Alton's Angle

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Dec. 22, 2010
Merry Christmas!

I'll be spending this Christmas in Dallas with my parents and sisters and their families which is a tradition. Last year we had a white Christmas here in central Texas, but it's looking like it may be the opposite this year. There may be a Christmas spawn on our power plant lakes.

These days I'm a little too big for Santa's lap but I still always manage to put together a Christmas wish list. I hope a lot of the things that are on my list will be on yours, too.

  • Skeeter FX20 with a 250-horse Yamaha SHO

  • Brand new 6-foot, 9-inch Kistler Z-Bone rod

  • Ardent XS1000 reel

  • A whole case of XCalibur XCS100 crankbaits

  • Box of Booyah jigs

  • 10-pound bass

While all of these gifts would be great, the reason we give and receive gifts at Christmas time is to remember the greatest gift that has ever been given. That is when God sent His Son on Christmas Day a little more than 2,000 years ago to become a man and die as God the Son for our sins so that we may have true life. My real Christmas wish is that you would know our Savior and know Him well.

Merry Christmas!

On another note, last week I went to the Skeeter plant to pick up my new FX20; while I was there, I got to help serve food to all the employees for their holiday party. It was great spending time with those folks.

Also, the photo is of me and Burton Lawless at a Baylor Lady Bears game. Burton was kind enough to invite me and my father-in-law to sit with him in the front row. I mean, we were there with the team. As a surprise, he brought along his three Super Bowl rings and allowed me to put them on with my Classic ring.

I won't be posting another blog until the new year; by then I should have my new boat fully broken-in and should have some stories to go along with that.

May God bless each and every one of you and your families in this Christmas season, and may He bless us all in the New Year.

Dec. 10, 2010
A real live success!

This past week was a week I had been looking forward to for a long time. It was the week I got to go live on Bassmaster.com. It's kind of been a work in progress, because we originally had this "Day on the Lake LIVE" scheduled for Falcon Lake, and I was looking forward to treating you all to lots of giant, hawg fish. But, with the security situation down there as bad as it was, we decided to move it somewhere safer. That's why we broadcasted from Fayette County Lake in central Texas.

I knew we'd catch a lot of fish there, including some good ones, and it turned out to be an absolutely perfect week. David Hunter Jones and Nathan Benson — both from B.A.S.S. — handled all the technical work and were a joy to work with. The fishing was good enough that we got to do some fishing off camera and get to know each other better and become closer friends. We've worked together for a while, so it was a really special time for me. However, the highlight of the week was going live.

This was the first time I've ever done the live version, and it was amazing how many people logged on to view and how many folks asked questions. I really appreciate those of you who did.

If you haven't had a chance to see it, you should check out the archived video
. It's really worth a watch, and if you can only watch a little bit, watch the first segment. We really whacked 'em. We caught seven or eight fish in a row up to 6 pounds on an XCalibur XR50K One Knocker rattle bait. All in all, we had nearly 20 fish and a best five weighing in the neighborhood of 20 pounds.

Once the camera was off, we went fun fishing again and had a really neat occurrence. It was something you don't see very often. We had a big old bobcat walk down to the very edge of the lake. While we were watching him, another one came out from the woods. They got their feet wet then eased up into some grass. We were about 30 yards from them. It was spectacular. They're beautiful, majestic creatures, and it's things like that that make getting to spend so much time outside special.

This weekend and into next week, I'll be spending time with my family and getting ready for the holidays. I've got a bit of Christmas shopping to do. I have to admit, I haven't bought Jimmye Sue's present yet, and that's something I'll be working hard on this weekend. I don't like letting that go until the last minute.

Anyhow, thanks again to those of you who logged in for "Day on the Lake LIVE", and if you didn't, check it out. We'll talk again next week.

Stay tuned!

Dec. 3, 2010
Going live next week!

As a primer to our "Day on the Lake LIVE" next Wednesday, I fished this past Monday down at Fayette County Lake. I went with a couple of friends — Neil Meske, who is a physical therapist here in town, and Bryan Carter, who is a store director for an Academy Sports and Outdoors in Temple, Texas.

They both go to my church, and we've had this trip planned for a while. They've had their days off marked for a few weeks, so there was no cancelling for the weather. Naturally, it was brutal!

We picked the worst weather day of the year so far. There was a major front that moved through, the temperatures were in the 40s all day and falling, and there were north winds gusting to 35 mph. Needless to say, we were the only boat on the lake the entire day. There are not many days you can say that about Fayette. It's halfway between Houston and Austin and has good fishing, so it's a very popular destination, especially this time of year because it's a hot water lake.

Some of the best days I've ever had on Fayette were days that it was miserable to be out there. On this trip we caught about 35 bass, and the biggest was a hair under 6 pounds. We had 20 fish in the 4- and 5-pound class, and I think I caught one dink all day. Fayette never disappoints in size or numbers. If you like to throw lipless crankbaits and swimbaits, this is the place to be.

Take a look at the picture of Bryan and me. He's got a 4-pounder. If you want to see some of this action live, be sure to log in for our "Day on the Lake LIVE" on Wednesday, Dec. 8.

It starts at 9 a.m. ET here on Bassmaster.com, and will run to 1 p.m. ET. We'll catch them a bunch of different ways. If you're a B.A.S.S. Insider, you'll be able to type in questions live while I'm fishing, and I'll answer as many of them as I can. Plus, the day before I'll be hosting a Bassmaster University. The topic will be stickworms — specifically Yum Dingers. The first 30 minutes or so will be me lecturing about them, and the last half hour will be a Q&A session. Once again, only Insiders will be able to ask questions, but you can watch right here on Bassmaster.com.

All in all, it will be an exciting week, and I'm really looking forward to it.

On another note, Kristen, my middle child and oldest daughter, turns 16 in a few weeks. Jimmye Sue and I have been secretly in the market for a car for her. We had an old jalopy at the house, and had Kristen convinced that it would be her car. We let her believe that, and she was fine with it. But Jimmye Sue and I knew all along that we were going to get her something more fun to drive.

I happened to find the perfect car in Houston. It's a 2003 BMW with 15,000 miles on it. I picked it up earlier this week, and decided to surprise her early with it because it'd be hard to hide in the driveway. The way we gave it to her was kind of fun.

There's a church down the street that always has an empty parking lot, so I dropped the car off there and Little Alton took me home. I told Kristen that we should practice her parallel parking in that parking lot for her driving exam. When we got there the BMW was sitting there. I told her to park around it. She was all freaked out because she was afraid to hit the shiny BMW with the jalopy we were in. After she parked a few times, she said how it was hard to park the big, old car around the little one and how it would be easier to do it the other way around. I tossed her a key and told her to give it a shot.

She didn't believe me at first. She thought I had borrowed it and was playing very cruel joke on her. It took about 30 minutes of convincing before she realized she had gotten a BMW for her Sweet 16.

She is a wonderful daughter, and has a history of making really good choices in life, so this is a way that Jimmye Sue and I could demonstrate our appreciation to her for being a great daughter.

Happy birthday, Kristen!

Nov. 19, 2010
Trout and Thanksgiving

Well, we're back from Colorado and I must say, while fishing in those cold streams was an absolute ball, I haven't decided to give up bass fishing. Once you're a bass fisherman, nothing else ever seems to stack up. If you gave me a choice of a trip to Falcon or to the San Juan River, I'd have to take Falcon just because I love bass fishing so much.

The first thing that hit me about that area of the world was the temperature. The first morning when we woke up to go fishing it was 12 degrees. While I'm somewhat used to fishing in cold conditions, this was really chilly. It reminded me of practice for the 2010 Classic on Lay Lake when there was a big snowstorm. The bright side was that it was a dry cold, and you don't have to endure the 70-mile-per hour boat ride like when you're bass fishing. And rather than being a windshield, you get to be behind one as you ride in the car or truck to the stream. Then, you're out in a canyon where you're out of the wind, so it wasn't that bad.

The water temperature in the San Juan is constant year-round because the water comes out of the tailrace of the dam of Navajo Lake. The cold didn't affect the fish. I'll say this; trout fishing is a lot of work.

First, there's a quarter-mile walk from the parking lot through some pretty steep drains and switchbacks. Then, once you get down to river level, there is a lot of swamp to get through yet. Then, once you're in the river, you have a 2-mile wade through the current. Though I'm used to it, the altitude affects a lot of folks as well. At the end of the day, you know you've been fishing.

The thing that was frustrating to me originally was that I expected to be an instant expert with a fly rod since I'm pretty good with a bass rod.

Absolutely not.

It's a totally different motion. Casting a rod for bass is all about the wrist, where casting a fly rod is all about the arm. I actually got to where I could throw the bait pretty far in about 30 minutes. But trying to be accurate with a fly took me into the second day on the river. I must say, though, I improved markedly as the trip wore on.

I think during the whole trip we caught about 10 trout per day per fisherman. Most of them were in the 18- to 21-inch range. Little Alton caught the biggest one; it was just over 24 inches. Of course, that's the one we didn't get a picture of. However, size isn't necessarily a good indicator of how hard a trout will fight. Half of them will pull really hard, and the rest will just roll over pretty quickly. It's a heavily pressured fishery, and my guess is that the ones that give up have been caught recently and don't have much fight in them. The fresh ones are a lot tougher.

I did have a big fish on, though. When I set the hook, he went downstream and spooled me. This was on day two. On day one, he would've broken me off because I was pressuring them way too much. We were using 3-pound-test leaders, and it's surprising how little pressure you can put on a leader before it breaks. There was no way I was going to be able to turn this fish around.

Something else that I learned is that when you go fly fishing, your vocabulary has to be a little bit more refined. We have a lot of the same gear in bass fishing as fly-fishing, but they're not called the same thing. For example, when fly-fishing, you have a strike indicator. We call it a bobber in the South. They have a thing called a tippet; we call it a leader. They don't get bites from fish; they get takes. So, I had to learn a little of the new terminology, and I don't think I'm refined enough to refer to anything as a strike indicator.

I think my guides were a little annoyed with me by the end of the second day because I kept saying that my cork went under. They kind of looked at me like I shouldn't say that outside of Texas.

All in all, though, I would encourage you all to go out there and give fly fishing a shot. Our guides did a fantastic job with Little Alton and me since we were new to the fly-fishing world. We would not have had the success we had without them. If anyone wants to use them, call Mark Wethington at 505-330-7263. When Mark's not guiding, he works as a biologist for the state of New Mexico, so he's very knowledgeable not only about the river, but about the fish as well.

I mentioned that I walked about 2 miles around the river each day, but I couldn't get the run-and-gun out of my fishing style. It was hard for me to stay in one spot on the trout stream when the action slowed down a little bit. I wanted to know what was around the next corner, bend or island. Since I didn't have a Yamaha to crank up, I had to crank up the old legs and hike. Surprisingly, I managed to not fall the whole time across those slippery rocks and in that stiff current.

Since we've been home, we've been going to some Baylor basketball games, both men's and women's. Our No. 2 ranked Lady Bears lost by one point to the No. 1 team, UConn, the other night in Connecticut. They really put on a good showing and, hopefully, that loss early in the season will really motivate them to push and discover what it takes to be the best team in the nation. I think by year's end, they're really going to have a shot at a title.

Now, since we'll be taking a break next Friday, a Thanksgiving blog:

Happy Thanksgiving!

After celebrating my father's 80th birthday last week, it made me especially grateful to the Lord for my family and the health of my family on all sides. We've been very blessed in that regard. It also made me consider some of the other things that I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful to the Lord for all of my sponsors and business partners who make it possible for me to fish and pursue this dream, and I'm so grateful to live in this great country where brave men and women have fought for the freedoms that we enjoy.

I want to wish everyone a sincere, heart-felt happy Thanksgiving and encourage each and every one of you to dig deep and think of the things and people you are truly thankful for and make sure they know it.

For the holiday, we're going out to Coleman, Texas, with extended family to watch some football and shoot some deer. The only foreseeable downside is that I'm going to gain at least 5 pounds. We have way too many good cooks in the family.

See you all soon, and happy Thanksgiving!

Nov. 15, 2010
Happy birthday, Dad!

Last Thursday night was one of the most fun nights I've had in a while. We celebrated my father's 80th birthday. It's really strange, thinking of my father as 80 years old, because growing up as a child, 80 seemed like such a big number that when I look at him now I don't see an old man, I see a man who is young at heart. He's also in very good shape for his age.

We had all of the family together on my side, from sisters to nephews and cousins — about 25 people all together. I prepared my father a slide show where we flipped back through a bunch of old pictures from before I was born and through when I was a baby. It really made me think back about my dad and how much of an influence he was — and still is — in my life. It was a really special evening. Though my dad didn't fish, he always gave me opportunities to fish. Regular readers of my blog probably remember a story of the boat that I gave to Little Alton. It was the first boat that my father gave me, when I turned 12. That's a really special piece of my history.

Reflecting back on growing up with my dad, if there's one word I can use to describe him it would be selfless. I can never remember someone asking for help from him who didn't get it. He also gave help to plenty of folks who didn't ask for any. Whether it was fixing someone's car or lending them money, he was there.

He's a doctor, and I can remember many Sundays after church when people would come over and he'd fix their car in our driveway. He stopped on the side of the road so many times to help fix folks' flats or help them out when they were stranded. I just remember thinking how much I wanted to be like him when I grew up. He exemplified what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I'm thankful for him passing that legacy on to me, too.

Changing gears, I've never been so excited about going trout fishing. Little Alton and I are getting ready to get on a plane to head to Colorado to check out some trout streams. We're going to be fishing the San Juan River in northern New Mexico and staying just outside of Durango, Colo. We're going to stay with a friend of mine, Pat Curry, at his place. He's one of the guys who was with me when we caught 365 bass in one day. I promise I'll have some pictures of some nice rainbows and hopefully a big brown, too. Don't worry, I'm not giving up on my bass fishing. I'd just like to try fly fishing for trout.

I'm a novice when it comes to the long rod. We'll be fishing with guides, and I told them that they'd have to teach us how to do it. Hopefully, our experience with bass casting will be beneficial to fly fishing. This will be the first time Little Alton will have had a fly rod in his hand.

On another note, I want to say a happy Veterans Day to the men and women in our armed forces. I think I've got it good as a professional fisherman, and all of it would be nothing but a dream without all of their help and sacrifices. Thanks so much, and may God bless each and every one of you all.

Nov. 5, 2010

As I mentioned last week, this past weekend was my LifeLine Fish with the Pros Texas event, and it was without a doubt the most fun LifeLine event we've ever had — and they've all been great.

This year, we moved it down to Lake Amistad, so it had a tournament feel to it. In the past, we've held it on the private lakes in East Texas, which is a lot of fun, but this was extra special. It was one of those perfect weekends where we caught the weather just right and the fishing just right. It was a neat time. As far as the fishing goes, we were catching about 45 bass a day per boat. The format was that we had four pros and eight guests. Each pro hosted two different guests each day.

We had a three-fish tournament on the final day, Sunday. But the format wasn't the three biggest fish that came to the boat; each person had to contribute a fish to the three-fish total. Therefore, if the pros caught three 5-pounders, they could only keep one of them. The key was to get everyone in the boat a good fish. My team ended up winning it, and our three weighed 14-12. We never caught a big one; they were all in the 5-pound range. What we did was whoever needed an upgrade was up in the front of the boat. I was actually the last one to get a good fish, so I was sweating it there for a bit.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun for a good cause.

The money that the guests paid all went to LifeLine. LifeLine does great work for a lot of kids. More specifically, they'll work with more than 12,000 children and families this year. That's huge growth from a couple of years ago. We have some wonderful success stories of children whose lives have been changed by LifeLine. They provide hope when there may not have been any hope before.

For some of the children, the worker they meet is the first person who has ever loved them. It's really an important thing. To be able to do something I enjoy — like fishing — and make a difference with it just blows my mind. I don't feel like I did anything special this weekend, but it benefitted LifeLine greatly. All I had to do was go out and do what I love!

