- Alton Jones, Outdoors Blogger
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For Alton Jones' blogs in 2009, click here.
2008 Blog Entries: Dec. 29 | Dec. 5 | Nov. 25 | Nov. 18 | Nov. 14 | Nov. 11 | Nov. 4 | Oct. 28 | Oct. 24 | Oct. 21 | Oct. 10 | Sept. 29 | Sept. 22 | Sept. 16 | Sept. 10 | Sept. 4 | Aug. 25 | Aug. 18 | Aug. 11 | Aug. 6 | July 22 | July 15 | July 8 | June 30 | June 17 | June 2 | May 8 | April 30 | March 26 | March 25 | March 21 | March 6 | Feb. 28
The family and I took a ski vacation to Colorado. My parents came with us, and it was lots of fun. However, I didn't hit the slopes. Reason being, it would be hard to defend my Classic title in a cast!
It was hard not getting out there, but Jimmye Sue and I sat in the lodge and watched the kids go at it, and they did very well and had a ball. There were tons of deer around, too. While we were sitting there a deer walked up seven stairs to take a look at us through the sliding door! It was pretty cool. We're leaving now to get ahead of the storms that are coming through the area, which could've gotten pretty hairy.
We're on the way to Dallas to spend Christmas with my parents, my sisters, their husbands and kids everybody will be there. We're really looking forward to it. After that I may to go Amistad between then and the New Year, but that's still up in the air. Then, it's back to the diet. Remember my diet I tried? It's coming back, but this time, it's for real. I always try to get in shape before the season starts, and I work best under pressure, so I think I'll have a much better chance. After all, my New Year's resolutions usually last a few months, and the Classic falls in that time frame, so I should be good.
I want to wish you all a very merry and safe Christmas, but don't forget the reason for the season. It is my favorite holiday because it signals the time God became a man in Jesus Christ. It celebrates our Savior coming to Earth to save us. Christmas is about far more than a guy in a red suit, which seems to be forgotten by too many folks nowadays. Let's make an effort this year to keep Christ in Christmas. God Bless!
The past couple weeks have been extremely busy for me, I've been to Alabama to do some filming, to Louisiana to do some fishing and happened to fall into some hunting, and then back to Texas. While it was busy, it made me realize how blessed I am.
I am extremely passionate about everything I do from fishing to hunting to speaking and beyond. While we all have our ups and downs, for the most part I absolutely love every minute of what I do. I firmly believe if you're not happy doing what you're doing, you need to reconsider what it is you're doing.
Being able to do what I love most and support my family means everything to me. It's a feeling everyone should share because ultimately life isn't about the money you've made, so that high paying job you hate really isn't worth it. You can't put a price (or paycheck) on happiness. You need to be happy, then you can truly be wealthy.
In Alabama I was supposed to do a hunting show but we never quite got a chance to pull it off, so I stopped by Shreveport on the way home. I had a speaking engagement at a church there, but ended up getting more than I bargained for and I mean that in a good way. I met a man there and we became fast friends because when he heard I was out hunting he offered me the use of his land which is close to Shreveport.
Like any of you would have done, I wasted no time accepting his generous offer. What was supposed to be a strictly fishing and scouting trip for the Classic turned into a week most of us would consider the perfect vacation; I got up early to hunt in the morning and then went to the Red River to fish in the afternoon. What a great time! While I didn't get to harvest a deer, I was impressed with the number and quality of deer on this gentleman's land. They're living testaments to how successful land management can be.
The hunting in Louisiana is different than in Texas. Here you can take your time sizing up a deer, get composed and pull the trigger. If you don't shoot within five seconds in Louisiana, he's gone. The brush was so thick and the deer are really active during the rut. It was a lot of fun. In the afternoons, I headed out to the River to look at the spots I had picked out earlier to evaluate them, get an idea where fish might be and find some new spots. I found a few textbook places that I think I can count on in February, but only time will tell.
It was a great trip overall. I got a lot of work done and had a ton of fun while doing it. I hope if you're not able to say the same that you will one day.
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and got a chance to spend time with your family. My holiday was different than any other I've had. I got to "see" some relatives I'd never met before.
My mom has been doing some research on her relatives (ancestors, really) she has never known. She didn't even know where they were buried. Luckily, she found something that pointed us to west Texas. About 50 miles southwest of Abilene is a cemetery called Bluff Creek. There isn't any town nearby; it's in the middle of nowhere really, but it is kept up nicely. We started our search there, and sure enough we stumbled upon a gravestone that read "Sheppard." We had found at least a few relatives, and after we scoured the entire cemetery, we found others.
My great grandfather and his wife, my great-great grandfather and his wife were all buried there. My mom had heard stories of these people, but never knew them or where they were laid to rest, so it was really neat to make a connection with this lost part of our family.
There was a very interesting set of emotions that came along with this discovery. You see a 100-year-old grave, yet there is a connection there. It's really something else. My mother got emotional, and then I did, too. It was her side of the family that taught me to fish and to love the outdoors, so in reality I very well may owe these people my livelihood.
I couldn't help but wonder as I looked at those gravestones if they hunted and fished as much as I do now. It's not that unrealistic, I think. Probably one of the neatest things of the whole weekend is that being a Christian, there was a Biblical inscription at the bottom of the tombstone which read, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." That lets me know that I very well may see them in Heaven one day and get to know them. Perhaps my spiritual heritage lies with them, too.
Well, all this insight into old relatives made me especially thankful for the family I have now. These discoveries really put things in perspective for me.
Right now I'm off to Alabama to do a little deer hunting as a guest for a TV show. I'm really excited to have been invited. I'll let you all know how it goes soon.
This past week I've been on the lake with a few kids, and it was a great time. My church put on "Dads and Dudes," where we taught some kids how to tie knots and the basics. For some of them, it was the first time they'd ever caught a fish, and seeing that was really special.
I also went out to Fayette County Lake with a buddy from Baylor and his 10-year-old son, Will. Both are avid fisherman, and we had a blast. We got over 70 fish, including some real pigs, like Will's 6 1/2-pounder. It reminded me of when I use to take little Alton fishing.
Well, sometimes little Alton didn't do any fishing at all. He just played in the minnow bucket. But seeing him have so much fun and being outside playing with those minnows is the stuff that memories that last a lifetime are made of.
I've had some of my most meaningful conversations with him in a bass boat. It wasn't being in the boat that did it, it was the fact that you have such a captive audience in each other while you're out there that you can't help but bring up your innermost thoughts. It's a very easy venue to bring up hard topics. Those of you that are fathers or mothers know what I'm talking about. There's no phone, no email, no video games, just you and your kid and the outdoors. I firmly believe this is why little Alton and I are so close.
It also helps to develop in them a sense of respect and appreciation for the outdoors and shows them the bounty of our natural resources and how valuable they are.
Taking a kid fishing is so easy, too. The biggest objection I hear from people who want to take their kid fishing is that they don't know how. All you have to do is go to the store and get a starter set for fishing gear, many of which have a rod, reel, line, hooks, bobbers and other essential things, you just supply the bait. You don't need you kid throwing a crankbait or jig, just use some nightcrawlers and minnows. I've found that when fishing is slow that is when the conversation becomes more meaningful, but if it's good, you'll be catching fish, so either way it really is win-win.
One word of caution to experienced anglers: Make the trip about your child and not you. Make it an hour at the longest, and end it right in the middle of the best action. This way, they'll want to get back out there again as soon as possible rather than waiting for the trip to end.
Taking a kid fishing really is one of the most important things we can do as anglers to ensure that there will be people there to support the outdoors once we're gone. There's no better way that I've found to get kids interested in the outdoors than sitting with fishing pole in hand.
This past weekend I had the best day of bass fishing in my whole life. Not size-wise, but for sheer numbers. Few people ever see these kinds of numbers, and I doubt I'll ever get close to this day again.
The event was my own that benefits Lifeline Youth and Family services, Fish with the Pros Texas. I, along with four other pros, took two guests out for two days of fishing and spent the weekend with them as well. We feasted like kings, shot the breeze and stayed in the same cabin for the weekend. There's no other event that I know of that lets you get that close to a pro and spend so much time with them as the Fish with the Pros events. Todd Faircloth, Zell Rowland, Brent Chapman and Ben Matsubu were there, too.
