well I managed 13-5 today, which isn't quite what I would have liked, but it'll do. After Day 1 last year I was in 10th and 5 pounds out of the lead, and this year I'm only six-and-a-half out, so this is still doable. It's harder to be consistent here than it is at Hartwell, so I think more people are still in this than some may realize.
I decided to stay in Pool 5 today rather than lock down to four, and I knew I should have moved, but I decided to stay there and grind it out, and I did manage a decent bag because of it. I think the only thing that is keeping me from being further up the leaderboard is that big bite.
I did learn today that I need to fish the conditions. It may be rainy and cloudy tomorrow, but I have a plan to cover that. I think the guys that did well today were on fish that aren't sustainable, so they're going to need to find something else. I think I've reversed that and had a slower day today and can get on them pretty good tomorrow.
Like I said, the thing that I'm missing is that big bite, so that's what I'm going after. A nice bag with a solid kicker fish.
I know what I've got to do tomorrow, and I know how I'm going to do it. All that's left is for me to get out there and make it happen. Stay tuned tomorrow for tomorrow's update.
Feb. 18, 2009
My Classic Reign
Practicing for this Classic hasn't really been any different, except for some mixed emotions. I have only had the privilege of walking in these shoes as Classic champion for a year, and it has been such an honor. It's a journey that I'm not ready to see come to an end, but it very well may. So I've been reflecting upon my year as Classic champ a lot this week. When I look at what has been the most significant part of it, it is definitely the people I've had the chance to meet. I've made friends all over the country as I experienced what it's like to be the world champ. The people and relationships are what gives significance to a title not the trophy or the money, but the relationships. That goes to show that the best things in life truly are free.
From a fishing standpoint, we're sitting in the lock on the official practice day of the 2009 Classic. I've got three practice days behind me and I feel like I've got a lot of pieces to the puzzle on the table; now it's just a matter of finding a few more pieces and then arranging them in the right order.
When I finally develop a game plan, it will take into account not only the best spots I've found but the current conditions and the likelihood of having an area to myself or having to battle a crowd. These factors and a few other things will come into play before I make my final decision. I've said before that practice is more important than game day, but that's never been truer than at the Classic. This is the big event, and preparation is what gives you a chance to succeed. I think that today's practice will be the most important. It was during the last day of practice last year that I identified a pivotal piece of the puzzle the piece that let me win. I believe that will be the case today. I need to listen to the fish and make decisions on the water based on what I'm learning, not from my memory.
On a different note, this will be my final blog entry as reigning 2008 Classic champion. I want to thank all of the people who have followed my life this past year and let you all know how much I appreciate it. I have heard from many of you and your encouragement has brought great joy into my life. I'll continue blogging next year, but hopefully as 2009 champion.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life
Last weekend I was in Shreveport on behalf of Skeeter Boats at Reeves Marine. I'll tell you what, there's a buzz down there about the Classic. The whole town is excited. I can't wait to get down there again for the real deal. It was a unique and special weekend.
One tidbit about Reeves Marine is that they were the first Skeeter dealership ever. That's a pretty cool piece of history. Not only that Reeves is directly across the street from the CenturyTel Arena, where the weigh-ins will be held.
Like I said, I was there on behalf of Skeeter because Reeves was raffling off tickets to win one of two fishing trips one with myself and one with bass fishing legend George Cochran on a private, highly managed lake outside of Shreveport. The gentleman who won a trip with me is named Randy Smith. He's the one in the picture holding a 6-pound, 14-ounce bass.
While we only got six bass, they were all between 6 and 8 pounds. Six bass may sound like a slow day, but that's far from the truth. In between the bass, we got 71 crappie! Now I love crappie fishing, but I'm not used to catching them with bass gear like 20-pound-test line in 20 feet of water.
Not that I'm counting, but Randy and I put together a limit of 25-14 ... a tad heavier than George and his partner.
This trip sure wet my whistle for the Classic again. I can't wait to get back to Shreveport. We actually leave on Monday the 9th because I'm doing several mini-shows for Yamaha that will be aired on ESPN. I also like to be a little early because it forces me to hurry up and finish my preparation (no, I'm not done yet). Once I get that knocked out, I have a day to relax and gather my thoughts.
For those of you who are going to attend the Classic, Reeves Marine is offering a unique experience. You can go fish the lake that George and I hosted our guests on. It's very limited, so if you're interested call Reeves at 318-938-7300 and ask for Mike Echols.
Next time we chat, the Jones Clan will be east bound and Classic down!
Going to the airport to meet President Bush was an awesome experience. I imagine it was a grueling day for him, but seeing him get off Air Force One for the last time as president was really special. I am honored that he asked us to attend.
Last night we watched the Baylor men's basketball team, and we're set to go back to watch the No. 2 Lady Bears take on No. 4 Oklahoma tonight. That's something I like about Waco, you're never too far from Big 12 teams. If you're in Austin, it's two hours to get anywhere. Here, twenty minutes and I'm courtside. I did have time to get out on the water, though.
I got to do something that's long overdue, fish with my long-time pal Dr. Mike Lawson, chairman of the Christian Education Department at Dallas Theological Seminary. We've known each other a long time and used to fish quite a bit, but as of late it just hasn't worked out. So this outing was particularly meaningful. We went to Fayette County, caught 40 fish, and the good doctor bagged the biggest a 9-pounder.
I was pitching to the reeds behind him (in the picture) and he was turned around throwing his Texas rigged worm in a gully behind us when he hooked into her. Needless to say we probed every inch of that ditch afterward, but she was the only one there.