I want to thank the pros who were there — Elite Series pro Matt Reed, new Elite rookie Keith Combs, and former Elite pro Kurt Dove. These guys were very generous in giving their time and energy to help make this event special.

However, you can't fish all the time. Sometimes you have to go deer hunting. So, I'm shifting gears this afternoon. We're heading out west to Coleman, Texas, where Jimmye Sue's folks live, for opening weekend. Out there in Coleman, we're probably not going to bag a monster buck, but there are some decent deer. It's a place where I plan to get some meat for the freezer.

We love to eat venison at our house, so I would like to get two deer this weekend. Maybe Little Alton and I will each get one. I usually take a whole one and have it made completely into jalapeno-cheese summer sausage. The other one will be used for hamburger and other traditional things. Because of where we're hunting, I'll be looking for a big, fat doe. There's nothing better for the freezer. I'm sure Little Alton will be buck hunting, though.

Oh, I have to make a Baylor sports comment. The Baylor Bears football team defeated Texas handily last week in Austin! I don't know if Baylor's ever beat Texas in Austin before. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but Baylor is ranked 21st in the nation! Congratulations to the football team. We have some tough games ahead of us, though. We play Oklahoma State and Texas A&M and Oklahoma, so I'm hoping we can get at least one more win out of these last three games. Regardless of what happens, Baylor is going to be bowl-bound for the first time in a long time.

Basketball also got underway this past week. We got to watch a few exhibition games for both the Baylor men and women. It's fun getting back into that groove.

Also, even though they lost, I want to congratulate the Texas Rangers on a great season, and congratulate the Giants on a World Series win. They had a pitching staff that couldn't be stopped.

Oh, one last note regarding the elections we had past weekend, I was very glad to see the shift of power in congress. Maybe we can slow down some of the rampant government spending and expansion. I hope that we can put there brakes on a little bit.

Oct. 29, 2010
Lots of blessings

Tomorrow I leave for my LifeLine Youth and Family Services Fish with the Pros event on Lake Amistad. My goal is to leave early enough in the morning so I can get at least a half-day of prefishing in before the guests arrive. Everyone will be coming around suppertime, and it should be a lot of fun.

All of the guests are flying in from out of state, and I think it will be the first time that most of them have ever fished Lake Amistad. For most folks, the first time fishing south Texas lakes is an absolute blast for a lot of reasons.

The fishing is the first-and-foremost reason. There are lots of big fish! Also, the ruggedness and beauty of the country are awesome. I really enjoy being able to introduce people to that for their first time.

This past weekend ended up being more of a speaking weekend than I planned. Let me explain what I mean.

I spoke Thursday in Temple, Texas, then Friday in Lufkin, Texas, and Saturday was going to be a football and baseball day for me. But, I got a call at 5:45 that evening. It was Clay Dyer, who fishes despite enormous disabilities. He was born without any arms or legs. It's a great inspirational story. Well, he was scheduled to speak at a church in Dallas to a men's outreach wild game supper for about 500 people. But we had some severe weather and tornadoes all day on Saturday. So, when the phone rang on Saturday evening, Clay said, "Help!"

He had been delayed to the point that he was going to miss the speaking engagement at 7:30. By 5:45 the men were gathered for supper, and it's a two-hour drive from where I live. Jimmye Sue and I jumped straight in the car, switched on the radar detector and made it in an hour and 45 minutes. We got there right at 7:30.

My preacher at home said there are three things you should be ready to do at a moment's notice: preach, pray and pass away. You might be asked to do any of them unexpectedly. Fortunately, I only had to do two of them on Saturday. It was really a great event.

It's funny, sometimes we put our plans together, but the Lord changes them. He did that for me and for that church. I had a good sense that I really connected with those men. But the best part is that as I was finishing, Clay Dyer arrived and got to speak to those men. Afterward I got to have supper with him. Clay and I have become really good friends over the years. To see beyond his fishing and beyond his disability, and see the kind of person he is really inspires me.

On another note, deer season opens here in central Texas the weekend of November 7. We're going to be making out annual trip out to Coleman, Texas, and spend opening weekend there with Jimmye Sue's folks. There's a big hunter's banquet there in Coleman. One of the best things is that the men get together and play poker. It's a penny and nickel kind of game — not any serious gambling. What I think is funny is that this has always been for the grown men, not the grandkids. Well, now that Little Alton is 18, he was assuming he'd be included in the game. But he asked his grandfather the other day, and he said, "No, you're not old enough."

I think that in grandparents' eyes you never come of age.

I do have to plug the Rangers, who are in the World Series. They lost the first game, but I still have faith. I was talking to an outdoor writer today and he said something poignant. The World Series can take grown men and turn them into little boys. What he meant was that all the pressure can make guys fold, which was evident from all the mistakes made in that game.

Also, if anyone cares to look at the Big 12 South football standings, my nationally-ranked Baylor Bears are at the top of the heap! We play the Texas Longhorns in Austin, and I think we've got a decent shot at beating them this year. I know we've beaten them in my lifetime, but it's been so long ago that I can't remember exactly when it was.

Who would have ever thought that we'd be in late October and still talking about the Baylor Bears and Texas Rangers? This is a good year for sports if you live in Central Texas.

Oct. 22, 2010
Checking out Fayette County

This week is a busy week, speaking-wise. I spoke last night down in Temple, Texas, to a new tournament organization called the Faith Angler Network, which is a family-oriented, Christian tournament group. They have their tournaments on Saturdays, and this was their championship.

They have a neat format. They had one day on Lake Belton and one day on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, two central Texas lakes. I had a great time doing that.

Today, I'm going to leave for Lufkin, Texas, which is about 3 1/2 hours east of where I live. It's near Sam Rayburn Reservoir. I'm going to be speaking to CAST at their championship banquet. It stands for Couples Anglers Sports Tournament. It's husbands and wives, another family-oriented group. Normally when I go, I go by myself, but given this format, I'll be taking Jimmye Sue along with me. It's going to be some nice time for her and me to be on our own for the afternoon and evening.

I went to Fayette County Lake on Tuesday with a good friend of mine, George Andrie, and one of his business associates, Dwight Abshir. If the name sounds familiar, George's dad, Big George, was a 6-time Pro Bowl selection who played for the Dallas Cowboys. We had a fantastic day, and our trip was a couple-fold.

First, I hadn't spent much time with George in a while, and we're old college buddies. We got to reminisce about the good times we had when we were team-tournament partners. Second, I got to see what the lake is like for when we have our "Day on the Lake Live" in December. Granted, it's difficult to do any real prefishing for a December day on the lake in October, but it did make for a good trip.

The fishing was pretty good. We fished from daylight until about 3 p.m., so we didn't put in a full day, and we caught about 40 fish, the biggest in the 6-pound range. (See the photo of Dwight.) Most of the fish were in the 2 1/2- to 4 1/2-pound range. They were fat chunks.

The grass over there is spotty. There are a few places that have decent grass, but there are a few places that I wish had more. That's one of the keys to Fayette — knowing where the grass is and isn't. Every single year it seems to grow in different places. Some places that have a lot of grass in them one year will have less the following. I don't have a reason for that, but it's important to know because the biggest concentrations of shallow fish will be in and around the grass. If you get into places that don't have grass, you're going to want to fish deeper. Most of the bass we caught yesterday were on topwaters, then we started catching them on Yum Money Minnows in 20 to 25 feet of water. I'll probably make another trip over there so I can figure out several patterns between now and then.

My goal is to be able to showcase several different techniques that work, and I can't wait to show everyone the potential that lake has.

The things George and I talked about were the fun we used to have back when we fished lots of local tournaments in the late '80s and early '90s. We used to put out a lot of brushpiles. I gave him the nickname "Brush Moose." He's a big guy, and the only one I know who could pick up a 400-pound tree and haul it down to the boat on his shoulder.

There are a bunch of stories that we didn't laugh about then that we can laugh about now. We always used to go plant brush on days we knew no one else would be out, and I remember one particular day in January when the high was 9 degrees. We were out cutting brush, hauling it to the lake, and at one point we got into the water to position the brush just right. I had forgotten about being so low on common sense at that point in my life.

He also reminded me of the time that we had a tree on the front of the boat and the waves were bad. The tree kept coming down towards us and I made him go on the front deck and lay on it. What we didn't know was that there were fire ants all in the tree. I think he had 200 bites that day.

Like I said, we can laugh about these things now.

Well, next week I'll be leaving for Lake Amistad for my LifeLine Fish with the Pros event. Before, it's always been held at the private lakes in East Texas, but this time we wanted to give it more of a tournament feel. I'll tell more about that next week. We'll be staying at a place called Indianhead Ranch, which is a 10,000-acre high-fenced ranch that has all sorts of African game on it. We'll fish all day, come back before dark, have a rifle competition, then load up in these open-air vehicles and tour the grounds looking at all the game. It should be a lot of fun. It's the same place we did the Major League Baseball event in the past.

I'll have some photos of that next week as well as an update on Lake Amistad. I feel much safer at Amistad right now than I do at Falcon, given all that's going on. The terrain is much different around Amistad; it would be more difficult for the pirates to conceal themselves. With the brush so thick on Falcon, it's much easier for bad guys to hide out and do things they shouldn't do. I hope that that gets resolved pretty soon so we can go fish it again and Zapata's economy can rebound.

Oct. 15, 2010
A new record!

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you'll recall that during each offseason, I'm after a personal best. Well, the time has come. I beat it! However, the record I broke wasn't my personal heaviest bass. The record I beat was the number of bass caught from my boat in a single day.

About two years ago, I held my LifeLine charity event, and we boated 269 bass that day. I never thought I'd beat that number, because that's a ridiculous amount of bass. During this year's charity event for Legacy Outfitters though, we had an unbelievable time on the water as we sacked 365 bass.

That's not a typo. We caught one bass for every day of the year. Mind you, that was with three (sometimes four) people fishing. I say sometimes four because Randy White, "The Manster," sat in the boat most of the day and told stories of Tom Landry and the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys. He's a good fisherman and would fish whenever there was a flurry, but for the most part, he'd sit and talk. That was really cool hearing his stories. He probably contributed 30 bass to our count.

A lot of the time when you're catching loads of bass, it's mostly dinks. That wasn't the case here. It was all 2- to 4-pounders, with 3 pounds being the average. They were all chunks, too. The biggest fish we caught was 6 1/2 pounds, and we had six heavier than 6 pounds. There were just a lot of good, quality fish. There were more double hookups than I could count, triple hookups weren't that uncommon, and we even had a number of quadruple hookups. You can pad your numbers pretty quick when you're counting by four.

This lake is about 360 acres, and I think it's been a while since anyone has shown them a lure. The water is clear — you can see abut 4 to 5 feet deep, and our most productive bait was a Yum Money Minnow rigged on a 1/2-ounce Revenge jighead. Our second most productive bait was a Bomber Fat Free Shad BD7, the deep runner.

These fish were on an outside weedline. We parked the boat in 30 feet and cast to 12. There are lots of different kinds of vegetation, and they were on the outside edge of it. By the end of the morning, we were renting Fat Free Shads to the other boat. When they're chewing like that, you can demand a pretty good premium for them!

Needless to say, everyone had a really good time on the trip. Obviously, when you catch that many in a morning, it's great. I say morning because our day was supposed to end at 3:30, but as the landowner was leaving, he told us to stay until dark if we wanted. By that time, we had 207 bass in the boat. He tossed us the keys and let us stay to fish even more. There were a few stretches where we went 70 in a row. These were massive schools of bass. If one pulled off, another one got it, and if he pulled it off, another one was there to pick it up. My hands hurt so badly, they're bleeding in three spots. I guess I should say they hurt so good.

Randy White was quick to tell me that if he needed someone to auction off that trip again he'd be happy to do it. This is the third year he's done that for us. He's a very giving person, and I appreciate his help.

The other two men who were fishing with me were Pat Curry, a successful local entrepreneur, and Charlie Rigney. They're not only great fishermen, but great guys. Before this trip, I'd never spent any time with either of these gentlemen, but I really believe that we became fast friends. We'll be spending more time together in the future.

On another note, this afternoon is the first open practice for the Baylor Lady Bears basketball team, so we're going to watch that. Then my girls have volleyball games tonight. They're at different schools, so Jimmye Sue is taking Jamie to hers and I'm taking Kristen to hers.

Tomorrow I'm going to Kilgore, Texas, to visit the Skeeter factory. I have a friend who is interested in buying a boat, and we're going to go up there to take a tour of the place. It's always good to go visit with the folks I've worked with at Skeeter for so many years. A lot of the processes in building a boat are the same now as when I started with the company, but there's always new technology and steps in the process that are added and tweaked. When you get to go and see firsthand the effort and quality that's put into building a Skeeter, it's pretty cool to be a part of it.

Oct. 8, 2010
A day on Fayette County Lake

If you haven't heard what's been going on down at Falcon, it isn't good. Supposedly a husband and wife were down there visiting and the husband was shot and killed by some Mexican pirates. We'll see how it shakes out. Because of this, our "Day on the Lake LIVE" that was scheduled for next month has been cancelled. We can't take that kind of chance. However, I'll still get to take you all fishing.

If we can't go to Falcon, there's hardly any place better to go than to where we've rescheduled. Fayette County Lake happens to be one of my favorite lakes. In fact, it was my favorite lake in the world before I started fishing Falcon. The chance of catching that 10- or 12-pounder isn't there like it is at Falcon, but it has a ton of quality fish in the 4- to 8-pound range. It'll make for a good show.

Fayette will give us an opportunity to fish a lot of patterns, from deep to shallow. It'll give us an opportunity to catch fish doing a lot of different things and showcase a lot of different techniques. I imagine a lot of you have a power plant lake near your house, and there are certain characteristics about them that apply to most others, so hopefully you can use the show to get better on your power plant lake. I'd love for you all to tag along as we have an exciting day of fishing. But, before we hit the lake we'll have a classroom session.

The afternoon before we hit Fayette County Lake I'll be hosting a Bassmaster University on stickworms, namely the Yum Dinger. I'll give a half-hour (or so) presentation telling you everything about them, and then we'll open it up for BASS Insiders to ask questions live. I'll answer them as soon as they get in. It should be a lot of fun for everyone. There will be more on that in my blog — as well as on Bassmaster.com — as that approaches.

My next fishing trip is going to be this Tuesday with Randy White, "The Manster" from the Doomsday Defense of the Dallas Cowboys. Two folks who will be joining us on the trip are the gentlemen who bought this trip at a charity auction that was held last month. I'm not at liberty to say where the private lake is, but I promise you our fun meter will be pegged. I've had the opportunity to fish this lake on four previous occasions and the worst day I've had out there was fantastic. Our catch usually numbers in the hundreds. I will certainly have some photos and give you a rundown on the baits and patterns we used. But this is like cheating. You don't really need to figure out a pattern like you do on Old Hickory, for example. If you can drop something in the water with a hook on it, it'll get bit. I'm waiting with great anticipation for this trip.

Plus, it'll be cool to spend more time around Randy White. I'll be questioning him heavily about his thoughts on the Cowboys' problems this year and what needs to happen to turn their season around. On that note, I'm overjoyed that the Rangers have taken the lead in the American League Divisional Series over Tampa Bay. I never thought I'd say this, but the Rangers may have a chance to win a pennant this year. Ranger fans need to get the claw and antlers out!

On another note, my Dallas Seminary event went fantastic. That, too, was on some great private lakes. The problem with having 15 people on a small lake is that as the day wears on, it gets tougher. The second day is even harder. They feel the pressure after about a day. So on day two, I switched gears completely and brought the long poles out and went bluegill fishing.