Anyhow, on Friday I took my two guests out and we had gotten 63 fish between 8:30 a.m. and noon. Not a bad day at all. The real fun started when we hit the water after lunch. Between 1 o'clock and 4:30 p.m. we caught 151 bass. No kidding. It was the most incredible day I've ever had. I told the guys I was with to quit fishing, this was as good as it gets. It simply won't get any better. My previous best was 139, so that got smashed pretty quick. We got 214 total bass, with about 50 five-pounders the biggest was 7-4. As my guys put it, "It was raining 3- and 4-pounders."
I know you want to know where we were, but the owner of the land and the lake wishes to remain anonymous. However, I'll be on bended knee next year begging him to let us come back, so sign up for Fish with the Pros Texas now, and you may get a shot.
Getting those kinds of numbers really brings some perspective not only to fishing, but your life. I realized that to be successful at something you have to be passionate about it, and having a day like that is enough to make anyone passionate about fishing. I couldn't care less if the market was up or down or if all my sponsors fired me. I was out there doing what the sport is all about, catching bass. No matter how bad the economy is, bass will still eat a shad, and this past weekend proves that.
All we had to do was drop an Xcalibur Rattle Bait straight down, and it was taken within a matter of seconds. You didn't even need to move it, just let it drop. If it hit bottom, reel it up a bit, and then it was gone. They were so ferocious, I told my guys they'd better not fall in at the risk of being attacked. It was absolutely insane.
I was so excited Friday night after catching all those fish I couldn't sleep. I slept fine during the 2008 Classic, but getting that many fish is enough to make anyone jumpy. I can't wait for next year. If you're interested, check out LifelineYouth.org
for more information. I enjoy this event as much if not more than any other throughout the entire year, and this year has been one of the best.
Okay, so I won't be on COPS, but on Monday evening I strayed outside of my comfort zone and went for a ride along with my friend, Officer Jason Bihl of the Waco PD.
It's really incredible how he has developed an intuition for things that are going wrong. I guess 10 years on the force will do that for you. He has been on Waco's force for eight years, and before that served in Garland, Texas for two. For example, we were driving along, and he noticed a young man turn the other way when he spotted the cruiser. We stopped to talk to him, and it turned out he was violating his probation, and had a bunch of credit cards on him that weren't his. I would have driven right by.
The most profound thing I came across Monday night was that an officer's job isn't like COPS for the most part. Obviously, some of it is otherwise COPS wouldn't exist, but that is just a fraction of what they do. What you don't see on TV is the human side of it.
Some people are career criminals, and getting arrested is simply an inconvenience in their evening; they'll be back out in a few hours doing whatever it was that got them in there. Then there's the stuff that breaks your heart. There are good folks who have gotten mired down in some bad situations, and they're at rock bottom when the police come across them. You can tell they're ashamed of where they're at, and they really want to quit whatever it is they're doing, whether it's drugs or other crime. That was the hardest part of my night on patrol, seeing young people who have their heart in the right place wind up in the wrong place and need to be rescued by the law.
Police officers have to be hardened to the reality of their jobs, but compassionate at the same time. There were a few times we stopped people where Jason could have ticketed them, but he didn't. He realized they were honestly remorseful and knew they wouldn't be repeat offenders, so the ticket wasn't necessary. Sometimes he has to do the hard thing and take people in, but as odd as it sounds, he's doing it because he wants them to have a better life, and sometimes the only way to break someone's pattern of illicit activity is to take them in. They'll be away from the streets and are offered treatment and counseling. He is so passionate about this that he is a relentless worker.
Seeing Jason's work ethic made me feel safer living in Waco. We never sat at the donut shop waiting for a call to come in; we were always on the move, looking for suspicious activity. I'm glad Jason allowed me to sit in with him on patrol; it has given me more respect for our men in women in uniform that ever before, and I pray the Lord keeps them safe every day.
As I said, I was going to be fishing with some very interesting and high profile guys. Myself, Matt Reed and other guys took a few MLB players out to benefit Lifeline Youth and Family Services with Hawk's Big League Classic. This weekend was just filled with all sorts of cool stuff.
Team Jones consisted of me, Torii Hunter and his pastor, Corey. We really kind of ran away with it, but the competition is not what the event was about. It was about raising money for kids in need of positive direction in their lives. Another cool thing about the Big League Classic is that it was like a family reunion for these guys.
Torii, Eddie Guardado and Doug Mientkiewicz all played for the Twins for a bit, and they got really close. Since then, they've been split up and traded, so coming here was a lot of fun for them, too. I got to see some of the camaraderie these guys enjoy in a team sport. Eddie was a cut up; he had something funny to say about absolutely everything. Torii is passionate about his faith.
When you share a passion with someone, you form an instant bond with them. We got to talking about the Lord, and that made it even more special for me. Doug is a fisherman. He's got a boat down in Florida and goes whenever he can. On TV, you only see the athletes these guys are, but up close, you get to see what good men they are, something not too common in professional sports anymore. I'm glad to have met and spent time with them.
We all have talents; they are gifted ball players, I can fish. Some people are more gifted than others, but one thing we can all do is give back. We can use our talents and abilities to make a difference in other people's lives, and that's something no amount of money can buy. That's why I love doing things with Lifeline so much, and am thankful that Doug, Eddie and Torii took time out to give of themselves, too. It will impact a lot of people.
Oh, one other thing. I've had a bit of a problem. I've got my fishing uniform, which is mostly blue, specifically Yamaha blue. I've got the shorts, the shirt and tons of hats that are the same color, but I could never find shoes that matched. Then I saw what Eddie Guardado had on his feet, a pair of Yamaha blue Nikes.
I had to have a pair, but he told me you couldn't get a pair unless you play for the Texas Rangers. I was a bit bummed, but understood.
Before he left, though, he offered them to me. Of course I accepted, but he told me he needed a pair of shoes. I was embarrassed when I looked at my beat up, cruddy 5-year-old Reeboks and offered them to him, but being the great guy he is, he just said, "Now all I need is a pair of dress socks." What a fantastic guy. I am blessed to have met these fine men and wish them the best.
You better believe I'll be wearing those Yamaha blue shoes at the 2009 Bassmaster Classic!
Nov. 4, 2008
More Scouting About
Around September 1, I took a trip to Lake Amistad to see something I'd never seen before the lake at the lowest level I'd ever seen. Now, I'm leaving tomorrow to go back for another first, to see the lake at dead full. It has been so wet that even Falcon is full! It's amazing how much these desert lakes fluctuate.
I went in September to see things that are normally hidden with high water, but this time I'll be seeing the lake in a completely different way, and this will give me the opportunity to find fish in places I've never tried before.
I really believe if you have seen a lake in all its different forms you'll be better off when tournament time rolls around. You'll be better prepared for whatever the condition at the time is. Take advantage of the unique circumstances to expand your knowledge of your favorite lake, even if you think you know it top to bottom.
There's so much water going through there right now that Falcon is at its highest since 1991. While scouting Amistad at a different level will be interesting, there's something else that will be even better once I get there.
I will be fishing with some very special guests while I'm there. I mean, really special. Flying-in-on-private-jets special. I'll get back with you with details and some photos later in the week.
Man, oh man, was this weekend fun! It was probably the most fun I've had in a long time. Everything I thought I knew about cars was turned on its head. I thought I knew the limitations of what a performance-tuned automobile can do, but was I ever wrong.
For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, The Porsche Club of America held a high performance driver's education class at a track in College Station this past weekend for the Hill Country region (that's the guys in my part of Texas). It was a great chance to really wring out our cars in ways you can't on the street. I hit about 150 miles per hour 10 or so times during the class. It was unreal. My favorite part, though, was along the back of the course, the F1-style part. There were lots of twists and turns and that was the part that really blew my mind. Learning how to find the apex of the turn and use it to set up the next one was really interesting. There was a classroom portion, but like most things, there's no substitute for seat time. That got me thinking about my status as an Elite Series pro and wondering if I am in the same position as these Porsche instructors.
While I learned a lot in the classroom and while I was driving, I learned the most by far when I was strapped in the instructor's car watching him drive. It was like there's a whole different level of driving I wasn't even aware of. I thought I could drive my Porsche fast before, but he quickly put that to rest. Some of the best things I took away from the class were from watching him do things that are second nature to him. He can do them without thinking. Since I relate everything back to fishing, I got to thinking what a great opportunity the marshals in the Elite pro's boats are going to have next year.
