- Craig Lamb
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FLORENCE, Ala. --
Throughout his storied 20-year career in professional bass fishing, there is one title that has eluded Alton Jones.
And at the Alabama Charge the Texan served notice that adding Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year to his list of angling achievements is a priority for the remainder of the 2011 season.
In recent years, winning the Angler of the Year has weighed heavily on Jones' mind and especially so after winning the 2008 Basssmaster Classic. Even before then he'd come close on several occasions only to see the coveted point race trophy slip from his grasp at season's end.
The priority to make a run at the 2011 title became obvious during the Alabama Charge third round, a do-or-die day to qualify for the top 12 finale. In the heat of battle, Jones was overheard on the water updating the media about his catch on Pickwick Lake. He announced that picking up AOY points was the most crucial part of the day, after realizing the eventual 22-pound 3-ounce weight assured him of advancing.
"I would look back to Friday as a turning point for me thus far this season," he said. "I needed to catch them big to make that cut, but on the other hand, I was thinking about Angler of the Year because I was already leading it coming into the tournament. "
"It's a good feeling to be in contention for the title this early in the season and it will make me motivated to keep the dream alive," he added. "That's what this is all about right now, keeping the dream alive until the next event and the next.
There's a lot of fishing left to be done, but I can also say that I don't have to catch as much later on as some of the other guys might have to do."
If there's anything Jones has learned after two decades on the tour it's how crucial the mental side of fishing weighs on success. "You can lose this title in one tournament and then the dream dies," he said.
"You hear guys who win Angler of the Year say 'things just went right' and that's another way of saying they made the right adjustments," he said. "Winning this title is all about making little subtle adjustments like I did on Friday that all add up over the course of the season."
As for that pivotal day, Jones realized at 9 a.m. his bite had switched from prespawn to a fully engaged spawning wave of big fish. Realizing the change and making the adjustment enabled him to load the boat with 22-3.
"It hit me then and I made the adjustment," he recalled. "With every single cast I bared down on what those fish were telling me and applied it to the next cast through the end of the day."
So far, Jones has made all the necessary adjustments to keep him in contention for making a strong run at the Angler of the Year title. With his current mental state as sharp as ever, he'll be a likely contender until the season concludes.
2hAdam Rubin and Kieran Darcy