Between the guys I was fishing with and me, we caught about 100 bluegill! Some of them were as big as both of your hands put together and weighed a pound, It was a lot of fun and I got to bring a mess of bluegill home to eat. I can't wait to get the fryer going here in a few days.

There's something therapeutic about watching a cork go under. When you rear back on these big bull bluegill, they dig and dig and dig! It makes me glad that bass aren't as strong as bluegill because you'd never get a 5-pounder to the boat. The bass fishing was fun, but the bluegill fishing was great too.

The best thing, though, was the company. I was in the company of good, quality men and we all shared good fishing, friendship and fellowship. Like I said before, iron sharpens iron. These are successful men who understand that they're not living just for themselves but for God.

Oct. 1, 2010
Live from Falcon, for real

I'm down at the lake house right now preparing to host my Dallas Theological Seminary hospitality event. What we're doing over the weekend is hosting some of the best donors the seminary has. They're folks who give some of the most generous gifts. It's a way of saying "thank you" to these folks.

My role is simple: I take 'em fishing! I get a few friends down here, and we take the dozen or so men out on some private lakes. Of course, we eat more than should ever be allowed. It's kind of like being in deer camp, except it's fishing. The other thing about it is that it's like a mini-men's retreat. The seminary sends a couple professors down — who love to fish — and a couple times a day we have an hour-long devotional. It's not only a fun time, it's also a spiritually uplifting time that I'm really looking forward to.

These are all high-caliber men. Not only financially, but in character and integrity. Iron sharpens iron. It's good for men to be around other men who live their lives as good role models and as good examples of what it means to live you life as Christ would have you do. There will also be an ex-NFL player there.

Those of you who remember when the University of Houston was in its prime may remember David Klingler. I think he was second in the running for the Heisman, and he had a short stint in the NFL after college. Now, though, he's a professor at Dallas Seminary. He's going to be one of our speakers down here. I really look forward to meeting him and fishing with him. It's another example of the caliber of men who will be around here. I'll report more on this next week.

I mentioned last time that I was planning another trip to Falcon and that I wanted to take you along. While that's true, it won't be this trip. I'll report back with some photos and a full report, but the trip after this one is going to be very special.

On November 3rd (tentatively), I'll be shooting "A Day on the Lake LIVE" with the BASS Insider crew. If you've seen Terry Scroggins' show on Orange Lake or Chris Lane's on Guntersville (click here), you're familiar with the format. If you're not, here's how it's going to work.

We'll be out there from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST catching fish on the world-famous Falcon Lake. However, it gets even cooler. BASS Insiders will be able to ask questions to me live, and I'll answer them on the spot. I'm really looking forward to it. This upcoming trip that I'm leaving for on Monday is a fish finding trip for the "Day on the Lake." This is also a chance for me to "work out."

I went into town the other day for a consultation with a good friend of mine. He's trying to plan out some specific things that will help me not just be in shape but be in shape to fish. One of the recommendations that Neil Menske, my physical therapist, had was to go fishing. He said that the best way to get in shape for fishing is to actually fish. A lot. I interpreted this advice to mean that I should "go to Falcon more often." You can't argue with your doctor, can you? I'll have some big fish stories by next week's blog.

Going back to the football theme, I'll be fishing with Randy White, "The Manster," this October again. Lots of good things coming up!

One other thing — we went to the Rangers game the other day (they swept the NL West) and saw a great ball game. It was a real heart-stopper. They won at the 11th hour. It's great to be a Rangers fan once again!

Sept. 24, 2010
Who loves puppies?

Well, we took our yellow lab Grace down to Houston to get her bred, but I don't think we were successful. She and her "boyfriend" were alone for a couple of hours, but I don't know if we have concrete evidence of puppies on the way. Guess we'll wait and see. Either way, it wasn't a wasted day.

While there, I got to see my friend Hank, who is the breeder we got Grace from in the first place. We got to catch up with him and his wife. It's good to be around someone who knows more about dogs than I do. I picked up a few tips to use in training my dogs. Changing gears, something horrible happened on the way home.

We were on the highway, when I happened to look in the rearview mirror and saw a car airborne behind me. It was the beginning of a terrible accident. The car had flown over the median, and landed in my lane about a hundred yards behind me. Luckily, it wasn't 100 yards in front. Late last night we learned that the gentleman who was driving the errant car was killed. We stopped and helped all that we could, but there was nothing we could do. It was a sobering moment.

It reminded me how fleeting life is. Things can be going perfectly one moment, then the next it's over. There's no assurance on this Earth. It reinforced my gratefulness for my faith in the Lord and made me thankful that I'm ready at any moment, because we never know when we're going to be called out of this world.

On another note, I get to do something really cool on Monday. I'm going to be addressing a group of Cub Scouts. I've spoken with this group before. I love getting to engage children in small groups like this, especially boys who love the outdoors. There will be 10 or 12 boys in the group; I'll take some rods, reels and lures, and we'll practice tying knots. A couple of these boys have fished before, but some have never done it. I hope that it'll excite them enough so they'll want to go learn more and catch their first fish. I want to expand the knowledge of those who have fished. Before I do that, though, I'll be heading to east Texas.

I'm going to prepare for one of my charity events that benefits the Dallas Theological Seminary. The event is next weekend, and it's a lot of fun. For now, I'm just going to change the line on all the reels, clean and charge the boats and take care of some other maintenance issues that creep up from lack of use. These little boats we'll be using don't get used as much as my Skeeter does, so the cobwebs can build up. More on that next week.

Oh, one other thing. This past Wednesday I went to the Waco Optimist Club. It was under slightly different circumstances, though. I've been there a number of times as a speaker, but this time I went as a guest because there was a speaker there I really wanted to hear. It was the Baylor men's basketball coach, Scott Drew. He just had an amazing season this past year. In the modern era, it was Baylor's first Elite 8 appearance. He reflected on that season but also looked forward to next year. It made me excited for basketball season. I got to catch up with Coach Drew for about 15 minutes to talk fishing. That was pretty well my week — busy as usual, but I try to stay busy.

I like finding ways to plug in and look for opportunities to connect to other people. I like to think that God can use me in other people's lives. I'm constantly thankful for the people that He's put in my life. Not only my immediate family, but close friends, too. I've had some pretty good role models in my life. It seems like the longer I live, the more I realize the most important things in life aren't about fishing, they're about the people who are in your life.

Finally, I think I've got some plans for my next Falcon trip. I think I may be able to take you along. Stay tuned for more details!

Sept. 17, 2010
Remembering 9/11

I woke up this past Saturday morning, and I turned the TV on to Fox News like I always do without even thinking that it was September 11. They were replaying footage of the actual terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings. It was almost like being in a dream. It catapulted me back into time as I watched those events again.

I immediately remembered watching them live back then, and nine years later, I still felt tears well up in my eyes watching that tragedy. That's something that I hope we never forget as a nation.

My September 11, 2001, was similar to my parents' December 7, 1941. Like my memory of September 11, my parents have vivid memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even though they were children, they remember exactly what they were doing.

On September 1, 2001, I was actually in New York. I had my family with me. I had been prefishing for a BASS event on the Hudson River. After practice, I left my boat and truck at the Hudson River and Jimmye Sue and the kids and I got on a train and took a family vacation to New York City.

We did all the typical things, like see a Broadway show, go to Wall Street, go to the Statue of Liberty, and of course we went to see the Twin Towers. Though we didn't go inside, we were directly beneath them on the sidewalk. The kids — and I — were in awe looking up at those things. They were marvels of design and achievement and symbols of our nation. I got chills looking up at them. Then we flew home with the intent of returning for the tournament, but September 11 changed all that.

I was driving home from a Bible study that Tuesday morning. I turned the radio on in the car and heard a news flash that a plane had flown into one of the towers. I didn't think much of it; after all, it was probably a Cessna that had a bad accident. However, when I got home, I turned the TV on in time to see the second plane hit the other tower. I realized it was a much more serious situation.

The tournament was cancelled, but my boat and truck were still in New York. All air traffic around the country was cancelled, so I had to figure something out. Luckily, I had a friend who was in New York for the FLW Championship (which was also canceled). He was stranded and couldn't get a ride home. He ended up going to the Hudson River, picking up my boat and truck and giving a few buddies a ride home on the way to Texas.

I'll never forget sitting there with my kids, watching those planes fly into those buildings. Because we were there a week before, it made an impression on them as well as me.

Watching those events again this past Saturday really made my heart go out to the families of the victims. It gave me a great sense of patriotism and pride in our country. We can never forget what happened that day. It changed all of our lives.

On another note, both of my girls are playing volleyball. Jamie is on the A and B teams at Live Oak. It's a private school nearby that allows home-schooled kids to play on their sports teams. Kristen in on the high school team. They're really enjoying getting to participate in sports this year, and I think they're both going to play basketball once volleyball is over.

I've been spending a lot of my evenings watching the Texas Rangers. As Rangers fans, we haven't had very many years to get excited about lately. I'm anticipating that they'll win their division and be playoff bound. Baylor is playing TCU this week, too. Though they have a much-improved team this year, I don't know if they can take down the No. 5 team in the nation. We need a miracle on the Brazos!

I've also spent a lot of time trading recently. The stock market has been on a tear, so it's been fun seeing it go in a green direction instead of a red direction. It made what I do as a trader easy.

I'm already planning my next trip to Falcon. I don't have a date set, but the wheels are turning. I'm still on my quest for my personal best bass, and determined to make my 11 1/2 record fall. Stay tuned!

September 10, 2010
Dogs, doves and a bad pun

The opening of dove season was a blast (excuse the pun)! We ended up hunting in a different place than expected, though.

We did go to Coleman, Texas, to Jimmye Sue's folks' house, and we usually hunt their ranch nearby, but we saw a grand total of two doves. That's it. However, as soon as we headed back toward the house, there were white-winged doves all over the place! They prefer to be near cities and towns. Fortunately, the house is just outside the city limits, so it's legal to hunt. We waited for them to go over on the way to water and got them coming and going. There were huge flocks, some with 50 or more birds. I'd like to say that I got my limit in 15 shots, but that wasn't the case this year.

Now, I consider myself a pretty fair shot, but I guess I hadn't shaken off all the rust. It took me two whole boxes of shells and an hour to fill out my limit. But, I got it done, and it was lots of fun. My daughter Jamie also got to shoot at a few. She didn't kill any, but she knocked some feathers off.

Grace, our two-year-old lab, did a fantastic job. This year, she got to the point that she'd look to the sky when I pointed my gun. Last year I'd shoot and I'd have to send her like we do with the dummy, but this year she realized it was an animal that was falling out of the sky. Also, when I missed, I swear she gave me a dirty look!

Another neat thing about hunting in the backyard was that I got to hunt Sandy, our older lab. The terrain is a little less rugged than the ranch, so I let her out for a bit. I learned that since she's missed the past few seasons, she's become a little ornery. She knows she's old enough that she won't get in trouble, so she does what she wants, like break on the shot. I had to put Grace in the house when I was hunting Sandy so she didn't pick up any bad habits. Despite that, it was great to see her at it again.

While we were there, I started to get things ready for deer season. While I was filling the feeders with corn, I saw 25 deer on the property, which is encouraging.

I told you last time that Little Alton was practicing for the Bass Champs on O.H. Ivie. He went with his partner, but it was tough. They figured a pattern out and got a limit each day, but it was a little shy of their goal of 20 pounds. Under those conditions, 20 would have been good. The days they were there were slick calm, and Ivie is somewhat of a clear water lake, so it was tough. Regardless, they're excited about it, and I think they can do well if Alton sticks to his strengths.

He's a shallow-water fisherman, and the advice I gave him is to find some fish that intersect with his strength. I told him to not go back and read things about past patterns because that can taint his opinion of the lake and lead to bad things. He needs to fish his own game, and he'll be OK. The conditions should be improved by the tournament, anyway.

One other thing: It's time to start breeding Grace. She's in heat, and we've got a boyfriend picked out for her. The girls are excited about puppies already. But that will probably change once the messes and clean-ups start. It should be interesting.

September 7, 2010
Falcon giants!

Well, our most recent trip to Lake Falcon was a blast. I went with a buddy, Bryan Baker. The water is still way up, so like the last trip, this was all about the bushes and wood. We tried the ledges and dropoffs to no avail. There were several hot, slick days, but one day with 30-mile-per-hour winds.

I don't care where you go in the country; when the wind is blowing like that, the bass will eat a spinnerbait. Falcon is no exception. I kept trying to force the flipping bite into the wood, but when Bryan nailed three in a row, I had to tie on a Booyah spinnerbait. We then hit a stretch where not a second went by when someone wasn't hooked up. It was unreal.

We figured out that they were suspended in the trees, because flipping plastics sent the bait right below them. You couldn't fish it slow enough to make it effective. They were looking up to feed, and the spinnerbait was always in just the right place over those trees.

We caught them up to 7 pounds on spinnerbaits, with a lot in the 2- to 4-pound range. That was a really fun bite to be on. On our last day, it went back to being slick calm. As expected, the spinnerbait bite died, but that didn't stop us from trying it first thing in the morning. It didn't work, so it was back to the soft plastics. The ticket there was a Yum Dinger and a Yum Wooly Hawg Tail. Once we figured that out, we were calling our shots.

They were still in the tops of the brush because we tried letting the bait settle on the bottom, but it never got bit there. It was when we were reeling it back up that they'd tag it. It's actually easier to get them out of the bushes this way because you don't have to thread the bait all the way down through the tree and then get them back up again.

You could just look at a point and see the clump of bushes where there would be a nice bass. It was usually a stretch of five or six bushes that held the good ones.

The photo is of Bryan with a 9 1/2-pounder. Our biggest was in the 10-pound range.

In two and a half days of fishing, we probably caught 160 or so fish. It was incredible. We had four in the 9-pound range. If you're wondering, I didn't get my personal best. I'm still after it, though. My best shot is going to be once the water recedes a bit — maybe 3 or 4 feet — so the bass have to start going to places like dropoffs and points. If they're there, my chances will go up dramatically. That said, Falcon is as predictable as it's ever going to be, because everything you're catching them on is visible to the naked eye. If you go now, it should be the trip of a lifetime.

On another note, we'll spend the weekend in Coleman, Texas, with Jimmye Sue's family. Little Alton is taking the Skeeter FX because he's practicing for the Bass Champs Championship in October, and this will be his last chance to practice because of school obligations. It's on O.H. Ivie, about 30 minutes away.

The dogs are all ramped up for the trip because they know what's going to happen: dove hunting. I love to hunt, but for me, working with the dogs is more enjoyable than shooting the birds. Seeing them enjoy their work and doing what they were bred to do is both thrilling and rewarding. I can't wait to get a cooler of water, take a seat and wait for some birds to fly over. However, a lot of this is dependent on the rainfall.

At the beginning of dove season, we usually get some rain here in central Texas. Dry spells are best because the birds are more easily patterned. When there's water everywhere, they scatter more and are harder to find. It's just like in bass fishing. You have to take into account the conditions and then determine what they're doing, be it a bass, deer or dove. Regardless of the rain, I can't wait to get out there with the dogs and let them work.

I'll give you all a full dove hunting report in the next installment. I hope everyone had a happy Labor Day. Stay tuned!

August 27, 2010
Only a few days to go!

I'm looking forward to Falcon so much I can't see straight. We're leaving Sunday and probably staying through Wednesday, so by the next blog I'll have a fishing report for everybody.

The water was about a foot low a few days ago, but now it's back to 1 1/2 feet high again. That's not indicative of rainfall; that's just how much they're adjusting the dam flow between Falcon and Amistad. With just that little bit of fluctuation, I expect there to be a tremendous topwater bite. I plan on having some stories of blowups and fish I didn't hook. In the meantime, it's time to do some hunting.

My and Little Alton's hunting and fishing licenses expire soon, so as soon as he gets out of class at Baylor, we're going to go get new ones. We'll get some shells for dove season, which opens the first of next month. We're not the only ones who are getting ready for dove season, though.