To take an average guy and put him in the thick of it with a pro has got to be a priceless experience. You can watch all the videos and read all the articles in the world, but to really bring it together you need to do it yourself or see how it is done firsthand. That's where lessons are learned, going out and being with someone better than you in a non-competitive atmosphere, be it at fishing, driving or anything at all. It can be truly amazing the things you pick up when you're not distracted and give your undivided attention to an expert in any field.
I had the opportunity of a lifetime this past Wednesday. I got to take NFL Hall of Famer Randy White out for a day.
If you were to ask me to sum him up in a word, it would be "fisherman." He's one of us. We caught lots of bass, including a seven-pounder, and had a great time, but the highlight of the day was being around him. He wanted to talk fishing, but I wanted to talk football! As we traded stories, I couldn't help but be fascinated hearing a firsthand account from Dallas' Doomsday Defense. But the best thing of all was to hear how a man who is so accomplished and famous could be so normal.
He hasn't let all the fame go to his head. He's very approachable, an accomplished fisherman, a gentleman and a superstar. The important things in his life aren't things at all, they're relationships something that can easily become lost nowadays.
While I was there with him, I couldn't resist the chance to get some Christmas shopping out of the way. Several people close to me will have benefited from this trip as well.
On a different note, this weekend will find me down at College Station, Texas, at a driving school for high-performance cars. I'll let you all know how it went Monday.
Oct. 21, 2008
Hot Button Issues
Everyone's heard the economy is in a slump. Gas prices are high. There's about to be an election. All these things weigh on our minds and affect us in one way or another. If you're like me, you look to the lake for an escape.
Fishing has always been my escape from daily life. I'm sure it is for each of you, too so much so it seems like all the stuff we do in between trips to the lake, like work, are just filler until we get out there. I don't know of any other sport where you can forget all your problems in just a matter of a few moments, a few casts. The depressing part is going back to the dock and real life. Or maybe real life is out on the water, and all the other stuff is the less real ... who knows?
Personally, I've done less fishing this offseason than in recent years, and it felt good to wet my line for a few hours this morning. I've been so busy lately that fishing seems even more like an escape than usual. Getting out there early reminds me of everything I love about our sport. Even when I am fishing a lot more frequently, getting out on the water is still an escape, though. With that said, I get to fish a lot more than some, like our active service men and women.
Just this past weekend I was in Austin and had the opportunity to spend some time with Army Maj. Cody Roberson who is on a 3 week leave from Iraq, and his organization, ArmyBassAnglers. ArmyBassAnglers helps soldiers returning home from active duty get back out on the water with the Skeeter pros as well as raise money for various armed forces-related charities. I must say, after spending time with these good men, I feel a lot safer.
These soldiers are people who are thoughtful, prepared and dedicated. It is an honor to be associated with Maj. Roberson and his organization. We were even talking about getting a time for me to be on an armed forces radio show and address the troops overseas who would be interested, which supposedly is a lot as many servicemen and women like to fish and hunt.
No matter where you stand on politics or how hard you are hit by the economic crunch, one thing remains true even in the worst of times, the bass will bite.
Stay tuned as later in the week I get to spend a day on the water with former Dallas Cowboy star defensive lineman Randy White.
Sorry I'm a little late updating. I've been tied up doing a few things with another tournament and I even hit the links a few days ago with some other Elite guys. It's been a good, albeit busy, week.
Probably the number one thing I took away from my trip to Shreveport is that the folks there are absolutely pumped for the Classic. I was stopped by people in gas stations who recognized me and told me how excited they are for February. I even took Shreveport Times outdoor writer Jimmy Watson out for a bit to get some photos and a story. The people there are incredibly accommodating and kind as well as ravenous bass fishing fans. I ate out every day of the week, and no one would let me pay! This should be one crazy Classic. Things are shaping up on the water as well.
My first observation from being on the river is that it is bigger than I thought. By going out there now, I feel like I've made myself more efficient for the practice days ahead, I've eliminated lots of water and have four or five places I'm going to concentrate on during the real practice period. On the Red River there are so many little creeks that may be hiding 500 acres of water or nothing; you just can't tell unless you've got a bird's eye view.
Flying over the Red River was perhaps the most beneficial to my trip in getting acquainted with the river. I had a GPS unit and marked spots that looked promising, and surveyed what these little creeks are hiding. How I found a plane is a funny story. I was out eating dinner with a gentleman (who didn't let me pay) and I mentioned in passing I'd like to fly over the river within the week. He stopped me right there, picked up his phone and called a buddy who has a plane. Once he told his pal it was Alton Jones who needed a hand, all he asked was what time I'd like to go. This truly is a fantastic place full of fantastic people.
I did find that there is a lot of timber that is currently sticking up, but it should be flooded and productive in February. I'm sure lots of you want to know how big the fish I got were. Well, prepare to be disappointed. The only time I put a bait in the water was for the photo shoot, but I did bag a three-and-a-half-pounder, though. It was perfect timing. Other than that, I didn't do any fishing. What good would it have done? Anything I use now will be useless in February, and fishing now would just put ideas in my head that would be unproductive. I'll wait till we close in on the Classic to put some time in behind a rod and reel.
In the meantime, I've got a few charity events to attend over the next few days, so I'll let you all know how that goes next week.
To me, this upcoming week can make or break my 2009 Bassmaster Classic. I'm headed over to Shreveport right now and will be there for six days studying the Red River. I'm going to determine my success by how well I can duplicate my strategy that worked well one year ago: Don't touch a fishing rod. Anything I do now will not work at the Classic, so why waste time fishing someplace that probably won't hold fish in February? I'm not on vacation, this is a business trip.
I need to learn how to maneuver through the river and backwaters and figure out where I can and can't run. I'm going to be idling through a lot of dead water this week. It's not the most glamorous way to spend a day on a lake, but definitely one of the most useful.
When you're trying to figure out what a body of water is all about, there are a few things to look for. Whether you're tournament is six months or twenty-four hours away, look for the predominant form of vegetation, and then take that one step further and find where most of that vegetation is.
These areas are more likely to have larger fish populations. This will allow you to narrow down where you spend your time when the real deal rolls around. You need to eliminate a lot of water so you can be as efficient as possible for game day. If I'm getting ready for a big body of water, I'll even go one step further fly over it.
Chartering a small plane may not always be worth it, but several things can make it worth it. If you're on a big water system, the tournament is huge (like the Classic), or you're not familiar with the water, flying it can be a great deal. It'll usually run you about $150 an hour, so if you split the fee with a buddy it becomes affordable. Getting an aerial look at the water lets you see two of the important things to fishermen vegetation and water clarity. It's hard to tell where water turns clearer or darker from your boat, but overhead it's night and day. You can also see little pools or creeks that may not be visible from the water. Be sure to take a GPS unit and a paper map to make notes to make your time up there worthwhile.
This is the first step in my Classic preparation. It's the foundation. If you want to build anything successfully, you need a strong foundation. That's why I consider this the most important week of the entire year. If you put this one and the next one together, they make up what should be my busiest weeks as well. I've got two speaking engagements while I'm in Louisiana. I'll let you all know how it went when I return early next week.
This week is kind of a transition week; I've been in Columbia, S.C., for the Skeeter Owner's Tournament and have just started to get my tackle ready for the Red River. The way it's set right now, I could still fish at Oneida!
The Owner's Tournament was a blast. There were probably 300 Skeeters there and about 650 anglers. Some boats had three guys in them, which is no problem for these boats. Fishing tournaments like this are great for a few reasons.
First, you get to connect with sponsors, fans and other anglers on a different level. At Elite Series events, you see them all, but don't really get to visit the way you'd like to. When there's no pressure, you're free to get to know some of these weekend warriors and find out what they're all about. It just took a little bit of time visiting with folks, and I was surprised at what I found.
There are some guys that are really good. I mean, really good fishermen out there who aren't pros. Granted, some of them live on or near the lake, have fished it for years, and know it inside and out, but I was amazed at hearing the thought processes some of these guys went through. They were doing exactly what I would have done. You run into this lots of places we go, but you recognize it more when you're not under the gun. I was truly impressed at the level some of these guys were fishing. The "average" fisherman isn't so average anymore.