I'll be pretty busy in the next few weeks. I'm getting the new boat wrapped, (it'll be the same scheme Skeeter and XCalibur) and then I'm going down to Shreveport for a promotional event at Reeves Marine, a Skeeter dealer. I'll be there for several days. It should be a good mix of pleasure and work. Included in this hustle and bustle is fishing. I'll be back at Fayette County keeping on top of things.
It may seem odd that I'm practicing for the Classic on a body of water that is so different from the Red River, but I'm not trying to get a pattern established for there. I don't want to go in there thinking I need to do X, Y or Z. I'm just keeping in touch with deciphering the fish. The three practice days will be the most important practice. That is when I'll be developing a solid pattern.
I just got the coolest invite in a long time! I was contacted by some of President George W. Bush's people and asked to attend a private reception at Waco Regional airport on Tuesday.
See, we're not far from his ranch in Crawford, and after he stops in at Midland, he's coming here. We're very excited, and kind of in a rush to get there. It was an honor meeting him in the White House, and even more humbling he thought of us in his departure. The Jones clan would like to wish him and Laura the very best as he starts a new chapter in his life here in Texas.
To get you all up to speed, I'm not quite done organizing my tackle. A few things came up that kept me from keeping with my schedule, but I think I know what I need to do to get back on task ... go fishing.
Call it an excuse if you want, but being out on the water truly helps jog my memory as to what I need to do and helps me better organize where things go so I can quickly find what I need when I'm on the water. It's one of those "you don't know until you get there" kind of deals. Either way, I'll be on Fayette County Wednesday finishing up the tackle side of my Classic prep.
Another thing I'm really looking forward to is fishing with my very good friend of a long time. We're going for a way-overdue fishing trip this week. We used to fish 40 or so days a year, not we're down to one or two, if we're lucky. Our schedules just haven't been in sync for a while.
Oh, and some more good news the fish here will be bedding, so we will be sight fishing!
Jan. 12, 2009
I've got a hoarse voice from speaking so much this past week, which has taken some getting used to, but I've come to expect it since my schedule has been so full for so long. The week started in Little, Rock, Ark., where I was helping ESPN with some Classic promotion stuff, and from there I headed to Kansas City for an outdoors show. Then it was on to Raleigh, N.C., for a boat show. Now I'm all talked out!
The good news is that each event was well-attended, which is an encouraging sign seeing how the fishing industry has been feeling the effects of the sub-par economy. Now I can get back to fishing and concentrating on the Classic.
I think that preparing for a tournament, whether it's the Classic or not, is critical. There are so many unknown factors in tournament fishing, you don't need any more than what the lake gives you. The way I see it, it's best to take care of the things you can control, like getting your stuff in order so the event can go as smoothly as possible.
I'll select the right tools for the job at hand in this case the Red River and double check that the boat is ready for that body of water. I'll take two days to do my hard baits topwaters, crankbaits, jerkbaits one day to do spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, and two more to do my jigs and plastics. That may sound like I'm overdoing it, but if I tried to do it all at once I would miss or forget something and only realize it once I'm on the water.
Taking time and being thorough is important when it comes to tackle preparation because, like I said, I want to control as much as I can and help myself out as much as possible before I get on the water where it's nothing but uncertainty until you've got a pattern figured out.
A tournament is like a puzzle, and I want to get as much done as possible beforehand, especially if it's going to help me figure out where to put the rest of the pieces.
It'll be good to get back on the water after taking a week off, because like most of you, when I'm not fishing, I'm probably thinking about fishing.
Jan. 6, 2009
Getting Back in the Groove
It's that time of year again when I get back to thinking about fishing. Well, I'm always thinking about fishing, so I guess it's more accurate to say it's time for me to start getting prepared for the upcoming Elite Series season.
Just before we left for Colorado, I got my new boat. All I could think about the whole time was how I'm going to mount the electronics, set it up inside and just general preparation that needs to be done before each season. Needless to say, as soon as we got back, I got started, and there's no better way to get started prepping for a season than by fishing.
Last week I fished three days, breaking in the boat and motor, and getting back in the routine of developing patterns for a given body of water. The picture is of little Alton holding an average specimen from Fayette County lake one of my favorite lakes. We got there early, threw XCalibur XR50 rattlebaits to get things going, then, when that turned off, we went to YUM! Money Minnows. These are such neat baits.
The swimbait craze has been around for a while, but I think we're still just beginning to scratch the surface of these baits' potential because most people don't fish them that much or that well. There's a lot left to be discovered about their applications. Also, there's the chance for the big bites when using them.
Along the lines of preparation, I think I'll head over to Amistad for some pre-fishing it's our first stop on the Elite Series. It will fish a lot differently than most folks think. It's a lot higher now. Ten more feet of water in there is pretty substantial; the bushes you used to be able to flip to won't be there, and there will be a lot more surface area opened up.
And maybe Todd Faircloth's "magic tree" will be out of reach, which would be good for the rest of the Elite guys and me! He could call it his "money tree" with all the fish he pulled from there the last two years.
This next week sees me pretty busy on the road, so I can only dream of fishing. I'll be in Little Rock doing some stuff for the Classic at the ESPN Outdoors' studio, then Kansas City and Raleigh, N.C., for boat shows. I'll get back with you all on how that goes, then the following week it's back on the water.
Alton Jones Blog 2008
Click here for Alton's blog entries from 2008.