As I was getting the shotguns out, the dogs started going berserk! It's amazing how much they can tell just from your actions. All I had to do was open the gun safe — which I do frequently, so that didn't do anything special. When I pulled out the bag with the shotguns, they went nuts. They're very intuitive and observant. Poor Sandy, she's 10 and hasn't hunted in two years. It's kind of sad, because I don't want to take her hunting due to her age, but she really wants to go. It's been a hard transition from a hunting dog to a pet. It's almost heartbreaking watching her because she thinks she's fixing to go hunt. It kills her not to go, but it would physically kill her to go.

Grace, our younger pup, is still figuring things out, but she's going to be an excellent hunting dog. We're going skeet shooting this afternoon to shake the rust off.

I've also been involved in the planning process for two of the charity events I'm a part of: LifeLine Youth and Family Services and another for Dallas Theological Seminary. I'm looking forward to both of those and getting the logistics planned out.

Next week I'll have a full Falcon fishing report and several photos. If all goes as planned, I'll have a new personal best to tell you all about!

August 20, 2010
Private lake fun

This past week I got to spend some time over in east Texas on a private lake that I have a vested interest in; it was one of the lakes I grew up fishing. We — I and my friend Robert Mills along with his son, Cameron — fished about two hours on Saturday morning, and we caught about 30 bass. It was really an interesting day because of those 30, about 29 of them were in the first hour. It went from getting bit every cast to we couldn't get a strike! It was kind of weird, but a lot of fun.

Since Little Alton wasn't there, I got to watch Robert and Cameron bond on the water. It was great seeing them catching bass and having a good time with one another. It's been really neat seeing Cameron progress from catching bluegill with red wigglers, to catching crappie, to becoming a very accomplished bass fisherman. There's no wrong way to spend time with your kids on the water, and I want to challenge all the parents out there to take your kids fishing. If you do already, do it more. It isn't all about catching fish, but that time spent out there. Being out there is about creating those memories that will last for both of your lifetimes.

Anyhow, a few years ago the largemouth bass virus came through and wiped everything out in these lakes. We've started from ground zero rebuilding that fishery. We have some real good management policies down there, and the fishing is rebounding. The fish that Cameron is holding is almost 4 pounds, so that's an encouraging sign, considering we restocked the lake less than two years ago. It ate a Bomber BD4 Fat Free Shad.

When we restocked them, we put Tiger bass in there. Tiger bass are a specialty breed that Auburn University breeds. They're first-generation offspring of a pure-bred Florida-strain bass and pure-bred Northern-strain largemouth. When they're little, they feed them pellets. This makes them extremely aggressive. Also, genetically, they come from large parents. All the moms were 12 pounds or bigger. It's been really fun playing with the fishery to try and grow big fish. We're doing things like putting additional fish feeders on the lake. I think we have 11 feeders on the 140-acre lake. We've also put in an aeration system so when we have long droughts they'll have oxygen.

We're pouring the shad to them, as well as bream. We have a bream pound where we can raise bream on-site. There are tilapia in the bream pond right now. However, in that part of northeast Texas, tilapia don't survive the winter. But they're very prolific. In April, we put 500 in and about 20,000 should come out in September. As the water gets colder, the tilapia slow down and they're easy for the bass to catch and provide a nice caloric treat to gorge on.

Our goal is to have some really big fish down there in just a few years, and I think we're on the right path.

I'm having a major case of Falcon anticipation right now. We're still a week away but to me, one of the best parts of planning a trip is the anticipation. Especially to a place like Falcon.

I'm taking two of my buddies from church down there with me, and I've given them a shopping list. Remember, I'm renewing my quest for my biggest bass ever. I'm tired of saying that my best is 11 1/2. There are a lot of guys who have caught fish bigger than that, and as a pro, you'd expect me to have a teenager in there somewhere! We'll see about that this year.

My No. 1 bait down there is a Fat Free Shad in Citrus Sparkle and Texas Red, so I'm having them get a bunch of those. You can lose them pretty easily in the tree rows.

The other thing we're loading up on is soft plastics. Loading up on plastics for Falcon is different than doing it for any other lake. You have to get a lot more. When you get around fish, and figure out what they're biting, you'll go through 10 packs of a bait per day, per person. I'm having them get Mighty Bugs and Wooly Hawg Tails in green pumpkin and black neon. The other thing I'm having them get is One Knocker Spooks in Foxy Momma. There is a great early morning topwater bite down there right now because the lake is full. It's probably not a way to get a personal best, but for fish up to 7 pounds, you can get some heart-stopping strikes on the Spook.

What I'm doing is trying to match the prey that lives there. There are three different food sources down there: shad, tilapia and crawfish. The shad are becoming more prevalent, but the crawfish are my favorite. Usually when you're throwing soft plastics, crawfish are what you're trying to match. These are some of the biggest crawfish you've ever seen, too. Some of the locals claim that they're a different species altogether, but I'm not sure. I'd like to find out from someone who knows. They get up to 8 inches long and look like they belong in a Red Lobster tank! They're so big that you catch 'em on your lures. If you're throwing a Wooly Hawg Tail and are getting bites but are missing them, look closely at your bait and you'll see it's missing pieces. Next cast, gently pull it up and there will be a giant crawfish on. Once you get one of those big dogs in the boat, it can be scary because they're so big. They're a very dark green or black with some red and orange trim around them. That's why I like the colors I mentioned.

For the plastics and topwater, we spool up with 65-pound braid, and for the Fat Free Shad, we use 20-pound-test fluorocarbon. We use such heavy line because the cover is so heavy there.

In other news, Little Alton is starting his college routine. He's at Welcome Week where all the freshmen meet and learn all the school traditions. He is overjoyed about the prospects of now fishing from our new Skeeter FX rather than the Skeeter 20i, which is now sold and gone. When he read my column last week, he was overwhelmed and couldn't believe it. He's super-excited about it.

Next week we'll get fully ramped up for Falcon as I go for a 12, though an 11-9 will suffice. Hopefully I can get into the mindset of a big bass fisherman and out of the tournament mindset.

August 13, 2010
Bad news, little Alton...

Before I get to the bad news, let me get some things out of the way.

Well, the talk that I gave at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center last week went really well. It was a lot of fun and I learned a bunch of good stuff. It was a different forum than I was expecting, too.

It was a group of anglers, biologists and politicians getting together to promote fisheries management and conservation efforts. It was very well received by all parties. Sometimes there can be frustrations between these three groups as their key interests don't always align. But this went really well and it was a huge success.

We talked of everything from increasing habitat for bass to aquatic plant management to stocking efforts to getting youth involved in all aspects of the sport. I think there is a lot of potential for a lot of good to come from it. Hopefully this kind of meeting will catch on.

Now for the bad news. Little Alton, I've got to sell your boat.

This is for real. It's happening. I'm sorry.

But, there is an upswing. Since your 20i will be gone, you'll be upgrading to my FX with the Yamaha VMax SHO motor.

The main reasons I'm doing this is because I always want my children to know that we, as their parents, will always reward good decisions. Lately I've seen him make some really good choices in his life. He's got good friends, and is making good choices in both moral and spiritual parts of life. I chalk that up to the fact that he has a lot of his mother in him!

Secondarily, this is the last boat he'll ever get from dear ol' dad. There's never been a more reliable engine than that SHO or a better fishing platform than the FX. I hope it serves him well through his Baylor career and as he starts out in tournament fishing.

Oh, and Alton, I don't have a new boat yet so we'll have to share the FX for a bit. Hope that works for you.

I don't know if you all recall, but BASS did a story on Little Alton and I back when he turned 12 and I gave him his first boat. It was the same boat that my parents gave me when I turned 12. Check out the picture. It's an old Gamefisher bathtub-style boat. I think it's a 1973 or 1974 model. When I gave it to him I put a brand new 25-horse motor on it because the old one didn't run. We now keep it down at a private lake in east Texas. It's what I learned to fish from and it's what he learned to fish from. I see this FX deal as a continuation of that legacy. I'm just as excited today as I was when he turned 12 when I gave him the keys to that old Gamefisher.

Two other things: I'm going to a private lake later today to fish, and secondly, I'm in the planning stage of my second trip of the year to Falcon Lake. It's not going to happen until the very end of this month, but I'll let everyone know more about that as it gets closer. While I'm there, I'm going to renew my quest to catch my personal best bass. I'll be back next week to let you all know about Alton's reaction to getting his new boat and final details about the next Falcon trip!

Oh, one other thing, we're considering breeding Grace, our youngest dog, with another championship bloodline dog as we're getting ramped up for bird season. I'll get back with you all on that later.

August 6, 2010
On Falcon and KVD

I've decided that when there's a postseason going on and you're not in it, going to Lake Falcon is a good way to spend a few days. It helps to take out your frustration.

I want to say kudos to KVD and a heartfelt "I've-been-there-before" to Skeet. You've got to take your hat off to both of those guys. KVD has been getting it done when it has to get done, and Skeet had the most amazing season I can ever remember. It was frustrating not being there myself.

Little Alton and I headed down to Falcon for our first trip of the offseason. It's also our first trip since the lake has been re-opened from the flooding left by hurricane Alex. The lake was about 2 feet high most of the time we were there, which is about where it's still at. I've never seen it at full pool before; it's a much different lake. It's in south Texas' flat, brush country and high water really increases the size of the lake. Where you're used to seeing islands, there's nothing. It's normally between 10 and 20 feet low, and you see big trees standing out in the water. This time, there was none of that. It's a big, open lake with brush all around the shoreline.

The high water makes it easier to maneuver and run around on than any other time, and it made the fishing pretty easy, too. Basically what you have is that rim of brush near the shore. It looks like you're fishing the outside bushes, but you're not; they extend out into the water behind you. It's a little deceiving. When you think you've got 'em figured out on an outside bush pattern, there are more behind you.

The submerged trees down there are 12-14 feet tall, and we were flipping down into the farthest out trees. We found most of our bugger fish there. You can catch fish all the way up on the bank, and we were catching about 50 a day; so it was pretty good, but the bigger ones were out in that 10-14 foot range. They'd be out in the bushes early, and in the middle of the day they'd be in the middle of the tree. You'd have to thread that Yum Wooly Hawg Tail through the top of the tree. Even if you got a 4-pounder to bite, you're not going to get him out through 14 feet of tree.

The biggest fish we caught down there was the 9-pounder you see, and Little A had one that was close to nine. In the two days we fished, we had six heavier than seven, and both of us got railroaded. You get that every time you go to Falcon. It seems you've always got a story of one that has a hold of you, you didn't have him. That happened to both of us.

I pitched next to a little bush with a Mighty Bug and I felt the line go 'tick.' I had just caught a few small fish, so I didn't think much of it. When I set the hook, that thing took off the other direction! He was in open water, too. I never saw the fish. Sometimes you just want to see the fish, even if you lose him so you get an idea of how big it might have been. But, this one was too strong. I have no idea how big it was, but I had caught a 9-pounder about 30 minutes before that and it pulled hard, but nothing like this thing did. I could feel the head shaking down there and I was expecting to see this behemoth come up, but it pulled off.

Little Alton had one that grabbed his Wooly Hawg Tail, and when he set the hook, the fish swam under a barb wire fence. It came up on the other side of the fence. I think it was a 10. The line was cut on the fence, of course.

That's one of the great things about going to this place. Every time you go, you have a story of a huge one that got away. You remember those stories just as much as you remember the 9-pounder you caught.

I also talked to a bunch of folks down there about the piracy issues, and there haven't been any issues in several months. Rumor has it that those issues were taken care of, if you know what I mean. The other drug cartels didn't like the extra law enforcement attention those incidents drew. That's rumor, now, but that's what the folks are saying. It seemed very safe to me on the water. You've just got to be vigilant. If you see a boat approaching on the Mexican side, it makes sense to pull the trolling motor up and leave. We didn't see anything out of the ordinary, had a great time and ate some of the best Mexican food in the world.

On another note, tomorrow I'm speaking at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas. I'm looking forward to that. On Sunday, I'll be teaching Sunday school. It should be a great weekend!

July 30, 2010
Me? In movies?

Last night we saw the Texas Rangers stomp the Oakland Athletics 7-4 and retain their lead in the AL West. The A's were — and still are — in second place. I've got a friend who has season tickets, and he was nice enough to let us use them in his absence last night. Little Alton was with me along with his good buddy Tim Weatherly and his brother. Tim wants everyone to know that he and Little A are both single. Imagine that!

A really cool thing happened while we were there, too.

During the 7th inning stretch, six people in my section lined up and asked for my autograph right there in the ballpark. Then I could hear others around me begin to ask, "Who is that guy? Is he a movie star?" Several of them came to get my autograph too, just so they wouldn't miss out on anything. They didn't have a clue who I was! Winning the Classic really does make you more recognizable, no matter where you are.

This past weekend we went over to some private lakes in east Texas and had a really good time, but it didn't start out all that great. I went into the boathouse to get a fish basket and when I went out to the dock to hang it over, out come wasps to sting me and the dog! However, things definitely went uphill from there.

We fished for a little more than an hour and caught 20, with the biggest about 4 1/2. Nothing giant, but a lot of quality 2- to 4-pound bass. We caught most cranking and a few on a ribbontail worm. They were starting to school a little bit, so that was fun.

We also saw a bunch of alligators, which is a cool thing for the girls. Little Alton and I see a bunch of them, but my daughter and her friends enjoyed it. They're really making a comeback over there. We saw 16 or so, and it was really cool watching them. It's kind of a novelty. They're fun to watch. However, the real excitement begins in a week or so.

They're finally opening Lake Falcon back up. Tuesday morning at 8:30. The Coast Guard is the one who shut it down. That really hurt a lot of local businesses. Zapata thrives on the fishing community. When the lake is closed, the economy comes to a screeching halt. Everyone's really excited about it re-opening.

I'm planning a trip next week, so hopefully I'll have a report for everyone. It'll be new territory for me as I've never fished it at full pool. I'll give everyone an update on the state of the lake and the fishing in the next blog. I can't wait to get down there. It's what I've wanted to do most this offseason.

July 16, 2010
Live from ICAST

Well, I'd love to say that getting out to Las Vegas has been problem-free, but that's just not the case. It started with a delay at the airport. I like to fly, but I really don't like airports. I understand that the security measures are necessary but it's just a real pain. I got to spend a little extra time in one of my least favorite places. Oh well, at least I made it.

However, once I got to Vegas, I needed to get a cab to get to the hotel but the line to get one was an hour long. It was incredible. There were about 30 cabs a minute coming in, yet the line to get one was an hour long. I was amazed. You hear about how bad the economy and everything is, but I had to second guess that after seeing this and getting to the show floor.

When I got to the convention center, the first thing I noticed was a pick up on the business end of our industry. That's really refreshing. I'm here in the Ardent reels booth, and you can see in the picture what I've spent most of my time doing. That's Chester Moore, editor of Texas Fish & Game interviewing me. There is a media presence here like I've never seen. I don't remember it ever being this prevalent. I guess a lot of it can be attributed to a media revolution on the Web. There are so many outlets from big Web sites to small ones, and major publications to ones you've never heard of.

Yesterday I'd be doing an interview with someone about Ardent's new products and while I was doing that, there'd be two or three other groups waiting for the same thing. That's the biggest change I've noticed. It seems like there's more folks covering the show now than ever before. It's a sign that ICAST is an important part of our industry.

For a lot of companies, this is their biggest show of the year. The other big show is the Bassmaster Classic but that's a consumer show. At ICAST, there are representatives from the largest tackle buyers in the world to the little guy who sells a few things on his Web site. They're all here. It's been a lot of fun seeing the excitement in the air. Now for the cool stuff.