At the Skeeter tournament there's an hourly big fish weigh in, and over about 12 hours, there was one guy who got paid seven times! He had that lake dialed in, to be sure. The difference between Elite Series guys and weekend fishermen is the ability to apply your skills to other bodies of water.
When I first started fishing BASS events, I cleaned up here in Texas, but quickly had to learn to fish other types of water like muddy rivers and those shallow bowls in Florida. The only thing that can make you better on different water is time on said water. You need to learn a lake's personality before you can hope to attack it successfully, which is why I'm gearing up for at trip to Louisiana.
The Red River is such a massive water system, I need to start familiarizing myself with it as soon as possible. Next week I'm going over there to do a bit of "sight seeing." I probably won't fish too much, but just try to learn what the river is all about. Doing your homework is paramount to success on any lake or river, but since it is the Red River and the Classic, it is doubly so.
I'll also be doing a few speaking engagements while I'm there, so check back soon, and I'll keep you all updated and comment on my findings at the river soon.
I had known for a long time that I would be speaking this past Monday at Legacy Outfitters' annual Fishers of Men banquet, but what I didn't know was that I was in for the award of a lifetime.
There were almost 1,000 men attending the banquet where hunting and fishing trips, guns, tackle and other outdoor items were up for auction to raise money for Legacy. The surprise came when I was sitting at my table, shuffling through my notes before it was my turn to speak, and I overheard them talking about an award. I was organizing my thoughts and note cards when I heard them announce the recipient of the award, and was perhaps the most surprised person in the room when they called my name.
The Lifetime Legacy Award is given to one man a year who best lives up to the standards we believe in. Things like being a better father and husband and matching your actions with your words are all important. Basically being the kind of man God wants you to be and creating a legacy worth leaving. I think winning the Classic may have had something to do with it as well, but we'll never know for sure. Regardless of the reasons, I am truly humbled and honored to receive this award. As I looked out over the audience I saw no less than thirty men who I think deserve this award more than me, making it all the more special.
Receiving this award makes me feel grateful to know the things I'm doing have a direct impact on the lives of other men and their families. Winning the Classic and this award have made me more visible, so it is more important than ever that I walk the walk, and the Lifetime Legacy award is a way of recognizing my efforts at this. Being involved with Legacy Outfitters is a great way for me to be able to inspire men and make a difference in their lives. It continues to amaze me how much winning the Classic has done for me, and the least I can do is help others through the opportunities I have been afforded by this.
Sept. 10, 2008
Dove season is in full swing, and Little Alton and I are capitalizing big time. We went down to Hondo, Texas, which is west of San Antonio, for some of the best dove hunting there is. In my mind, Hondo is the dove capital of the United States, hands down. The only problem with going there is that after you drive three hours, you can easily get your twelve-bird limit in 15 minutes!
There are so many birds that in the time it takes you to reload three shells, you've missed ten shots easy shots, too. You can pick your bird every time without having to take high or far shots. It truly is something else that you have to experience to believe. And with that many birds falling, those of you with good bird dogs know, this is when you really appreciate them.
Our ten-week-old Grace is taking to birds like a fish to water. I just introduced her to feathers via a whole bird I always keep in the freezer and taught her some commands, and I'll tell you what, this may be the best dog I've ever had.
Seeing her eyes light up when you know she gets it is what bird hunting is all about for me. A good dog working hard in the field is hard to beat. While my eight-year-old Sandy is showing no signs of slowing down, it's looking more and more like Grace will be ready for next season.
Just last weekend we went to Coleman, Texas, to my in-laws for some hunting on their ranch, which was also a great time. Our whole immediate family was there, with kids and grandkids running around. I cherish times like that. It was all about hunting, family, football and good food. Some of which I had a hand in preparing.
There's something else not a whole lot of people know about me. I enjoy cooking. Not making a casserole or baking a cake or cookies, but "manly cooking." It's a hobby of mine. By manly I mean cooking food that makes noise when you cook it.
The only places you'll find me cooking are in front of a sizzling grill or a popping frying pan. The sights, sounds and smells can be intoxicating.
My father-in-law taught me a great way to prepare dove. It takes all the gaminess out of them. Take the breasts and make a small slit on the outside of each one. Take a jalapeno slice and stick it in there. Put a slice of mozzarella cheese over it, wrap it in bacon, put a toothpick in it, then throw it on the grill.
When you get good food, great hunting, and family together, it's almost always guaranteed to be a good time.
Of all the events I attend, the most exciting one is coming up Fish with the Pros Texas for Lifeline Youth and Family Services. It's got the makings of a once-in-a-lifetime fishing experience. There is no way I know of that allows you to spend more intimate, quality time with an Elite Series pro than this event.
First of all, there's no need to worry about embarrassing yourself by not catching any fish. The lakes we fish are some of the most exclusive lakes in Texas. The only way to get on them is by the good graces of the landowner. They are highly managed for trophy fish. Getting skunked is not an option. We had a guy a few years ago who caught his first bass ever during this event. It happened to be a 12-pounder! If you ask him, he'll tell you he caught it on "some shiny thing." Combine the first-rate lakes with an Elite Series pro's expertise, and you've got yourself a day on the water your buddies will envy for a long, long time.
Secondly, the camaraderie is second to none. You arrive the 13th of November and leave the 16th and are on the water the 14th and 15th. Through all these days you live in a lodge with the pros. You don't just meet us at the launch ramp, you get up and share pancakes with us. We'll have BBQ one night and steaks the next. Did I mention the whole thing is all-inclusive? From airfare to tackle to grub, you're covered with one check payable to a good cause: Lifeline Youth and Family Services.
Lifeline works wonders in the lives of many children and their families each year, from live-in facilities to counseling, Lifeline gives at-risk kids an alternative to risky behavior. They help abused, abandoned and delinquent children get back on the right track. That alone is worth the price of admission.
So far, we've got four Elite pros on board for this event; me, Todd Faircloth, Brent Chapman and Ben Matsubu, and as of this writing there are only two spots out of ten left, so get on www.LifelineYouth.org, go to the Events tab and find Texas Fish with the Pros for more details, or contact Ann Hettig, Lifeline's Special Events Director at 231-632-3535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have several guys who enjoy this event so much they've come every year since the first one in 2004.
Opportunities like this don't come around very often, and when you combine that with the chance to give to such a worthy cause, Fish with the Pros is a no-brainer.
Aug. 25, 2008
Time to Get Political
Everyone is talking politics these days, bass fishermen included. I was doing a little thinking and found that we are grossly underrepresented in the political arena, so I'd like to change that. Click here to see how.
Yep, I'm throwing my Skeeter hat into the race. Can I count on your vote?
I'm Alton Jones, and I approve this message.
Just last Thursday, we welcomed a new addition to the Jones clan. Her name is Grace a yellow lab puppy. We hope she will make a fine addition as both a pet and a bird dog. Both of her parents are champion field dogs, so little Alton and I can't wait get to get her out in the field. She is very smart for almost eight weeks old, so we're hoping she'll be ready for next year. Her registered name is Ephesians 2:8, which happens to be about God's amazing grace. We named her Grace so she would serve as a reminder of the goodness He provides.
Our other golden lab, Sandy, has been traveling with us for eight years, and she has made a fine field dog as well, disproving the old adage that you can't have a field dog and a pet in the same animal. She has even competed in a few of the Dock Dogs contests where the dogs leap as far as they can off of a dock. Sandy isn't a pro at it, but it's still neat to watch her fly like that.
The offseason is where I more actively pursue other passions. I always look forward to quail and dove season, for example. I love shooting and eating birds, but the thing I enjoy more about bird hunting is the dogs. There's nothing quite like watching one of God's creatures doing what it was intended for. It really makes you appreciate nature and the things He has made for us. I like to get out in the early part of dove season and try to go a few times a week. I may also go for quail two or three times.
Most importantly, hunting and fishing affords Alton Jr. and I quality time that we can't get anywhere else. There isn't a father and son who fish or hunt together I know that don't have a great relationship. I've had some of my best quality time with him in the field and on the water. Something special happens between you and your children in the woods or on the water.
Even though the offseason just started, it's never too early to start preparations for next season. I have a laundry list of things to do, from organizing my gear and unpacking from last season to studying next year's water. But, I'll get more into that next week.
