Alton Jones has a plan for everything. Winning the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title is no exception.
"Of course I've thought about it," said the 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion. "This year has been different. After I won the Classic in February I felt a sense of liberation with my fishing. But, I didn't want that liberation to turn into a letdown.
"With a guaranteed spot in next year's Classic (as defending champion) and financial security, I needed a goal, something to work towards so I didn't lose my focus. I didn't want a letdown to lead to a bad season. That's happened to other guys in the past, you know."
To protect himself Jones dedicated his season to winning the AOY title. It was the toughest thing he could do under the circumstances.
"That type of goal is unusual for me. I like to set small, attainable goals that will cumulatively add up to something big. You know, maybe set individual tournament goals that add up to an AOY title but not shoot for the AOY title as the goal itself. Setting something like that as the goal itself can become unworkable and get out of control quickly if you aren't careful.
"Most fans look at the Classic as the ultimate accomplishment ... and it is as far as one tournament is concerned. But, within our sport Angler of the Year is more prestigious. It's something you earn over 11 tournaments, not three days. I make no secret about wanting to win it."
But, like the man said, this year is different. Putting something together in small pieces is not enough, not this year. It's going to take more.
"I'm not fishing for points to make the Classic or a check. I'm fishing to win. That may help me claim the title or it may hurt me. We don't know the answer to that yet. Either way, however, that's the way I'm going to approach the task. It's the best thing I can do given my situation, and I'm satisfied with that."
His performance at Old Hickory last week serves as an example of what he's talking about. Jones will freely admit that he left good bass on Saturday and Sunday in search of better bass. It was a gamble but one he was willing and is now able to take.
"I needed bigger bass to win. I knew leaving my fish was a risk that could turn into a disaster, but I did it anyway. I was willing to lose big in order to win big. I didn't win but I don't regret my decision. I'd do the same thing again. It was the only way I could make up ground in the Angler of the Year standings."
All that said, however, Jones is still a realist. The AOY title is a long shot. He's in sixth place, 240 points behind Kevin VanDam. And, between them stand Todd Faircloth, Mike McClelland, Skeet Reese and Dean Rojas.
"I know it's going to be tough at this point. Guys like that aren't going to stumble, not all of them anyway. They didn't get where they are by choking. But still, until I'm mathematically eliminated I'll keep believing I can do it and put all my efforts towards that goal.
"I don't know what the future will be, but I do know what the present is. I intend to take full advantage of it in a moral doing the right thing way."