One of the neatest things was at the Ardent booth. It actually won a Best of ICAST award. It's a combo with a Fishouflage camo-wrapped C400 reel on a rod. Coloring products is a trend that we're seeing more and more, especially with rods. However, a lot of them are decorative and pretty, but when you see this one, you think of the outdoors. Check it out at www.ardentoutdoors.com.

I'll tell you something else that I really liked, the new square-billed XCalibur crankbaits. They come in three sizes, and they're all going to be fish-catching machines. Another thing is a new color that's coming out. I have been recommending this color for a while, and I didn't know it was coming out until yesterday. It's called smallmouth green. It's the color of a smallie. I have gone and gotten lures custom painted this color before, so I've always considered it my secret.

YUM has got some a new product that I'm pretty excited about, too. It's called the Salleemander, and it's a swimming lizard. The legs and the tail have mini swimming feet on them like a Money Craw. In the water, this thing has a cool swimming action. It's got a different action than any other soft plastic lizard.

I participated in the Kistler Rods press conference, and I got to meet Gary Loomis. He's arguably the biggest rod building legend in the history of the sport. I'd never met him in person; I only knew him from his reputation. Something cool that he announced was that all the Kistler blanks will be made right here in the United States. Kistler has re-tooled, and everything is made here in the U.S. Their new Z-Bone rods are phenomenal as well. Hearing Gary explain the technology behind them blew my mind. They are the most advanced rod blanks on the planet, and I feel privileged to have fished with them for the past year.

I consider myself pretty hard on equipment but I haven't broken one yet. They're also superlight and sensitive. Not to mention, they're completely customizable. All you have to do is go to Kistler's Web site, and you can choose your preferred handle, action, length and other options for a custom stick. It gives us — as fishermen — more control. It's really cool and should become the industry standard.

This ICAST has been a blast, but it's also pretty short because I have to hop on a plane this afternoon to head back to Texas. Maybe I'll finally get back on the water in the next week or so.

Oh, and I did end up getting an iPad. It's something else. It's a nice go-between a phone and a computer, and I'd recommend them to anyone who has even considered it.

For just a few bucks you can make the iPad a useful tool for fishing. A few dollars gets Navionics' HotMaps for any part of the country. A few years ago I don't think we could've envisioned the kind of technology we now have on bass boats, and I think the same will be true in another 10 years. Each year, it's typically at ICAST that these things roll out.

I'm excited for next year already.

July 9, 2010
It's been awhile

I haven't been fishing since the season's been over, and I'm really feeling the need to get on the water. This may be the longest period I can remember that I haven't been fishing. I think it's been something like three weeks. I was planning on going to Falcon soon, but that's been washed out. Literally.

If you've seen the news, there are huge floods around Laredo, Texas. All that water is going into Lake Falcon. Like I said last week, Falcon is one of those lakes that gets worse as the water rises. The shoreline brush is too thick to get into, and that's where the fish go when the water is up. I think these floods will have it messed up for a while. I am still planning a trip down there, but I'm going to wait until these floods settle down and the water level stabilizes. One thing this'll give me a chance to do is fish a new Lake Falcon. I've never fished it when it is full.

Last year I didn't get to go until the water starting coming back down. The high water there will give me a chance to explore some new areas that I couldn't access before. So that'll be fun. In the meantime, I've got to make other fishing plans.

I'll probably resort to fishing private waters here in a little bit. I've got some friends around here that I need to take out. When you're taking people out, you really want to put them on a sure thing, so private waters are the best way to do that. I've been real fortunate and have access to some really good ponds. In fact, Saturday, August 7, I'll be speaking at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas, on private lakes.

It's a banquet for anglers, landowners, property association owners or anyone who has a pond on their land or wants to learn a thing or two about conservation. There will be biologists speaking as well as folks from the Fisheries Center. It'll be a full day deal, and I'll be speaking at the dinner that night. It's open to anyone who wants to attend. Registration costs $15 and it gets you lunch and dinner. Plus, it goes to a good cause.

The Fisheries Center does a lot of good things. Besides the ShareLunker Program, they have done more with introducing kids to fishing to the sport than anyone else I know. They spent several million dollars on an educational building, and it's first-rate. Thousands of kids come through their program each year, and there are facilities on the property where a lot of kids catch their first fish. It's a really great cause. Trying to figure out how to make our sport grow has been a challenge for years, and the Freshwater Fisheries Center has found some innovative ways to move the needle in the right direction.

Next week is ICAST, and I'm getting really excited. I'll be there for Ardent reels but I will certainly take time to do some reconnaissance while I'm there. I'm always looking for that next new thing. I want to be on the leading edge of new product innovations, be it a new lure, rod or what have you. It'll be fun seeing what folks come up with.

Next week I'll share with you all some of my favorite things when I'm there.

Today, however, I'm having lunch with one of the pastors from my church to reconnect with him. He's a relatively new assistant pastor, and I haven't really had a good chance to get to know him so I'm looking forward to that. I want to get back into serving the Lord and ministry this offseason since it's longer than usual. It can be challenging to keep up with things on the home front while you're on the road, so I'm going to take advantage of this time off.

Oh, another thing I've been doing since the season ended is spend time with my dogs, especially my 2-year-old puppy Grace. It's almost dove season and I'm working with her 15 minutes a day to get her in shape for that. It's amazing how much she retains when I'm fishing and can't work with her, and how quickly she gets back into it. I love to bird hunt. But, for me it's as much as about the experience with the dog as it is shooting the birds. There's a special bond between a hunter and his dog. Watching her be excited about hunting is probably 75 percent of the fun for me, maybe 90 percent.

Stay tuned next week when I'll update you all from the ICAST floor!

July 2, 2010
License to grill

This has been the most restful week the Jones household has had in a long time. I've gotten to enjoy one of my favorite things: cooking on the grill. We've been doing all sorts of family stuff, too.

Little Alton is trying to finish up his summer school session so he will have enough credits to transfer to Baylor. He commented to me yesterday that he wasn't looking forward to summer school at the beginning of the semester. However, he's taking geology and golf, and he really likes the geology class because he gets to spend a lot of time outside. He says he can go golf, look for rocks or fish. He thinks it isn't such a bad summer after all.

The girls are really enjoying their time with friends. One of my daughters is going to music school all week and she's gotten one of the lead parts in the church play, so we've been busy working on lines and that sort of thing. Like I said, I've been grilling out or cooking outside almost every day this week.

One night I grilled shrimp; another night I did rib eyes; another time I did snow crab legs. I'd like to share a recipe with you all. It's some of the best corn you'll ever have.

Get some whole ears of corn, remove the husk, and one hour before you grill it soak it in a tub of ice-cold salt water. Filling a bucket works. Let them sit for an hour and put them directly onto the grill. I'll grill them at 350 degrees over direct heat for about 15 minutes turning every few minutes. Once a few kernels are brown, they're done. Look at the pictures to see some perfectly grilled corn.

I've been catching up on some honey-dos, installing things in the kitchen and other chores. I'm also watching the weather real close because a lot of the rain from that hurricane dumped around Falcon Lake.

Falcon is the only lake in the world where the fishing isn't good when the lake is rising. I was planning a trip there in the next week or so, but it looks like I'll move it back a few weeks. There is so much thick shoreline brush that you can't get to them when the water rises. Why? Because when water rises the bass go to the bank.

Oh, ICAST is in a couple of weeks. I'll be there on behalf of Ardent reels. I'm excited about the new and ongoing products that we'll have there. ICAST is always fun for anyone in the fishing industry for two reasons. First, you get to see folks you haven't seen in a while and secondly, you get to see all the cool new stuff!

There are innovative products, and you can see who's been busy on the research and development front. There are things at ICAST that you don't see anywhere else. Sometimes that's the only place you see them and other times you can spot a trend early. Hopefully in the next installment I can give you all a sneak peek at what we'll be offering.

On another note, this is Fourth of July weekend. I'd like to extend a special thanks to all of our soldiers overseas fighting for our freedom. I really want to let them know that the Jones family keeps them in our prayers and thoughts and we are extremely grateful for all that they do.

God bless America!

June 25, 2010
A look back and forward

The season's over, and going into that last tournament already knowing that I wasn't going to make the Classic changed my perspective. Last year, if I was to say I wanted to end the season on a positive note I would've said I want to make the Top 12 and possibly have a chance to fish the championship day for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. This year, however, saying I wanted to finish strong meant I wanted to cash a check at the last event. Quite a stark contrast.

I did accomplish my somewhat lower goal of cashing a check, but my policy has always been to try and get momentum in the right direction, even if it's in baby steps. I will be working hard in the offseason to try and get some things changed for next year. My offseason work started at the end of the last tournament.

I stayed in Ft. Gibson a few days extra for a writer's junket that PRADCO was hosting. Check out the photo, that's John Neporadny taking a few photos of me. While photo shoots are a lot of fun, they're also a lot of work. Throughout the day you catch a lot of fish and put them in the livewell to use for photos later. Once you're ready, or the light's good, you break out the camera and fish and start shooting. By the time it's over, the photographer has taken hundreds of photos and your hands are bleeding form lipping lots of bass. It was also about 100 degrees that day. Now I need to find something to occupy my time until next year's season begins!

Since I won't be fishing the Classic, I won't have a BASS event until March 2011. That's about the longest offseason I've had. I will be going back down to Falcon to try and catch my heaviest bass ever. The mark is 11 1/2 pounds. Speaking of next season, I'll give you my thoughts on that.

When I look at the schedule, I see a couple really good lakes on there but I wish we were fishing them at a different time, when we'd have a viable chance to go after a Century Belt (catching a 100-plus-pound stringer over four tournament days). There will not be one given next year. I think the Harris Chain and Toledo Bend have the best chance. Those are probably the best tournaments we'll have, and they're the ones I'm looking forward to most. The St. John's River will be another good one. The rest are more or less the same.

Well, the motor home is all fixed up, just in time to go into storage and we're on the way to pick it up in Austin. Oh, I think I'll pick up an iPad while I'm there, they seem pretty handy.

June 16, 2010
A humbling sport

Kentucky Lake was a dismal event for me. It was especially disappointing because it's one of my favorite lakes. I love to ledge fish and most of the big bags were coming from the north end of the lake and I had a bite in the south, so it was one of those decisions where I zigged and the fish zagged. The hardest part about this past event is that it puts me out of Classic contention. I've made 13 Classics altogether, and about nine in a row, so this is especially disheartening.

Bass fishing is a humbling sport.

I don't care who you are or how much you fish, fishing gives you doses of humility like few other things can. That's why it's important to me to make sure your life is grounded in something other than success in fishing. These are the times when you rely on your faith and take notice of the things that are really important in life. I'm here with a part of my family, and that's the most important thing. That being said, we're going to regroup and head to Oklahoma to tackle the Arkansas River.

When we get there, I have to wash the boat out. I caught so many Kentucky Lake bass that there is blood all over the boat. I'm in bad need of a pressure washer. We'll have a little time once we get there, so we're going to let my daughter Kristen decide what she wants to do. I think she has her eye on a Japanese steakhouse.

It's going to be a complete shift of tackle because we're going from deep water gear to shallow water gear. It'll be a switch from lighter line to heavier line, but I have an extra day to do it! That's enough on the tournament side of things.

I talked to Little Alton today, he's taking five hours this summer semester at the local community college. He's taking a a geology class he really likes. However, it's a lot of work. He also got into a gold PE class thinking it'd be an easy A, but there are eight written tests and a few on-the-course tests, and it's just an hour-long class! Not exactly what he was hoping for.

He'll also be fishing a tournament this Saturday at Lake Belton, I'll report back on that in the next edition.

Oh, I'd like to mention one other thing. I did get to see something pretty cool the other day. Some representatives from Bethel University were at the weigh-in with their new athletic recruits. The cool thing about it is that they are receiving scholarships to join the fishing team! They're one of the first universities I'm aware of that's actually offering scholarships for the fishing team. Four young men were signing athletic commitment contracts. They have bass fishing classes that go over deep cranking, ledge fishing, just bass fishing in general! It's really cool.

I thinks Little Alton would be hard pressed to leave Texas, but he may want to take a look at Bethel after all.

June 4, 2010
The Jones clan in Paris (Tenn.)

Today is packing day, and over the last several days I've had to consolidate my gear into the Sequoia. As I mentioned before, the motor home is in the shop for major repairs, so it's our only option. It won't be that big of a deal, though; we'll be minus two kids this trip.

My daughter Jamie is at camp, and Little Alton starts summer school at a community college and has a tournament June 12, so he'll be home for that. He's trying to complete the required amount of hours to transfer to Baylor University in the fall, so we'll let him be. My daughter Kristen will be the only one joining us.

The organizing and packing turned into a spring cleaning for the garage, I dug up some cool stuff I'd forgotten I even had! I must say, though, the coolest thing I found was the Porsche under the cover. I took it out for a spin, which is the first time I'd done so in several weeks. Besides that, I found some custom-poured Yum Wooly Hawg Tails I had made up several years ago. I will be taking them to Kentucky Lake. I opened boxes on the shelves in the garage I hadn't opened in seven or eight years. Of course, Little Alton was there with his hand out the whole time. "Hey, Dad, that's a cool color!" or, "Wow, I haven't seen any of those before!" Somehow, he got his share.

What happens is at the end of each year, when I'm getting ready to sell my boat, I take all the tackle out and put it on a shelf. Sometimes when I get a new boat, a few things don't make it back in, so they get left for me to find another time. It's like treasure hunting. I found old Skeeter Team hats from the 90s, brand new.

Once we finally got the Sequoia loaded up, it was quite a sight to behold. I had no idea you could cram that much stuff into an SUV. I don't think I'll be able to use the rearview mirror for the tackle packed in there. To say I'm loaded to the gills is an understatement. We're ready, though. The boat's covered and the alarm's set for 3:30 tomorrow morning; then we're off to Paris, Tenn.

Yesterday evening I got to do something I hadn't done in a long time. I went out and fished with some club guys on Lake Waco. It's been about three years since I've gotten to do it, and I absolutely loved it. It's more than fishing a tournament (me and my partner and best friend Robert didn't even place), it's about catching up with some folks I hadn't gotten to see in a while. We had a great time until we got run off the lake by a severe thunder storm and 50-mile-per-hour winds and rain. The fish are starting to get deep out there, and it's good practice running around using your electronics and finding those places bass like to hide deep.

Other than that, it's been a relaxing week. I've paced myself on this organization and cleaning so it's been a pretty relaxed few weeks until tomorrow.

I'm going to take these last two events one at a time. Don't get me wrong, I've got maps and all the stuff I'll need for the Arkansas River loaded up, but I'm focusing only on Kentucky. Trying to take on both at the same time will only distract me from this first one.

May 28, 2010
Beware of falling trolling motors

I forgot to tell you all about the Mark's Outdoors event in Birmingham a while back. It was a huge success. The coolest thing about it was what's called the "tackle toss." It's on the last day, and all the pros get up on a stage with thousands of dollars of gear and throw it into the crowd.

Now, this isn't tossing some crankbaits to a few folks. There were thousands of people there and a dozen pros. Manufacturers from all over the world donate tons and tons of gear for this. It turned into a mob scene very quickly. We threw boxes and boxes of baits, electronics, reels even trolling motors. It seemed kind of dangerous tossing a trolling motor into a crowd, but I don't think anyone got hurt.

I have to say I'm pleased with my finish at Clarks Hill. I finished 28th, which normally wouldn't get me excited, but when you consider I was in the 60s after the first day, that works for me.

It's gotten to the point in the season that I can put a pencil to the standings, do the math and try to figure out what it's going to take for me to make the Classic. What I've come up with is that I've got to average a 28th-place finish at the last two tournaments. Obviously, I'm not shooting for that. I'm aiming higher, but it's nice to know that you at least have a decent chance of making the Classic. With that said, I can't afford another poor tournament; I need to have a strong finish.