I must say, I am pleased with the way my season ended. In fact, I'm very satisfied with the whole thing. You can't beat a Classic win to kick things off, and finishing fifth in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points isn't too shabby, either. Monetarily, it was my best year but performance-wise it's my third best; however, I would rank it up there with the other two because of the Classic win. Now that it's over, it's time to get into the offseason routine.
The differences between life on the Tournament Trail and the offseason are so stark that even my body realizes it's time to relax. Four or five days after the last tournament, I'll sort of crash and burn, then hibernate. The constant stream of adrenaline of the season turns off, and I get a chance to get some needed Zs. I'll also put on some weight usually five or ten pounds because I don't burn nearly as many calories. But, this year should be different.
I know I'm eight months too late for a New Year's resolution but this offseason I've got a new diet and workout regimen in place to keep those pesky pounds at bay. I almost always lose them as soon as the Trail picks up again, but it would be nice to not have to deal with that for the next six months. Currently I'm at 205 pounds, but I'd love to be at 195. I'd be more apt to stick to my plan if you all held me accountable! I'll keep you all updated, so comment below and let me know how you think I'm doing.
Anyhow, I've got a few more speaking engagements, so I won't get bored, and in a few weeks, I'm heading over to Shreveport to check out the Red River for the 2009 Classic.
Aug. 6, 2008
Great Folks, Great Times
If you didn't know already, I didn't finish quite where I would have liked last week at Buffalo. I had very high hopes as I was still mathematically in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year chase, but thirteen and fourteen pound bags won't cut it. It sure was fun catching those feisty smallmouth, though.
My elimination from the TTBAOY chase redeemed itself in that I can relax and enjoy the last event of the season at Oneida. The short drive to Syracuse was also a nice change from the typical hundreds of miles between events. Well, it should have been relaxing. It turned out being the hardest two hour drive of the season.
While Jimmye Sue was driving the motor home to Syracuse, with the double-stack trailer containing both boat and truck in tow, something didn't feel right. We pulled over to find the trailer hitch had broken clean off the frame of the RV! We were on the side of the road assessing the damage (which turned out to be minor) and before long there were other Elite guys stopping to give a hand. Derek Remitz and Brad Hallman pulled over, Mark Davis was there, and before long we were waving guys on because we had more help than we needed. I always knew we had an extraordinary group of guys in the Elites but this really speaks volumes about the kind of heart these guys have.
Jimmye Sue has kept busy in Syracuse tracking down a repair shop, while I've been practicing. I'm really looking forward to watching the TTBAOY race, as are all the other Elite guys, and I'd be happy to see either Todd or Kevin win; they're both great guys. This would be Kevin's fourth title and Todd's first, so it would mean a lot to him if he won it.
Keeping the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year dream alive so late in the season has been great but losing it now is bittersweet; I wish I could have won, but at the same time I'm relieved that I don't have all that pressure at the end of the year.
I'll be back next week after this final event once my offseason schedule starts, which is busier than you'd think.
July 29, 2008
My Take on Co-Anglers
Recently BASS announced that co-anglers will no longer be in the boat with Elite pros during tournaments. I have mixed emotions about this, but the bottom line is that for Elite Series level fishing, it's a needed change. With that said, I will also miss having someone fishing from the back of my boat because the vast majority of my non-boaters have been wonderful. Another thing that is certain is that many feathers will be ruffled.
I'm not ragging on co-anglers. I've made some very close friends out of them through nearly two decades as a professional not just acquaintances, but true friends. It has been a blessing for me, and I will miss it, but on the other hand this move will raise the level of competition in the Elites. There will be no more excuses. "My co-angler took 'em all" won't work anymore. Maybe we'll just have to get more creative.
Co-anglers are a necessary part of the sport. It gives regular guys a chance to get the best firsthand experience there is. But the other side of that coin is that since we're both fishing, it's hard to talk and describe what you're doing without taking precious time to show it. It would be a whole lot easier to have an observer type person there someone who has nothing other to do than listen. I know I would be much more willing to explain in detail what I'm doing to someone who doesn't have a rod and reel in his hands, especially when I'm whacking them. We could be more conversational with them, too, making for better TV coverage.
Observers are better for Elite guys for another reason. They can't catch any fish.
For example, if I'm a car salesman and have to take a co-salesman around the lot with me, I have to share my sales with him even though I have done all the work to get a sale. This directly affects my bottom line, or in our case, our fish. If I'm three ounces away from first and the co-angler hooks into a five-pounder, that may well have taken money directly out of my pocket, just like a co-salesman would do. It's always better when you don't have to share fish.
I do still recognize the need to have someone in the boat, other than a cameraman. Since they won't be able to fish, we need to keep the incentive there to want to get on board with a Mark Davis or a Steve Kennedy and just go along for the ride. Perhaps if we get the local community at an event involved by giving away a few observer positions as prizes, that would work. Either way, it's a bittersweet move for me. I'll miss having a fishing buddy, but I'm glad that "buddy" can't take food off my table.
July 22, 2008
ICAST Recap and Going North
ICAST was a smashing success. Jimmye Sue and I enjoyed ourselves immensely, and Kistler Rods also unveiled my new Alton Jones Signature Series rods! They include a football head jig rod (the same one I used to win the Classic), a spinnerbait rod and a crankbait rod. It's really an honor to have your own line of rods, and I hope they all do well for both Kistler and anyone who buys one.
With ICAST behind me, it's time to turn my attention north. This isn't like going to any other tournament in the South or out West; there is a slew of things that need to be addressed if you want to have a chance up there. Everything about the tournament changes: the fish, the tackle, and the boat right down to the propeller. You need to get the boat as light as possible, tie down everything twice and put on a 23-pitch prop to get the boat moving. There's only a few largemouth in Erie, so smallies will be the moneymakers. You need to leave the flipping sticks at home, bring your finesse gear and some Dramamine. While I've never been sea sick, I had a partner one year who threw up no less than twenty times, and he even snagged a five-pounder while his head was over the side of the boat.
There are only a few things that will get the fish up there, mostly because their diet is limited to gobies and crawfish. This makes tubes indispensable. My favorite is a 3-inch green pumpkin tube. Just put out your drift sock and hold on. The waves are too big for the trolling motor, and the drift sock gives the tube a natural appearance. The playing field is leveled here to the point that it is entirely reasonable that anyone could win. You just need to find the fish first. Once you find them, it's just a matter of getting your tube down there. The same guy who was sick out-fished me that day despite his illness. That just shows how important electronics will be.
I don't mean to paint a doom-and-gloom picture of Northern fishing, I actually really enjoy it. See, smallmouth fishing is somewhat of a novelty for me. I grew up where ol' bucketmouth is king, so this is like a vacation for me. I always look forward to catching those crazy bronze-backed acrobats. I say that because if you've never caught a smallmouth you may not realize that there are few fish that can rival a smallie's tenacity and aerial ability. Fun aside, I do need to place very high if I'm still to have a chance at Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
July 15, 2008
My Role at ICAST
Every angler who has sponsors is grateful for them. There are many different degrees of sponsor involvement, but all support, at whatever level is appreciated. Whether they put you up in a hotel, pay entry fees, or just get you tackle, sponsors have become a necessary part of professional fishing.
I've been to ICAST before, but not under such extraordinary circumstances. Winning the Classic demands that you go, and I'm proud to be able to represent my sponsors there. I'll be at the Kistler rods and Ardent reels booths. While I've only been with Kistler and Ardent for a few years, they are still great supporters of me and my fishing.
Good sponsors stay behind you when the chips are down. They see your potential even when you're not fishing up to your potential. Some of my older sponsors were behind me when I missed the Classic in 1993, and had a generally crummy year. Their unwavering support has helped me through tough times like that. Now, I get the chance to pay every one of them back for their steadfast support.
When you do something that directly affects a company's bottom line, that's something special. Having that much sway is very humbling. The lesser known part of being a professional angler is the business aspect. While it doesn't directly put fish in the boat, having good business sense will get you a long way in gaining sponsors, then how you fish and promote your sponsors determines if you get to keep them or not. Or more accurately, if they will keep you. Going to ICAST as a representative for two successful brands who have put time, faith and money into me is something I'm looking forward to.
