Jones' West Point attack strategy

"Think": It was a famous IBM slogan.

Alton Jones has added to that: "Think ahead."

After claiming the lead March 20 in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, Jones took a scouting trip. Not to the next-up Bassmaster Elite Series venue, or even to the next after that. He had thought ahead to the fifth event, the May 5-8 contest on West Point Lake.

"I'd never been there before," he said. "I really needed to familiarize myself with it. I thought it was extremely important for me to be putting everything I can into each event. I always put my whole effort in, but I don't always make scouting trips."

Scouting is a luxury for a Bassmaster Elite Series angler. Any such trip must be completed before the off-limits period kicks in, usually about one month before the event. Time and money are required, not to mention the logistics trick of getting to Lake E between events on Lake A and River B, with multiple other commitments thrown into the mix.

But West Point was looking like a wild card for Jones in his bid to be the 2011 Angler of the Year. He felt he had to go, not to learn how to compete on the Georgia-Alabama border lake, but to find out how he could best spend the three practice days preceding the tournament.

"How I'm going to attack the lake during practice, which rods are going to be out on my deck, what baits are going to be in my compartments — those are the types of things I figured out during scouting," said the Elite Series pro from Waco, Texas.

"Those three practice days are when I'll actually develop a pattern, select my baits, select my locations. Those decisions are what will determine how I do in the event," he said. "That's what made it critical for me to go and spend that time scouting."

He said he spent most of his scouting time riding. The water level was down about 3 feet — still winter pool — a condition that allowed Jones to see subtle contours and details of points that likely will be hidden under feet of water come tournament time.

"I hope they fill it to full pool so I can fish some of that," he said. "Then my scouting will be a really strong advantage."