I think Clarks Hill helped me get some momentum, and heading to Kentucky Lake, I'm optimistic. I've done well there the past few times we've been.

We'll be a little out of our routine for the next event. Our motor home is having some major engine problems, but fortunately, it's under warranty. It's going to be another few weeks before we see it again. This means that I'm going to have to pack and plan differently. Usually I carry all my spare stuff in the motor home, and put a minimal amount of stuff in the boat. If I find I need something else, I can get it from under the bus. This time I'm going to have to go through and thoroughly organize because I'm limited on what I can take in the truck. The good thing about these two tournaments is that they're summertime events and I really don't need all the winter stuff. I need structure fishing and flipping gear.

I'll pack up a lot of Fat Free Shads, 10-inch Yum worms, Carolina and Texas rig stuff and football jigs. That's going to be my arsenal. Kentucky will be bait-specific, but it's definitely a Fat Free Shad lake. It's all about location. You have to find a few sweet spots that just have more and bigger fish. Look at what Bobby Lane did last year. He won the whole tournament from one ledge.

For now, though, I'm enjoying the off week. I've taken some time to do some trading in the market and catch up on some rest as well as business. We're going to my best friend's house for dinner tonight for some steamed crab legs and shrimp. I guess the shrimp come pre-oiled from the Gulf now.

All joking aside, this is a serious problem. I have met a lot of people who make a living down there in those marshes guiding or commercial fishing. They're in a world of hurt because of this spill. It's really sad to see that happen. What's more, it's going to impact whether or not we can have the Classic there. It's a day-by-day thing and I hope it turns out the best that it can given the circumstances.

May 21, 2010
Tough all around

After prefishing here for several days, this is shaping up to be the hardest tournament of the year. So far, I think it is. Part of the reason is because the blueback herring have already spawned out and are largely MIA.

The bass feed aggressively on the herring during their spawn, and that is always fun and good fishing. Lobbing a topwater into the roiling water where a school is feeding will usually produce a keeper. However, the chances of that happening are much slimmer this time around. A school or two may blow up by someone, and that's what you hope for. Otherwise, it's going to be a tough event.

Little Alton is hopping on a plane to head back for the Bass Champs on Choke Canyon, then on to the championship. However, he'll be moving on in a greater sense in that this may be the last tournament he goes on the road with the whole Jones clan. He's going back to school and will have a lot of obligations on that end. It's looking like the camper will be a little lighter for next year. He'll probably come along for an event here or there, but for the most part he'll be busy. He's ready for this step and we're proud of him.

Check back next week as we head on down the road to Paris, Tenn., and Kentucky Lake!

May 14, 2010
A Change of pace

This season I've put a lot of effort into my practice and my preparation, but so far it hasn't turned out like I wanted it to. For the Clark's Hill event, I'm going to fish by the seat of my pants. I need three strong finishes to make the Classic, so I'm going to change my approach to a more relaxed fashion.

I plan on coming off the water a little earlier in practice. I've been staying out until dark every practice day, but now I may call it a day at 5:00 or so to get plenty of rest and try to enjoy Clark's Hill.

Speaking of rest, we've been having some fun lately.

We had a week off after Guntersville, which wasn't enough time to go home, so we decided to go on to South Carolina. We decided we'd go out and visit the beach. We'd never been up there, so it was a treat.

We were very pleasantly surprised at what we found .We were in Isle of Palms, S.C., which is near Charleston. We rented a little beach house and kicked back and relaxed, and I tried to forget about fishing for the week. That's pretty hard to do since I'm always thinking about fishing. I really wanted a break after a couple of disappointing tournaments, enjoy the family and get some R&R.

Beginning Friday, I will be back in Birmingham, Ala., at the Mark's Outdoors Customer Appreciation tournament. Tomorrow is registration day, so I'll be in the store. I'll be fishing the tournament with one of the customers, too. Several pros attend and the winners of a contest get to fish with us. If you're in the Birmingham area, come on by Mark's Outdoors and say hi and we'll chat about fishing.

After that, it's on to Clark's Hill. That marks the last stretch of the season. After that there's a one week break then the last two events. I'm going to approach Clark's Hill differently than the last two. It's a lake I've got a lot of experience on, so I'm going to lay off the map study a bit. Once practice begins, I'm going to wing it and build on what I learn as the official practice period goes on.

May 3, 2010
Heating up

Pickwick has been lots of fun this past week and weekend. It was fishing very strong. It was as good as I've ever seen it. Every place you went there were fish. Shallow, deep, in between — it didn't matter.

Almost everyone I've talked to was catching 100-plus fish a day. This is a great time of year to be here, and it shows the value of aquatic vegetation. Several years ago there wasn't any here, and the fishing wasn't nearly as good.

In the meantime, we're trying to juggle schedules for the next few weeks. It's going to be brutal. I have four tournaments in the next seven weeks. After Guntersville, we're heading to the Arkansas River out of Muscogee, Okla. I've never seen the Arkansas River from there before, so I'm going to ride around to get a feel for it and figure out where I want to practice.

Little Alton just flew home for a tournament on Choke Canyon Lake and his last final exam. After that, he'll be done with his first 13 hours of junior college. Also, keep checking back on the Top Videos tab for a new Keeping Up with the Joneses!

April 27, 2010
Dodging the weather

The Jones clan spent the entirety of last week at Kentucky Lake. I got to do quite a bit of prefishing. Well, I say prefishing — but it's not, really. You're not going to learn a whole lot in April that can help you in June. But you can get more familiar with the lake, and that's what I did.

I went to parts of the lake I'd never been to before to build up a little more confidence. Another good thing that came from this trip was spending some quality time with my son. The fishing was amazing. I never cease to be amazed at just how many fish are in Kentucky Lake. It's really a spectacular fishery.

Getting out there was a good thing because we're just one dam down from Pickwick, which is where our tournament is. Even though it's a completely different environment, it's the same water flowing through the two lakes. I'm hoping some of the patterns I found last week on Kentucky will translate to successful patterns this week on Pickwick. I'll know for sure this week in practice. At least it's a starting point to work from, so that can be helpful at Pickwick this week and even on Guntersville the next week. We've got a lot of Tennessee River fishing to do.

While each lake along the river has its own unique personalities and characteristics, there are some similarities because they're all on the same river system. Last week turned out to be a multi-purpose practice.

We got down here to Florence, Ala., the day before last, and we've been dodging severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Fortunately, we didn't have any tornadoes where we are, but we did get some pretty heavy wind, rain and lightning. The tornado sirens went off and everybody in the campground headed to the bath house. I'm not sure it was any safer than the motor home. It was funny because all the fishermen's families were crammed into the bath house. I wish I had my camera for that one.

With the anticipation of that severe weather coming, I asked if there was any area that wasn't covered with trees where we could pick up satellite TV so we could watch the weather channel. The guy said we could park down on the point because there aren't any trees there. However, the reason there are no trees is because they were ripped out by tornadoes! I figure the chances of a tornado hitting the same place are pretty low, so we're parked there now.

Since we're so close to the event, there were a ton of Elite guys out there. It seemed like half the field was there. We saw James Niggemeyer, Brent Chapman, Gary Klein, Marty Stone, Yusuke Miyazaki, Cliff Pace, Jared Lintner and a bunch of others. It seemed like a regular practice day.

I think there was enough time between tournaments to do some serious prefishing but not enough time to go home, so the lake was busier than normal this far in advance of the tournament.

Anyhow, be on the lookout for a new Keeping Up with the Joneses this week!

April 16, 2010
A coming of age

Today (April 15) Little Alton turned 18. This is a milestone for him, Jimmye Sue and me. We're coming to grips with that fact that our kids are growing up, and Little A will be laving soon to go to college this next year. It's a thing that has made us reflect on the great joy we've had traveling with our family and spending so much time together at home and on the road.

Little A and I were talking in the car on the way back from the boat ramp, and I was telling him that the 18 years that we've had with him have been some of the most joyful years of our lives. I told him just how much I appreciate him and respect the man he's become. I also told him how much I appreciate the time we spend together fishing and doing other father and son stuff. It's all been a great time.

Since there aren't many fancy places in town to eat at, we celebrated with a hamburger at a diner about 10 miles from the weigh-in. Having the whole Jones Clan there made it special. Another thing that makes me sad about him being gone soon is that next season he'll be in college and won't be able to travel with us. He may be available for a tournament here and there, but not like now or before. He takes care of a lot of the workload for both Jimmye Sue and me when I'm out on the water fishing. If there's any work that needs to be done around the motor home, he can do it. He helps me pack, change tires and load and unload the big trailer among other thing. He has also been my official boat cleaner for the past eight or nine years. I'm going to have to take up boat cleaning duties here soon, but I can't find anyone to pay me for it!

We're grateful for all of our kids, and it's been nice reflecting on them and the time we get to spend together.

On a fishing note, Smith Mountain Lake is fun. I also feel a sense of relief. This thing was supposed to fish to my strengths last year, but it turned out to be my worst tournament of the year. It's supposed to do the same again and it's working out a lot better so far. I hope that I can be consistent.

It would be nice to catch a nice sack like Jason Williamson did, but I haven't seen that kind of fish where I am. I think if you can stay around that 15-pound mark every day you'll be close to making the top 12 cut. I've read all the stories on bass fishing news Web sites, and it really does seem to be a sight fishing deal. I understand Williamson and Bobby Lane are in the same area, but sight fishing can be funny.

The spawn is an interesting animal. What I mean by that is one pocket can be hot one day and completely off the next. The magic can happen in any cove at any time, and it'll happen in every one at some point this spring. The big ones will have to move up into a creek or pocket. It's just a matter of being there when they do. It's like being there when a big deer ruts. Timing is everything.

While we're talking about Little Alton and fishing, he'll be flying home twice on this stretch of tournaments. We'll be gone for seven weeks total. The first time is to fish a tournament and take a final exam, and the second time is for a tournament and to prepare for a mission trip he'll be attending this summer. His youth group will be going out to Arizona to do some ministry on an Indian reservation.

On yet another note, check out the latest episode of Keeping Up with the Joneses. It's about the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's ShareLunker program. I get to sample a test lake where they're growing these big bass. Most of the fish are only four years old, but there are some chunks. These fish have the best genetics the state of Texas has to offer, and, in turn, the lake has some of the best fishing the Lone Star State has.

Check it out and be watching for one next week where Little Alton and I fish Kentucky Lake.

April 9, 2010
Meet the Joneses in Virginia

We're in Virginia, but not quite to Smith Mountain Lake yet. I like to get to tournaments a day or two early. I don't like starting practice while I'm exhausted from the drive unless I have to. I like to have a day or so to rest and recuperate and put my eyes on the lake from the shore and look at the water color and feel the temperature. I like to experience the weather. It gives me time to get my tackle prepared and everything else I need to do. It also gives me some time to spend with my family, and that's really important to me. They're making big sacrifices to come and travel with me, so I like to do things with them as much as possible.

From a fishing perspective, I feel like I need some revenge on this lake. We've been here twice before and both times have been subpar performances for me. Last time the conditions set up nicely to my strengths, but I just couldn't execute well. It was my worst tournament of the year last year. I feel like I've got some ground to make up getting back at the lake. That said, I'm really excited about this event.

I love springtime events, and this should play right into that prespawn to spawn transition which has historically been a good time of year for me. We'll see if I can put something together this week.

This is a lake where swimbaits can come into play, too. Not the giant, California-style swimbaits, but the smaller hollow-belly ones like Yum Money Minnows. Almost every year someone's caught 'em here on a swimbait. This isn't a lake that's full of giant bass, but there are 4- and 5-pounders and a few big ones, but it's the kind of deal where you need to shoot for 14 pounds. That'd be a solid day. Twenty pounds is a really good sack here. I'll choose my baits to the size fish I'm trying to catch. I'm no sure just how much I'll be throwing them. I have to wait until I get out on the water.

Tomorrow night I'll be at Goodwill Baptist Church with several other pros (see my last entry for a list of guys who will be there as well as an address). I'm looking forward to it. It'll be a fun night and a good chance to meet a bunch of folks from around here. Things like this are always the highlight of my week when we're on tour. I get to meet a lot of people.

When we come into town as professional fishermen, it's amazing the warm reception we get at every place we go to. It's especially nice because we're on the road, away from home and a lot of guys are away from family, and even though it's the first time folks meet you, the hospitality is amazing. That's one of my favorite parts of being a pro fisherman.

Over the years, I've made so many friends in different places, I think I can go almost anywhere and have a place to stay, and that's a great feeling.

In other news, the Baylor Lady Bears lost in the first round of the Final Four basketball tournament to UConn, who went on to win the whole thing. If you're going to lose, you might as well lose to the team who won. However, we have a bright future. The team is really young — four starters are freshmen or sophomores — and I think we have a lot of potential. It was a great experience for the team, and playing at that level makes them better. Playing at that level shows them where the bar is set and gives them something to shoot for.

To draw parallel, I like having KVD on tour. I love to play above my level. Excellence in a sport makes everyone better and raises the bar. I think if you could take a below average fisherman on the Elites and catapult him back in time 10 years, he would dominate with the knowledge he has. By having excellence out there, it continually forces you to learn and innovate and understand the fish better. It's not a whole lot different than other sports in that you need to play against greatness to achieve greatness.

Look out early next week for a new Keeping Up with the Joneses video from Smith Mountain Lake!

April 2, 2010
Happy Easter! Go Bears!

It's been a busy week here at home; we've mainly been getting things done around the house. The kids have been extremely busy with school. Little Alton has had either a test or major paper due every day of the week at college and had his last English test today. When he got home he said he's going fishing and I said, 'Alton, it's blowing 30 miles an hour outside!' He said that he didn't care, was done with school for the week and was going fishing. So he and a buddy are headed out to Lake Waco as we speak.

I'm to the point when it's blowing 30, I don't fish unless I have to. He's at the point where fishing is fishing. So, he's going to go fight the conditions for a bit.

The rest of us are getting ready to celebrate Easter this weekend. It's an important holiday for our family. Christmas is important, too, but without the resurrection on Easter, His birth at Christmas wouldn't be nearly as important. To us, this is the most significant holiday week we celebrate as Christians. We remember what Christ did for us when He died on the cross and rose from the dead.

To celebrate, we'll be going out to Coleman, Texas, where Jimmye Sue's family lives. We'll be spending time with her parents and her sister and brother-in-law, hanging out and enjoying family.

We're still dealing with mechanical issues we encountered when we were going to and from California. The motor home is in the shop and we got word back today that it needs all the fuel injectors replaced as well as the fuel pump. Those mountains were as tough as I thought they'd be! Fortunately, Caterpillar is going to warranty all the work for us, so there won't be a repair bill to go with that, just a bit of a hassle. It will be in good shape so we won't have to worry about it anymore for a few years.

It's about time for me to start organizing tackle. I've got to de-California-ize my boat and Virginia-ize it. Are those real words? Anyhow, I'm getting ready for normal fishing and am looking forward to it. I'll still take some swimbaits with me, but the vast majority will stay under the motor home. I'll carry a small swimbait box of the smaller ones, like the Money Minnow.

I do think at several tournaments they will be a weapon, but the smaller versions. This is also going to mean I'm putting lots of spinning rods in the boat, especially for Smith Mountain. That deep, clear water demands it. However, I'm going to reserve my comment on the water clarity until I see it. They've had record snow and rainfall this year in that area. There's going to be a lot more runoff in that area, and it wouldn't surprise me if there is a little more stain in the water, especially in some of the creeks which could bring some heavier tackle into the game a little more. There could be a good flipping bite, a spinnerbait bite and maybe even a buzzbait bite. I'll just have to wait and see what the water looks like when I get there.