My wife Jimmye Sue and I will be in Las Vegas for three days, but have a full plate already. Dinners and meetings abound, but we still consider it a mini-vacation. We dropped the kids off Sunday at camp, we leave Tuesday, and are back in Texas Thursday for a meeting with some Skeeter folks. I don't consider these obligations nuisances; it is more like I'm paying my dues and supporting them in return for supporting me.
I look forward to representing all my sponsors this week, and am thankful that they have been so faithful and supportive. I'll report back on my findings and experiences once life returns to normal, and we prepare for the last two tournaments in New York.
July 8, 2008
I Fish, Kids Win
I never thought I'd be able to affect as many people as I do through fishing. While I get to share the Gospel with a whole lot of folks, I also have the opportunity to help children with special needs. These children need all the help they can get, as a lot of them have fallen through some cracks in society. They're abused, abandoned or troubled, and they need help getting back on the right track.
A few years back, I was fishing at a Life Line Youth and Family Services event in Michigan, and that's where I first got a glimpse of the work they do. I immediately knew I had to be a part of it. The money was raised through people paying to fish a tournament with one of 75 pros. As soon as I saw the difference this money made in the children's lives, it became contagious.
There are about 7,000 children who go through this program each year, so expenses are not inconsequential. After I fished this tournament, I realized how easy it is to help these kids. I liked the idea so much, I created my own fundraiser to help the Life Line kids called Help Alton Fish for Kids.
What I've done is take the same concept of the Life Line tournaments, but make it a more intimate atmosphere. Instead of 75 anglers, we use just 5 Elite Series anglers and make the event last a whole weekend instead of part of one day. This way the ten guests get to interact more and learn more about the pro. You fish, eat and socialize together in a way that is not possible anywhere else. Another key piece of my tournaments is that they are held on exclusive East Texas lakes that the likes of Bill Dance and Jimmy Houston use for their shows. In other words, it's really good fishing.
Since I have discovered these ways I can use my God-given talent, I can't get enough. I've pledged to Life Line that for every pound of fish I catch on the Elite Series trail this year, I'll donate ten dollars to them. I've also gotten several of my sponsors to match that. So far we've raised over $10,000 this year alone!
Having a charity like this makes me realize that I'm fishing for more than myself; I'm fishing for my God and these kids. Doing these things and seeing the difference I can make in these kids' lives gives me a great sense of purpose. I'm fishing with a greater purpose than just boating fish and cashing checks.
Raising money for disadvantaged children is extremely rewarding, and I'd like to share the opportunity with others to feel the kind of satisfaction I get when I see the difference these events make in kids lives. I'd like to appeal to all fishermen and fans to be a part of and support Life Line and the work they do. You can go to www.AltonJones.com to help these children and see the progress we're making in giving these kids a better chance at life. Using your gifts and abilities for a greater purpose is one of the greatest things anyone can do.
June 30, 2008
The Foundation for My Strength
I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but this Classic win has changed my life. It has given me the resolve to make the best of every day, whether I'm on the water or off. With that being said, we do have a bit of a break until the next stop on the Elite tour at Erie and Niagara, but my schedule is just about full until then.
We're headed home from Tennessee, but as soon as we get to Waco we'll hit the ground running. Since my Classic win, I've been asked to speak at a lot of events, mainly at churches, and I've become very passionate about it. I understand that the reason I am invited to some of these is because of the win. However, I also know I am asked there for a far more important reason. They want to hear about my relationship with Jesus Christ, my savior.
Since I'm a fisherman, I can reach people I never would have otherwise. While they may not normally listen to a preacher, I have the opportunity to talk with other anglers in a way they understand, making the Lord's word more palpable to them.
I think the reason I have become so adept at speaking is because fishing is so easy to relate to everyday life, even if some of the audience doesn't fish. Things like having faith in the Lord and your abilities while having a bad tournament can be applied to hard times in life off the water. On the water I use my sonar units for guidance on where to fish, and off (as well as on) I use the Bible for guidance.
I wouldn't know where to go without these tools, especially the Good Book, and I hope that the way I present the Lord's word is more understandable to my fellow angler. The parallels between fishing and life are there, you just have to know how to relate them to people. As my Web site says, I wish to be a "fisher of men" for the Lord.
Speaking at these venues is also good for me. They help keep me focused and keep things in perspective. I never thought winning one tournament would entail so much, but it has, and I am grateful for that. People listening to my testimony is humbling, and I have made it a goal of mine to reach as many of my fellow anglers as possible with the word of God, and I am now blessed with this opportunity through these speaking engagements.
As I said, a fisherman is what I am, not who I am. I try to be a good ambassador for fishing, but I also try to be a good ambassador for my lord and savior. All of us represent more than ourselves, our company or family. Speaking and sharing with people keeps me grounded and lets me find solid footing in hard times, and I hope that everyone who hears my message will find the strength I have found through Jesus Christ.
June 17, 2008
The accolades keep piling up. However, my latest success is different. It does not celebrate my success as a fisherman alone, it recognizes my personal values and character as well two things I work very hard on to be a good role model and ambassador for our sport. I am to be honored in Baylor University's "wall of fame." And honor is the perfect word because that is exactly what it is.
Head men's basketball coach Drew Scott's "wall of fame" is a collection of people who he considers are of a certain caliber not only in sports, but business and their personal lives as well. Coach Drew is an outstanding man himself, so I consider this a very special recognition.
OK, so it's not a massive monument to greatness, but it is a considerable achievement for a fisherman. I was humbled when he asked me to tour Baylor's new state of the art basketball facilities about a month ago, but when he asked me to be on his wall of fame, I was bowled over. Only about twelve guys are on there, including the likes of Drayton McClain (the Houston Astros owner), four-time Olympic gold medal sprinter Michael Johnson and NFL running back Walter Abercrombie. All are Baylor alums and have achieved greatness beyond what I think I have done, so being on Coach Drew's wall is astonishing and humbling.
Being recognized beside men of such integrity makes me want to be the best representative of fishing that I can. It reminds me to make a good impression on young anglers so they have someone positive to look up to. It also reminds me that we represent more than ourselves, no matter who you are or at what level you operate on.
When I go out there in my jersey, I am a representative of all my sponsors, my family, my school, and the sportfishing industry. When I go out there and behave in a way that makes people like Coach Drew proud, that means I'm doing something right. When Coach Drew shows new recruits this wall of fame and stresses that they are men of sound character and worthy to be looked up to, it means a lot. Having that kind of recognition stays with you. It makes you want to be a better person.
This honor is also a step ahead for fishing. We typically have not been recognized as men of character with the stigma of "all fishermen are liars" but if we start to be more like the men on Scott Drew's wall of fame, every angler, and the sportfishing industry, is on the way to being seen as more respectable and honorable. If everyone strove for these two things, we'd all be a lot better off.
June 2, 2008
Preparing for the Final Push
All the hoopla surrounding a Classic win can be taxing. The press, appearances, speeches and photo shoots among other things take their toll on you. Not to mention still fishing the Elite tournaments. All of this constantly makes one thoroughly exhausted, both physically and mentally, and after all this I like to turn inward for some quality time with my support group, the Jones family.
Every guy has to be feeling the same fatigue I am on some level. When you're at it for so long nonstop you get tired. I wouldn't use the phrase "burnt out," because I never get fed up with fishing, just a little weary.
These last two weeks have been a blessing for me. Spending quality time with family and friends has done wonders for me. It's allowed me to relax, take my mind off fishing and prepare for the coming storm. I've done a few speaking engagements, but other than that, I've taken it easy.
Taking time off is critical for recharging your mind and body, and with so much on the line in the next three months, I've got to be at the top of my game. To get there, it's going to take an enormous push and lots of effort on my part, and I need to be ready. I'm gunning for Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, and right now I have a very good chance of taking it, I just need to keep up the success. Getting away from fishing for even two weeks makes me want it even more when it's time to get back in it. I guess you could say it's an "absence makes the heart grow fonder" deal.
For me, preparing and recharging means quality time with the wife and kids. While they travel with me and we spend a lot of time together, it's not all quality time. I still like to stay involved in their lives and find out what's important to them. These are the kinds of things that keep me grounded and give me perspective on why I do what I do and also why I need to be the best I can.
I like to book time for my daughters as I don't get to spend as much meaningful time with them as I'd like. I try to have a date night with each of them once a month to catch up and stay involved. I spend time with Alton Jr. a lot as he's fishing competitively now, but getting that same time with my girls is just as important.
These last two weeks have left me feeling refreshed and hungry to get back on the water and rack up some more points toward an TTBAOY title, but as much as I anticipate that, I'll always be more excited about my next date with the Jones clan.
May 8, 2008
Better to Give than Receive
I just remembered something that happened to me when I was at the White House a few weeks back. It was such a great experience that it's still kind of a blur for me, but I want to share this one memory with you.
When I went to Washington to see President Bush, I didn't come empty-handed. I had a few gifts with me.
When my family and friends checked through the Secret Service security area I was carrying a Kistler rod, Ardent reel and a tacklebag full of baits from Booyah, Yum and Excalibur. I had my hands full of fishing stuff.
When the President gets to visit his ranch in Texas and fish one of his stock tanks, I want him to have all the gear he needs to really catch a bunch of fish.
Well, we're standing there getting ready to go through security and I'm holding all the fishing stuff, and I notice that the gifts of the visitors who are coming after us are also there in the room.
The next appointment the President had was with the king of Bahrain, and the gifts from the king arrived in these big crates. The Secret Service agents were opening the crates and inside there were these ornately decorated urns and a really big red velvet jewel case about a foot wide and 18 inches long that must have held something tremendously valuable.
The agents were taking great care with these things and cataloguing everything that came in. Everyone in the room was just staring at these treasures from Bahrain when Elvin Smith, my business manager, nudged me in the arm
"I think the President will enjoy your gifts more," he said. He was completely serious, too.
I just burst out laughing when he said that, but I bet Elvin's right, and I certainly hope the President gets some use out of that fishing gear. I can tell you that the next time he's in Texas to get away from the strain of being the leader of the free world, I'll be wondering if he's catching fish on that tackle I took to the White House.
April 30, 2008
Free at Last!
I'm really having a blessed year. Just last week I received one of the biggest honors of my life. My hometown of Waco, Texas, declared April 24 to be Alton Jones Day. I was given the key to the city and a special proclamation. It was really something, and it was one more thing that showed me how very special it is to win the Bassmaster Classic. I keep talking about the doors that my Classic win has opened for me, but the impact of that one tournament has really been amazing. I thought it would be big and great for my family and career, but it's been even bigger than I imagined.
I still have to pinch myself every so often since the Classic. My day in Waco was nothing short of fantastic and it meant a great deal to me and my family. It's very humbling to have your hometown get behind you like that and notice the work that one of its residents is doing. I feel very fortunate to have been honored in that way and to live in such a great place.
It's hard to explain how much I'm enjoying the 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series season. Of course, a big part of that comes from having won the Bassmaster Classic to start the year, but just as big has been the fact that I don't have to worry about qualifying for next year's Classic. As the defending Classic champion, I'm the first angler in the field for next year's championship.
And the freedom that brings with it is great. I'm going into each event this year with lots of enthusiasm and energy like always but without the anxiety that sometimes comes with professional bass fishing. Knowing that I'm already in the Classic is like having a big weight taken off my shoulders.
So, with that burden taken away, I'm working on some other goals for 2008. I want to win the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. At the moment, I'm in seventh place behind Mike McClelland, Todd Faircloth, Mark Davis, Dean Rojas, Scott Rook and defending TTBAOY Skeet Reese. They're all capable of winning TTBAOY, and it would be a great personal accomplishment to edge them out.
After 37th and 6th place finishes at the Harris and Kissimmee chains, respectively, the Elite Series came to Texas to fish Falcon and Amistad. I've spent a lot of time on those two lakes and was looking for a good boost in my home state. I was 44th in that amazing blowout we had at Falcon and 16th at Amistad. Those aren't terrible finishes, but they're not what I was hoping for, either.
A couple of weeks ago I said I'd need a top 30 finish and a top 12 finish in Texas to be in a position to win TTBAOY. I still think that was a pretty fair assessment, but even though I didn't do quite that well, I've been a little lucky in other ways. Several of the guys who were in front of me in the TTBAOY standings slipped more than I did, so I've actually moved up.
Although I fell from 13th in TTBAOY points after the Kissimmee Chain to 18th after Falcon, I caught a break with a decent performance at Amistad and moved up to 7th. There are still seven tournaments left in the season (including one this week at Clarks Hill), so there's plenty of time and lots of opportunities to move up.
Clarks Hill will be my first visit to the Savannah River chain since the Classic on Lake Hartwell. I've been hot and cold mostly cold on Clarks Hill over the past few years. In Elite Series events in 2006 and 2007, I was 16th and 54th, respectively, and in a Bassmaster Tour event (before the Elite Series started) in 2005, I finished a very disappointing 109th. I'm going to have to do a lot better than that to keep my TTBAOY hopes alive.
Those are the words I keep using when people ask me what it was like to visit the President of the United States in the White House. I'd use other, bigger, more impressive words if there were any.
The experiences I've had because of winning the Bassmaster Classic keep exceeding my expectations, and this one just happens to be at the very top of the list.
The day started when my family and I arrived at the White House gate at 8:45 a.m. I was there with my wife, Jimmye Sue, my three children, my parents, Elvin Smith (my business manager), Tom Ricks (the General Manager of BASS), Judy and Glenn Wong and their son and daughter-in-law.
We were met by a White House liaison who was going to take us on a tour, but first he told us that the President was so excited about our visit that he changed his schedule around so he could spend some extra time with us. I can't even begin to tell you how great it was to hear that.
The tour of the White House was fantastic, but it absolutely pales in comparison with the time we got to spend with the President. Amazingly, we spent almost a full hour with him, and I hope to remember every minute of it for the rest of my life.
It probably sounds ridiculous to hear it, but for that hour I felt like we were just hanging out with George W. Bush. Yes, it was impossible to go very long without thinking, "Hey, I'm sitting here with the leader of the free world!" but the experience was so cool, so unexpected and so intimate that it really felt like a group of friends sitting around and talking about anything and everything.
And the President is absolutely one of the most impressive people you could ever meet. I got the idea that he wants to make a lasting and positive impression on everyone he meets. He tries to talk about things that will help you with your life things that can really make a difference for you.
I think one of the President's gifts is that he makes those around him feel truly important. We all came out of that office feeling good and important and knowing that we were capable of making a real difference. It was very special.
I'll never forget some of the things he said to my children. He talked about the decisions they would face in life and how taking the easy way out would be tempting even when they knew it wasn't best. He said, "Popularity lasts a moment, but principles last a lifetime."
You know, when kids hear that kind of stuff from their parents, sometimes they listen and sometimes they don't. I'm hoping that my children will remember that forever and really take it to heart. I hope the President had a lasting impact on them like I know he did for me.
The other things the President talked about that made an impression on me were his comments on the institution of the Presidency. He's a very humble man, and he talked about the office being bigger than the man, how Presidents come and go but the office and the institution go on.
I got to thinking about how true that same sort of thing is for many of us. From my own experience I can tell you that I know the title of Bassmaster Classic Champion is bigger than any individual who has won that tournament. We get to wear that crown for a while, but we're never bigger than the institution.
I want to bring respect and honor to the institution of the Bassmaster Classic just as George W. Bush wants to do it for the office of the President.
Goals like those are ones we can all achieve no matter where we find ourselves in life.
March 25, 2008
Mr. Jones goes to Washington
What a thrill and opportunity! As you read this, I'm in Washington, D.C., getting ready to meet, meeting, or having just met the President of the United States. I'll be there with my family, Judy Wong (winner of the Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship), Tom Ricks (General Manager of BASS) and James Hall (Editor of Bassmaster Magazine).
We're meeting with George W. Bush in the Oval Office, and it's going to be one of the most exciting and humbling moments of my life. Although I've met Mr. Bush before, a trip to the nation's capitol is something special.
I've been thinking about what I want to say to the President and what I'll do in my few moments with him. Creating the right impression has become extremely important to me since winning the Classic.
I've always been aware of how important first impressions are when meeting someone new. It's always been important to me to represent myself, my family and the sport of bass fishing well, but it's even more critical after winning the Classic.
The number of requests I have to sign autographs is up 100-fold. Before winning, I was stopped occasionally when out in public. Now it's happening all the time and everywhere. Luckily, I really enjoy meeting people, and I'm absolutely flattered that they want to meet me or get my autograph.