When I get to Virginia on Saturday the 10th, there are several of us pros that are doing a "Meet the Pros" night in a church there near Moneta, Va. Randy Howell, Brent Chapman, Marty Stone, Shaw Grigsby and James Niggemeyer will be there as well, and perhaps a few more. We'll all be sharing some fishing tips along with the importance of our relationship with Jesus Christ. It's open to the public and is located at Good View Baptist Church at 1057 Grace Court, right there in Good View, Va. We're expecting several hundred people in attendance, so we'd love to see you out there! Come enjoy good food, fellowship and fishing talk.

I'm watching the weather very closely and it looks like they're in a major warming trend in that area. My hope is that it's warmed up enough there for those fish to go ahead and begin spawning by the time we get there. That's one lake that really is a lot more fun to fish when the fish are up on beds and you can see 'em.

Oh, one other thing. Unfortunately, coach Scott Drew — the men's basketball coach for Baylor — has time to go fishing with me now. We lost in the Elite 8 to Duke. However, the Lady Bears have advanced to the Final Four and we play UConn Sunday night. I want to wish my best to coach Kim Mulkey and the Lady Bears. Hopefully we can keep them from another perfect season. We won't be able to make it to this first game, but if they make it to the final, you can bet Jimmye Sue and I will be there in San Antonio!

March 26, 2010
College hoops and bass

Coming back from California is kind of like having jetlag. It's like coming back from Japan or something. Between the long drive and the time change, it's tough. Usually I can never sleep past 6 a.m., but lately I find myself sleeping until eight or so. I need to get back into the proper time groove before we head back East. That's always a bit of an adjustment.

Since I didn't make the cut at Clear Lake, rather than heading straight back home, we went back to the San Francisco area to watch the Baylor Lady Bears play their first-round NCAA tournament game at Berkeley. We went to cheer them on and they won that as well as their second game. They're in the Sweet 16 now as well as the men. Good luck to the Baylor men's and women's basketball teams.

We really have become a college basketball family. It's funny because growing up I never watched it, but getting to know the coaches and seeing the success they're having makes it really easy to get into. I don't know what we're going to do when the tournament is over. I guess I'll have to start fishing again!

I'm getting to do something really cool tomorrow. I'm going to fish a test lake for the ShareLunker program. It's a sampling mission with the TPWD. It's billed as helping the state, but really what it means is I get to go fish a really great pond. What they've done is taken ShareLunker fry and put them into this strip mine lake. It's several hundred acres, is about 70 feet deep and has vegetation all the way around to about 20 feet deep.

Five years ago they killed it out completely then began stocking every year class from the ShareLunker program. The oldest fish in there is 4 years old. That means we won't be catching 12-pounders, but it's fished on a very limited basis. There will be lots of 3- to 5-pounders. They're sampling the 4- and 5-pounders we catch by clipping a fin and finding out who the parent is. That way the can monitor the effectiveness of the ShareLunker program.

I've fished that lake one other time, and it was beyond good. We caught hundreds of fish at my LifeLine event there last year. It was the most fish I've ever caught in a day. But, since their goal is to see how big of a fish they can come up with in there, I'm going to spend a lot of time with a swimbait tomorrow. The excuse on the swimbait is to throw something they've never seen, but these fish haven't seen anything! A spinnerbait could work just as well, I guess.

Now, to get you up to date on Little Alton: Last week he fished the Bass Champs tournament down at Lake Amistad, and he and his partner finished second out of 170-some-odd boats. They had 25.86 pounds and lost by about 3 ounces. They were the highest finishing Skeeter, so they won the Skeeter bonus money as well. All told, they won about $6,000. That will go into his fishing fund to give him a little bit of padding for more events. I am really proud of him. Seeing him captain his own boat and make decisions on his own and do that well was impressive.

Early this next week I'll be doing a piece with our local news channel on how to take your kids fishing. It's aimed at folks who may not know how to fish. We're going to a local tackle store to show off some basic equipment as well as show some basic how-to. It'll be a live deal. Hopefully, we can help some folks get out on the water.

Check out the latest Keeping Up with the Joneses on the "Top Videos" tab or by clicking here, and look for another one in two weeks.

March 19, 2010
Clearly not my best work

Today (Thursday) is a typical post-tournament day. I'm sitting here with a few close friends — James Niggemeyer, Takahiro Omori, Brent Chapman and Randy Howell — talking about the day. They all caught 'em better than I did, but in our little group we share things about the day and know it won't go beyond us. It's not like "Here's where you want go fish," rather we share things that worked for us as well as what didn't work. I was disappointed I didn't catch 'em very well. Now I have to play catch up.

Right now there are dogs and kids playing together, the women are chatting and the men are talking fishing and retying baits and stuff. When I look back on seasons past, it's times like these that I have the fondest memories of. There is so much camaraderie in camp; it's kind of like deer camp, but with bass fishing. Well, I hope our chatting will help me get a better stringer tomorrow and the next days.

Anyhow, we shot a new Keeping up with the Joneses today. Keith Alan helped me out with it. We show my $600-plus swimbait collection that I lobbed periodically throughout the day and then the 10-cent Yum Dingers I actually caught my fish on! Look for it in the Top Videos section of Bassmaster.com early next week.

Speaking of swimbaits, I think I'll stick with it more tomorrow. To get your stringer into the mid-20s you've got to be throwing one quite a bit. I had two big followers, but none committed to it. I know Byron has some history here (three-day weight record), and he's pretty handy with a swimbait. I think he can keep it up and be hard to beat.

On a different front, Jimmye Sue drove Little Alton to Sacramento to put him on a plane to fly back home to Texas. This weekend he's got a tournament on Lake Amistad. He's turning 18 in just a few weeks, and we just recently let him start fishing his own tournaments out of his own boat. That was a big step for us. However, letting him fish in a whole different state was another big step for us. But, like I said, he's turning 18 soon and he's ready for this and he wants it.

On yet another front, I want to congratulate coach Scott Drew of Baylor University for his Round 1 win in this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. I think they have a good shot at going all the way in this thing, and it's always fun to see your friends do well. Sick 'em Bears!

March 12, 2010
Keeping up in the Delta

Day 1 of the Duel in the Delta is over, and it was a tough bite. It was that way all through practice, so I knew it could be a tough event. However, I did expect to see some big stringers. I was surprised how tough it was when I saw the overall weights.

I was boat No. 3 today, which is a good draw. When I got in I was disappointed, because I only had 13 pounds and change. When you're at the Delta, that usually won't get you too far, but today I left with my head held high and my chest out.

By no means do I have a winning sack yet, but it did turn out to be a respectable weight. This goes to show it's important to keep your head in the game because catching up is doable in this tournament. I'm about 8 pounds out, and here that's just one bite away. This fact will help me focus harder.

The way today shook out, I ended up catching four of my five fish off of one spot. I had a limit by 11 or 11:30 a.m., but with this being the Delta I need to find bigger fish. Tomorrow I'm going to go to the same spot, put the Power Poles down and sit there and hope five swim by. At least I know I'll be one cast away from putting myself closer to the top. I have some history with this spot, and think it has the potential to replenish.

When I pulled up I caught one, went a while without a bite, got another, then I caught two in a row. I'm a run-and-gun fisherman, and the Delta is a good place to do that, but there are too many places to go and not get bit. I tied on a bunch of different baits for Day 2. Everything from football jigs, drop shots, tubes, Texas rigs and crankbaits. I'll be fishing a lot of structure-type baits.

It's nice knowing that I'm going to do that today; it took a lot of the decision making out of last night. We just ordered Chinese food in, listened to the Lady Bears basketball game and watched the Baylor men in the Big 12 tournament on TV. As you may know, the Joneses are huge Baylor fans. Bears all the way!

Oh, and check this out. It's our new video series on Bassmaster.com. You can follow us as we travel throughout the country during the Elite season. It's a different look, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

You'll always be able to find it under the "Top Videos" tab just above the main story photo.

March 5, 2010
Blowouts, desert and more blowouts

I wish I could tell you this has been an uneventful trip out West, but unfortunately it's been very eventful.

Wednesday afternoon we had a flat tire on the big double-stack trailer. I put the spare on there, but these tires aren't all that common. They're not available at your average tire store; they're an unusual size and load range. We ended up having to continue on three hours to get to the nearest place that might have a tire we could buy.

What are the chances of having another blowout when you're driving without a spare? I'll tell you: 100 percent.

The second incident wasn't a flat, but the tread separated. Luckily, we were stopped at a truck stop when the second one happened. We were able to make some phone calls to a place that had some of the tires we needed, and they drove them to us by truck. We were able to get them fixed there.

The interesting thing was that when the second tread separated on it, it mangled the fender to the point that the new tire wouldn't fit on. You all should've seen me this morning with a hacksaw and a big hammer straightening that thing out, it was a mess. All in all, it only caused a couple of hours delay.

We're back on the road now and almost to California. When we get there, we'll be filming something special.

As I teased last week, the Jones Clan is going to have a new video series on Bassmaster.com. It's called "Keeping up with the Joneses," and features my whole family as we travel around the country to each Elite Series event. It'll show some fishing stuff, some preparation, and let you all in on what it's like to be a traveling family.

I know we're really excited. We're all going to spend time in front of the camera as well as behind it, so I invite you all to keep up with the Joneses!

Feb. 26, 2010
Going West!

Before we get into the Elite season stuff, I have one final comment on the Classic.

I mentioned in the last blog that I was disappointed in my poor execution, but at the same time, a poor tournament has given me a sense of God's presence in my life. It's there whether I win or have a tough time.

I fully believe that He has a specific purpose and reason for where I finish in every tournament, be it first or last. I certainly want to be where He wants me to be. Sometimes He may not want me to be where I want to be, but He always provides what I need. The problem is, sometimes what I need isn't what I want. It's easy to get those confused.

That's one of the great things about fishing. It's a sport that provides you with humility, no matter the level you fish at. As people, we always need reminders of who we are and where we come from. Having a tough tournament like that reminds me to trust in God for every detail in my life.

OK, now on to new, cool stuff.

This is the week before I head to California, so it's prep time. Success is directly related to how much preparation you've put into something, so I'm hitting the books, er, computer, hard.

I have been spending one to two hours a day doing map studies with a cool new program. Before I tell you about it, I want to say Navionics is not one of my sponsors. I firmly believe that this is a great tool for all fishermen; that's why I'm telling you all this.

Navionics' newest HotMaps Explorer is a really cool program. It's brought my map studies to a whole new level. You can do things you can't do with a paper map. It allows me to pull up a lake — the California Delta, for example — on my screen and zoom in and out on it and study the contour lines and depth indicators. It's the same map I have in my Navionics chip in my electronics. You can actually overlay Google Maps or Google Earth so you get satellite images of the same area. I can actually import my old waypoints from previous trips onto the explorer map. I can see trails and places I fished in the past. It's incredible to see. There's no need to fly over a lake anymore. The only thing it doesn't show is the water color of the lake.

It's certainly going to shorten my search time. I can go in and make notations on specific areas to make good notes during practice so I'm not wandering aimlessly on practice day. This will let me have a defined list to follow. This is especially great for lakes like the Delta that are overwhelming from a size standpoint.

One to two hours a day sounds like a lot, but the more I study that place the more I feel like I'm just scratching the surface. I'll probably feel that again once I get on the water. A bird's eye view and on the water are two totally different perspectives. This Elite tournament will be my third trip out to the Delta. The Navionics program has reminded me of how the Delta lays out and helps me remember what's where. Before I leave for the West Coast, I've got some business locally to take care of.

I'll be heading down to Houston to speak at the Bass Pro Shops in Pearland, Texas. I'll be there tonight from 5 to 9 p.m. I'll be giving a seminar at 8 p.m. about general springtime fishing and learning to maximize the spawning season. After that, I'll be at the Katy, Texas, store tomorrow from noon to 5 p.m., giving the same seminar. I'm looking forward to doing those. While there, I'll get to catch up with a cousin I haven't seen in 28 or so years.

She's living in the Houston area now, so I'm excited about getting to connect with her while I'm there. We used to be really close when we were growing up as kids, but we just lost contact over the years.

On another note, I'm beginning work on a new project I'm really excited about. I think it's something that will be enjoyable for each of you, too. Check back next week for more info.

Feb. 21, 2010
No regrets

Well this is certainly not the end to the Classic I wanted. I think this is the first time I've missed the cut. It's a bummer not fishing the last day.

That said, the Classic offers you the chance to make the best of a bad event. I get to head to the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods. I'll be hanging out in the Ardent reels booth and will get to meet a whole bunch of fishing folks and help my sponsors out. It did feel good to sleep in, but it was sort of bittersweet. I got up at 3:50 a.m. like normal, realized 24 guys and one gal were out there fishing still, then rolled over and went back to sleep.

No regrets, though.

I did my best to execute on what I thought was the best strategy, and it just didn't work. So, on Day 2, I punted and went fishing. I found a big stringer, but couldn't hook up with them. I was flipping a YUM Wooly Hawg Tail, and they'd just nip at it. Sometimes you could lift their head out of the water, but that's it. All you can do in the Classic is get out and go for broke on the second day.

One thing that missing a cut does to me is light a fire under me. It gets me motivated to do more damage at the next event. I get fired up and want to fish harder.

Well, thanks for following along with me on this year's Classic journey. I look forward to keeping you all updated every Friday for the rest of the year!

Feb. 19, 2010
Day 1 disappointment

Day 1 of the Classic is over, and I've got to tell you, I'm disappointed. Honestly, 6-12 is not what I was on in practice. After my practice, I really felt like I was on something good. I really thought the warm weather was going to help the area I was fishing, but the area I fished stayed cold. I was way up the river where the current was moving. That area was fishable, and you could get some good bites but today all I got was some little bites.

I think I'm going to use tomorrow as a practice day, but you know you take the bad with the good in this sport; you can't catch 'em every single day. It is a three-day tournament for half the field, so my goal at this point is to make the cut.

Strategy wise, there's no sense going back to where I caught a small limit of keepers today. I might as well go practice to find something really good. That's what I'm going to do for the rest of the tournament and see if I can stumble on to something worth catching.

I'm down but not out. Check back tomorrow!

Until weigh-in...

I can't believe it's finally here. The Bassmaster Classic. I've waited all year for this. Everything leads to the Classic, it's what you try to get to each year.

My preparation is done, my hooks are sharp, my reels are re-spooled, and I've got what I think are the right baits in the right colors tied on.

I don't care how many Classics you fished — this will be my 13th — you still get butterflies. There are so many things running through your head, you need to try and put that aside and focus on fishing.

A cool thing happened last night. My parents are in town this week, and we went out and took in the town. We rode the trolley and had an enjoyable evening together. While on the trolley, there was a young man and his dad, who had on fishing hats. We began to speak and I found that they were in town from Cincinnati just for the Classic. It was a father and son outing. That's so great to see, and they were great people to visit with. I sure hope this is a memorable event for them.

I had a good practice but that doesn't always translate into a good catch on the water. Ultimately this event is in God's hands. I pray he'll give me fish, and I don't mind asking for them.

To paraphrase a part of the Book of James, you have not because you ask not. This is why I never hesitate to ask Him for fish. His ways are higher than mine and His thoughts are higher than mine. Wherever I finish it will be for His glory. What I really want is His will for my life. Wherever I finish — first or last — it will be for His glory.

I'm really looking forward to being out there. I'm going to fish as hard as I can and see how far it goes. Today is show and tell. All the sandbagging and speculation will be put to rest and the scales will do the talking.

For half of the field, their dream of winning the Classic will die today. You can't win it on the first day, but you sure can lose it.

It's a great honor and privilege to be a part of this great event. Take care, and stay posted. I'll be back with more after weigh-in.

Feb. 18, 2010
One more day

Well, the last practice day is over, and now it's time to wait.

Yesterday I had eight bites — all small. I didn't really find anything that I want to go back to for the tournament. But even a seemingly unproductive day can be helpful sometimes. Early in practice, I was able to eliminate a lot of places where I've caught 'em in the past. Eliminating water is a valuable part of the process. Even on a tough day — when you don't get the bites you want — you can learn things that help to better define your strategy.