I also realize that it'll probably be the only time I get to spend with them those few seconds that I shake hands with them or sign an autograph. I have only 30 seconds or a minute to create an image that will last a lifetime. Winning the Classic adds to that responsibility. I know they'll not only form an opinion of me, but also of our sport, my faith and my family. I take it very seriously.
And I have to watch out for the things that can get in the way of making the right impression, like fatigue. With all the calls, interviews and the Elite Series season that's just started, I find myself tired a lot, and I can't let that turn into a bad impression. Even though there are times when I'd just like to rest or relax with my family, I know that if there's a request for an autograph or an interview, I need to do it.
Winning the Classic has been an amazing experience, and it comes with some pretty big responsibilities... at least I feel that it does.
I can't wait to tell you about my White House experience! Stay tuned!
March 21, 2008
One Down, One to Go
When people ask me about my goals going into an Elite Series season, they're almost always the same. I want to win the Bassmaster Classic, and I want to win Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
This year, I've been fortunate enough to check off the first of those goals. Winning the Classic was even more than I expected it to be. It's opened doors and created opportunities like nothing else in my career. It would be easy for me to just sit back and let it all soak in for a few weeks or months, but the season has started and there's lots of work to do.
With one career dream accomplished, it makes me want the second (TTBAOY) even more. There are so many demands upon a Bassmaster Classic champion that it's easy to lose focus on the fishing. I'm working hard to keep that from happening.
And I'm off to a pretty good start so far this year. I was 37th at the Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain and had a really good tournament at the Citrus Slam on the Kissimmee Chain, where I finished 6th. After two events, I'm 13th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, and we're headed for my home state of Texas.
Even though I'm already qualified for the 2009 Classic by virtue of being the defending champion, I want to qualify by having a really good season, and I feel like I'm building up some momentum which is great for my confidence.
I like to joke that I want to look, smell and think like a bass, but it's been a couple of years since I felt like I was in "the zone." Last year, I would have been thrilled with a 6th place finish at the Kissimmee Chain. This year I'm a little disappointed that I didn't win.
I'm not sure what took me out of the zone a couple of years back. A fisherman's self-confidence can be pretty elusive sometimes. I do have an idea of how I got back the zone, though. I think it happened for me during the off-season. I spent a lot of time on Falcon Lake last fall and really built up a lot of confidence on that tremendous fishery. It reminded me of how much I love fishing and why I'm in this business. It sent me to the Bassmaster Classic with just the right frame of mind.
Now, with all the distractions that I'm feeling after winning the Classic, having a chance to get out on the water and just fish is a wonderful break. I wouldn't call it an escape exactly, because I love what winning the Classic has been like and done for me and my family, but bass fishing is my passion and getting to do it is a real pleasure.
Now we're off to Texas for the next two Elite events, and I really want to do well there. I've spent a lot of time on Falcon and Amistad, and I have high expectations for myself. I'll need to do very well if I'm going to have a chance to win Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. You can't win that title in one event, but you can definitely lose it. I figure that I'll need at least one top 30 finish and another top 12 to put myself in a position to make a run. Every point I earn now is a point I won't have to make later in the year.
Next time I'm going to talk about my upcoming visit to the White House. That will be the thrill of a lifetime, a tremendous honor and a great opportunity all rolled into one. I've been thinking about it a lot.
Until then, I hope you'll have a chance to check out my Web site www.altonjones.com. Be sure to click on the link to Life Line Youth & Family Services and learn more about the "Help Alton Fish for the Kids" program.
March 6, 2008
It's 11 days later, but I have to admit that I'm still coming down from the experience of winning the Bassmaster Classic. It's been bigger and better and more than I ever dreamed it would be.
The best part of the experience has been the amazing outpouring of support that I've been getting everywhere I go. People all over even people who don't fish or follow the sport have been telling me that they've seen me on television and want to wish me luck on the water. It's been wonderful.
Of course, all that attention and the time I've spent talking with the media has its challenges, too. With so much focus being put on the Classic, it's been tough for me to change gears and give the Elite Series season the attention and intensity it deserves and demands. Winning the Classic has changed my life, and I'm still working on the best ways to manage it and keep my priorities in order.
I'm certainly sympathetic to the pressures and demands that previous Classic winners had when they fished their next tournament. There are a lot of distractions and it's exhausting, and it's hard to fish well when you're not focused.
All the Classic buzz has been terrific, but it's also been really hectic. My phone was ringing constantly. I'd take one call and by the time I hung up my voicemail box would be full from the calls I got while talking to the first person. Things are starting to be more manageable.
I'm still formulating my plans for the coming year as the Bassmaster Classic champion. I want to be a great ambassador for the sport that means so much to me and my family. In scheduling my appearances it's obvious that I'm going to be a lot busier than ever before. I need to find time to be with my family. I want this to be a good, healthy experience for them as well as for the sport and my career.
One way I'm combating my Classic fatigue is to start my tournament practice days a little later and end them a little sooner. I'm usually one of those guys who launch in the dark of the morning and don't put my boat back on the trailer until it's too dark to see. But with all that's going on lately, I just can't stay focused for that long, and I've got to get some rest to stay sharp.
I can feel myself losing intensity out there over the past few days. It's easy to get sloppy when you fish without concentration and focus. I have to guard against just going through the motions. It's not just the physical part of fishing that can wear you down; the mental aspects of it are even more demanding.
Luckily, I'm really excited about the Elite season and the waters we're fishing. I especially like the Harris Chain, where we are right now. I finished 7th here in 2004, but that tournament was in January. The spawn is a lot further along now than it was for that event. I'm targeting a combination of spawning and postspawn bass.
Unfortunately, I'm not the only one on them, and crowd control might be an issue. Luckily, I'm in an early flight Thursday, so I think I can get to my fish before some of the other guys do.
It's great to get the season started.
That's what happened to me the other day when I was on a Yamaha photo shoot after winning the Bassmaster Classic.
Things have been happening so fast for me over the past few days, it's unreal. I'm still piecing it all together and waiting for it to sink in. Of course, along the way I'm enjoying it a lot, too.
Standing on the Classic stage and watching everyone weigh in before me was just surreal. I had been to 10 Classics before this one, but they were very different. I watched those champions get crowned while I was standing in the middle of a crowd on the floor of the auditorium. This time I was all by myself in the middle of the stage.
The previous 10 times I can remember getting a funny feeling in my stomach as I watched someone else raise the trophy over his head the dream of winning was gone for another year.
When you compete in the Classic and watch someone else win it, you realize what a big moment it is and how it's going to change that angler's life forever. Standing up there all by myself, I had a strange sensation that I can't quite describe. I remembered what it was like to see it all from the other side as a part of the audience.
Being alone up there is a very humbling perspective, and for me it foreshadowed the honor and responsibility I'll have over the next year. I want to give back as much as I can to the sport that has meant so much to me and my family. I'm looking forward to that opportunity.
But back to that phone call.
I answered the phone the way I always do, and a woman said, "This is so-and-so from the White House for Mr. Jones. I have someone who would very much like to talk with you."
I could feel myself start to stand at attention when I heard that. "Yes ma'am, I think I can make myself available."
Then she said, "I'll connect you with the President."
Now I've met President George W. Bush before. In fact, I fished with him once back when he was one of the owners of the Texas Rangers before he was the Governor of Texas. I even had a chance to meet him very briefly back in 2003 on a golf course when I was the runner-up in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
But nothing quite prepares you for a call from the President.
The first thing he did was congratulate me for the win. We talked about fishing. He told me he had recently welcomed the NASCAR champion to the White House.
And then he invited me and my family to come to Washington for a personal tour of the White House.
I hadn't expected that, but it didn't take me more than about a second to accept.
Then he told me that he wanted to bring members of the national press corps into part of our meeting to show how important fishing is to him. We're very fortunate as avid outdoorsmen and women to have a President like George W. Bush who supports our sport so well.
When our conversation was over, I looked at my watch and was amazed to find that we had been talking for 10 minutes.
To make things even cooler, the President spent another five minutes talking with my son, Alton Jr. They talked about fishing, and the President mentioned the invitation to tour the White House.
So in addition to looking forward to the upcoming Elite Series season, now my family and I including my mom and dad are going to see the White House and visit with the President in late March.
Being the Classic champion is pretty great!