The best thing to come out of the final practice day was reassurance, reassurance that I'm going to commit to one area. The fishing is not good enough to run around and get a bite here and a bite there in order to squeak out a limit. You really need to concentrate on one key area; and for me, that's a place I found in the early days of practice.

Like I said, there's just one day before game day. Thursday is Media Day; all of the press have an opportunity to talk with the Classic qualifiers for a few hours. Before that, we do a walk-through for the weigh-ins to get all of the logistical wrinkles ironed out. However, with all this going on, fishing will be on my mind the whole time. Everything else is just a big distraction.

I still think today is the toughest day because you can't do anything else to prepare; you just think about your practice and let it simmer. You have to make yourself keep your mind off fishing, and that's one heck of a hard thing to do.

See you all tomorrow! It's on!

Feb. 17, 2010
The final practice

Day 1 of practice was one of the few times I've fished in an absolute blizzard. Our predictions of this cold winter Classic are coming true. We had about 3 inches of snow during the day while we were practicing. It started at about 10 a.m. and snowed until 6 p.m. that night.

At one point I was fishing a jig and trying to watch my line, but it was snowing so hard it got to where I couldn't see my anything. Snowflakes were falling, and there was too much other movement to try and pick out that little, thin strand of line. It became impossible. I thought I'd pick up a different rod so I reeled the jig in, put it down to pick up a jerkbait and I couldn't find my jerkbait rod; it was buried under snow. The way I found it was by snagging a hook on my glove while I was scooping the snow off the boat.

I did manage to stay warm, though. I feel like preparation paid off and I had a productive practice. We've got one more day of pre-practice left and it's going to be an important day. Every day you're out there you're getting little pieces of the puzzle and believe me, right now we're just finding little pieces. Fishing is so slow out there right now that if you practice at normal practice speed, you could blow by a mother lode of fish and not even know it. I've really had to make myself slow down and practice like I would if it was actual tournament day. Guys that go into panic mode and run around too much are going to be in trouble. This is going to be a hunker-down event and execution is going to be critical. I guarantee you're going to hear stories at the weigh-in about somebody who lost a 5- or 6-pounder. A 12-incher is more important in a tough tournament than one where everyone is catching them. I'm going to focus on being slow and methodical and execute as flawlessly as I can.

All the festivities have started. We had the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame banquet last night and we have Classic Night tonight where all the anglers and sponsors of the Classic will be together with their families. It's a fun night and gives us a chance to catch our breath a little bit before the season starts.

One of the coolest things yet happened on Tuesday. I got to go to the Alabama Children's Hospital right here in Birmingham with about a dozen anglers. We got to visit a bunch of kids who had varying degrees of illness, many of whom were cancer patients.

One thing that really touched me was a 5-year-old girl named Josie. I got to go into the dialysis center because she couldn't leave there to get autographs with the other kids. I wish everybody could've seen the smile on her face. It wasn't because of me; it's because she has joy in her life. It was an inspiration to me to see that, proving that circumstances are what you make of them. You can have joy even in the midst of immense suffering. It was a very special time for me. Getting to go up there and spend time with those kids has been the highlight of my week so far.

I'm looking forward to finally getting this thing under way, so check back tomorrow and I'll report back on the final of practice.

Feb. 12, 2010
My Classic practice

The Jones Clan is in Alabama now, and we're getting settled in for the Classic. I'm making final preparations for practice, which starts today, and they're a little different this year. There's a snowstorm that's supposed to hit here.

I've put all my rods on top of the deck because if we get some snow and it melts a little bit then freezes again, your lockers can be frozen shut, and no one wants to deal with that. I'm putting some things in the boat that I normally don't, such as de-icer and ice scrapers just to keep all my engine controls, electronics, Hot Foot and other things ice-free.

You've also got to throw some extra gloves in there. I've learned that when you go fishing in the snow, just dress like you're going snow-skiing then add one more layer. This cold will add another element of mental toughness for practice. I say that because mentally preparing is going to be tough given the conditions. Even though it's going to be miserable, there are going to be a lot of important things to learn out there, even in the midst of bad weather. You've got to prepare for the bad weather and play through it.

Everything that I can do beforehand to prevent slip-ups in practice I'm doing today in the name of efficiency. That way I can focus on fishing.

I'm preparing for a wintertime event, and believe it or not, this is kind of what I was hoping for. I know if it were to warm up, everybody would catch 'em. But the way the weather has been all winter means this is going to be an extremely tough tournament. I feel certain weights will be down from the 2007 Lay Lake Classic. I think a honey hole scenario may play out here, where the tournament can be won from just one spot. Bass aren't hard to catch when it's this cold, they're just hard to find. In this case, I'm going to be looking for prime wintering spots where they may be wadded up. It's like looking for a pile of needles in a haystack, but when you find 'em, all the needles will be in one pile. Most folks would be surprised how many fish you can fit into an area the size of a family car. It sort of reminds me of the Lake Hartwell Classic from two years ago. I found something just like that.

On another note, late last week I was invited to participate in the Heart of Texas Celebrity Cook-Off in Waco. It's a bigger deal than I was anticipating. There were 44 entries, and 28 of those were either professional chefs or restaurants from our area. Stiff competition, for sure. Well guess what? We won! I admit that a lot of those guys that were in the contest are much better chefs than I am, but I do have a couple of things that I think are pretty good. I made my Texas White Wings. It's bacon-wrapped chicken with a jalapeno and mozzarella cheese inside the chicken. However, the secret is in my marinating sauce. I call it Skeeter Sauce. I'd love for everyone to be able to enjoy this recipe, but if I told you what was in the Skeeter Sauce... well, you know.

Last time we talked about Little Alton fishing tournaments on his own. It was on Lake Belton in Texas. The water is colder than it has ever been, and it came up 11 feet during the off-limits period. The conditions were about as bad as you could get. He fished hard, and talking to him after the event, I don't think there was anything he did wrong. It was just brutal. As much as he doesn't want me to say it, I have to: He zeroed. However, my very first bass tournament ever with the Waco Bass Club was on the same lake, and guess what? I also zeroed! I can absolutely relate to a tournament on Lake Belton. Like father, like son, I suppose.

Feb. 5, 2010
Another Alton

Make room for another Alton Jones on tour.

No, Jimmye Sue and I aren't having another child. Little Alton recently started fishing team tournaments out of his own boat. I touched on it before, but my old Skeeter/Yamaha went to him for Christmas. He's always expressed an interest in tournament fishing, and now he's finally getting to make his debut in the front of the boat.

Before he always fished with me — and we had fun with that — but it's time for him to graduate to running his own ship. His first tournament on Amistad was a few weeks ago. He and a buddy got in a field of 200 boats and placed 34th. Not too bad considering they just showed up on tournament day without any practice. He's beginning to prove himself in tournaments.

It has really been a lot of fun for me watching him develop and grow into an angler, using things I've taught him and applying them to his own situations. That is very gratifying.

His next event is at a lake closer to home, so he's been getting up every day at 5:30 a.m. to go practice for a few hours before school. I think he's beginning to learn that success is all about preparation. Hopefully, it pays off for him tomorrow at the Bass Champs tournament.

I don't know if he'll go pro one day, that's for him to decide. It's fun for me to see the energy and excitement in young anglers these days. When you do this for a career, it's easy to get caught up in the politics and distractions which can take attention away from fishing. It's very refreshing to be around people (like Little Alton) who love to fish for fishing's sake. Fishing is my job and loving it is the most important aspect of it, as well as teaching others to

Jan. 29, 2010
Gearing up

Right now I'm in Destin, Fla., for an educational seminar at Bass Pro Shops. It's for all the Bass Pro managers. We're rolling out the 2010 products and I'm here to tell them how they work. Tonight there is a banquet I get to speak at, so I'm looking forward to that.

Last night was a lot of fun, too. I'm here with Andy Carroll from PRADCO, a gentleman named Ronnie (who is the chief tackle buyer for Bass Pro Shops) and many others. Andy and Ronnie were there for last summer's lunker fest at Falcon Lake where we caught the 50-pound stringer. We're having lots of fun reminiscing about that.

On a Falcon note — something sad happened the other day. I went down to Zapata and brought the motor home back to Waco to prepare for the upcoming season. I usually leave it there during the offseason so I have a place to stay when I go down there.

Bringing it home always means the fun down there is done until next year. It was especially hard to leave this year because my goal for this offseason was to try and top my heaviest bass ever, and I failed. I was close, though. I know with 100 percent certainty I had it on. Not fulfilling my mission means I will have to pursue it even harder next year.

Right about now is the transition into boat show season, I'm traveling and speaking more and making appearances and getting ready for next year. I got the new Skeeter FX rigged up and the Yamaha SHO broken in. It's slick. It does 77 miles per hour fully loaded with two people and a full tank of gas. Nice.

I'm also getting all my tackle ordered and starting to get it organized for the Classic and the whole season. I like to get all my stuff for the entire season all at once so I can go through it and get it all packed. That way I'm most of the way done by the time I hit the road. I may get a thing or two here and there, but the bulk of it comes soon.

This is also the time that I get a little stir crazy. I'm ready to get on the road again and hit the water. I'm really excited about the places we're visiting this year; it is a really exciting schedule. My anticipation for the Classic and next season is at an all-time high!

Jan. 22, 2010
Falcon lunkers redux

I just got back from another trip to Lake Falcon. My "excuse" was to break in the new Yamaha VMax SHO, and break it in I did. It's fantastic. The first day the new boat was in the water our best five fish went 42 pounds. Putting that much bass slime in the boat is a great way to start off with this new craft.

We caught 71 bass in all. My buddy, David Ridley, went along for the ride and scored two new personal bests, a 9-4 and a 9-12 lunker. They were caught within 10 yards of each other. The place they were caught is super-secret. So much so I blindfolded him en route. I took some regular work goggles and spray painted them black. However, my daughter Jamie likes David so she asked if she could decorate them for him. You can see the result. I hope he'll go fishing with me again.

I went through all the hassle with my wrap last week and finally got it the way I want it. The first time I go out, it's already got a few gashes in it. That's just Falcon. It's not like the wrap is coming off or anything, that's just another part of breaking the boat in!

I've got to tell you about Zapata, Texas, right now. There are a lot of fishermen from around the U.S. visiting Falcon. A lot of them are fishing it for their first time. Each time we went into town there was always someone who recognized me and came over to say hello or ask for a photo. That was really cool.

On two different occasions, we had a group of gentlemen we didn't even know buy our dinner. Yesterday morning, before leaving, we were at the fisherman's hangout and we met two gentlemen from Lancaster, Pa., named Sean and Ray. They bought our breakfast. I want to give a special thanks to those guys.

Things like that are very special to me. I've learned it's one of those things that comes from winning the Classic. People do really nice things for you. It's a great feeling.

Now, about the lake. The fish are still deep. That severe cold front has kept them deeper than normal. Even though it's warm and beautiful now (it was in the 80s), the front kept them from coming up. It's a full-on prespawn bite, but a little deeper than normal. Usually prespawn fish are in 6 to 10 feet deep, but now the big fish bite is in 10 to 25 feet. They're also really channel-related, typically clinging to sharp breaks and edges. Any day now, they'll go straight to the bank.

They've gravitated away from a crankbait and to Yum Dingers and football jigs. We caught some on crankbaits, but nothing quality. The big ones wanted big Dingers. When we were slaying 'em on crankbaits back when it was warm, the little ones ate a Dinger. It's done a complete 180.

That's one of those things you've got to figure out when you go fishing. Conditions are always subject to change without notice on the lake. Once we figured that out, we caught progressively bigger fish. Look at David's 9-12. It's very indicative of the health of the population. They're fat and pretty. The way that thing is built you'd think it was a 13-pounder! That's just the build of the fish in Falcon right now. They're extremely ripe with eggs.

On another note, I'll be at Reeves Marine in Shreveport, La. Reeves is the Skeeter dealer for the north Louisiana area, and I'll be there from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. They're having a tournament, and I get to MC it, so I'll get to speak a little bit. If you're in the Shreveport-Bossier area, come on by and we'll talk fishing.

Jan. 15, 2010
Hurry up and wait

My boat — which was supposed to be wrapped and ready for me to pick up Monday — is still in the shop. When I got there, they had printed one of the logos in a terribly wrong color. The bottom half of the wrap had to be completely redone. Anyway, this brings up an interesting point.

We, as fishermen, get too antsy too fast.

We're so passionate about fishing; we want to get out and start doing our thing — so much so that sometimes things get overlooked. This is how drain plugs are forgotten and straps are left off trailered boats. In most cases, it's better to get things done right instead of fast, especially when rigging a new boat. There are always small details you have to iron out in the wrap, rigging and tackle. This is why it's important to start early.

One thing I'm happy about is the fact that we're still a ways away from the Classic, and I have the time now for things like this to happen. There's nothing worse than breaking in a new rig on tournament day.

When you've got a hot new rig, it's tough to wait for it to be done. I wanted to get it on the water last Monday and start breaking in the new engine and have fun driving the new beast. But I'm still waiting. And that's OK in this instance.

Little Alton is fishing his first tournament this week down at Lake Amistad. It's a team tournament he's fishing with his buddy, and the first real tournament he's entering on his own. It's also the first time he's taking his new boat, my old one, out for real. In the past he has always fished with me. With school and all, he won't have any time to prefish or prepare like he'd like to, but it should be a good experience. He's getting his feet wet.

After church this Sunday, I'm heading down to Falcon again. I have a feeling it's going to fish much differently than the last time I was there. That nasty cold front made it all the way down there. I heard Laredo, Texas, posted a new record temperature low recently. I think it was 19 degrees. There should be several days of warming up before I get there, but it still may be really tough.

I plan on fishing a spawn-type bite to see if there are any fish moving up. I'll report back on Little A's tournament and Falcon next week, hopefully with pictures.

Oh, by the way, go Cowboys!

Jan. 8, 2010
Football and bassin'

First of all, I'd like to congratulate the University of Alabama. They beat a heck of a good football team and broke my heart in the process. Well done, boys.

A while back, I got to spend a day on the water with Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley. It was in Bassmaster Magazine and on Bassmaster.com as well. If you'll remember, I drove the boat as Shipley stood on the deck and Colt threw a 40-mph slant to Justin. It was awesome. That day on the water made me feel like I have a little bit of ownership on some level. I'm more invested in the team by having spent time with those boys.

Check this out. That was one of the more memorable days of my 2009. You can read the whole story here.

As I've watched the BCS games and followed along with the teams' preparation, I can't help but see parallels between bass fishing and other sports in terms of preparation. It's the hard work involved in the preparation that rings familiar when getting ready for any sort of championship.

The BCS bowl was a national championship, and the Classic is a world championship. The BCS teams play all season, but only get a month or so of real preparation for the championship. That's about the same amount of time we'll get to prepare for the Classic. With every passing day it creeps a little farther to the forefront of my mind.

A while ago it was on the backburner, and more recently it's been sort of in the middle but in a week or two we'll be a month out and it will be almost all I think of. In that month I plan on doing a lot of planning, tackle preparation and going over my practice. Practice is always more important than game day, no matter the sport. If you prepare well, game day comes down to execution. If you don't prepare well, the best execution won't help you at all.

Watching the process that lead up to the BCS title game has gotten me fired up about and in the right mindset for the Classic, my championship event.

On a different note, I got my new boat the other day, the 2010 Skeeter FX20 with a 250-horse Yamaha VMax SHO. However, wouldn't you know it, it's too cold here in Texas to take it out. It'll be sporting the XCalibur/Skeeter wrap again for 2010.

Check back in a week or so and I'll let you all know how my very own hot rod bass rig runs. Even though the Classic is in Alabama, I can't wait.

Alton Jones Blog, 2009

Click here for Alton's blog entries from 2009.