DRAGONFLY - RAYMARINE

ALTON JONES WITH 28-07 VISION

Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 03/16/2012

Alton Jones

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac

Palatka, FL - After the second day of competition at the first Bassmaster Elite Series tournament of the 2012 season on Florida’s St. Johns River, it appears as though Texas’ Alton Jones has picked up right where he left off when the Elites visited the same river fishery in 2011. 

Last year, Jones led the field for each of the first three days of competition, before a dwindling sight bite and strong winds on the fourth and final day muddied his chances of a wire-to-wire victory and left him with a 3rd Place finish. 

This year, Jones is again atop the leader board on the St. Johns River, thanks in part to a massive 28-7 limit that he toted to the scales on Friday.  With a total weight of 44-14, Jones will enter the weekend with David Walker, his nearest competitor, trailing by over 7-pounds. 

Alton JonesAs was the case on Thursday, when J Todd Tucker rode two kicker bites to the top of the standings, the big bite ruled the day.  Jones exploited the sight bite for the duration of Friday and was rewarded with three giants eclipsing the 8-pound mark. 

“They really weighed more than I thought they would,” admitted Jones.  “I had two 14-inchers today, so if I could have found a couple more big ones it really could have been a memorable day.  The big ones are at a premium right now.  One big one is worth a lot of places, two big ones are worth even more, and three big ones like I caught today are just a blessing. That’s the only way that I can say it.”

Relying on the same general areas where he excelled in 2011, Jones said that it’s becoming a struggle to locate bedding bass that are willing to bite. “I’m not seeing a lot of what I would call ‘fresh fish,’” he said.  “One thing that’s helping me is the fact that the sight bight is tough enough that not a lot of guys are doing it so you don’t have a lot of pressure because there’s just not that many fish.”

While many anglers hunkered down on smaller buck bass on Friday hoping to make the Top 50 Cut, Jones took the opposite approach. “My theory for this tournament is that if you’re locked in on a pound-and-a-halfer, you’re not going to catch a 7-pounder.  I’m making a pitch or two on the smaller fish, but I’m not going to spend an hour on a smaller fish.  I’m spending my day looking for females.  It probably took me until noon today to get my limit.”

With two days remaining, Jones said that it’s critical to get several more 8-pound bites on the weekend if he’s going to have a shot at taking the St. Johns title.  “I’m probably going to have to catch one each of the next two days if I’m fortunate enough to make the final day,” he explained. 

Rick MorrisMorris Hung On
On Thursday, Rick Morris culled a 12-inch fish in the waning moments of competition to upgrade his catch to 21-12 and finish the day in 4th Place.  On Friday, his weight dropped to 15-14, but he climbed in the standings to finish in a tie for 2nd Place with David Walker. 

“I’m ecstatic with what I caught today,” said Morris.  “The fishing got a lot tougher where I’m at, and a lot of the guys who were fishing close saw what I was doing and changed up their patterns.  That’s just the way it goes.  We’re using up a lot of the fish and there just aren’t as many as there were yesterday.”

Sharing his fish with several other competitors, Morris said that he isn’t expecting a duplicate effort on Saturday.  “It’s looking kind of slim because I milked the area today, got a few big bites, and put them in the boat. I weighed-in a 12-incher today, but I also had a couple 5-pounders.  The fish were a lot more finicky. 

“I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to duplicate yesterday, so I reached the high end of my goal today.  If I can weight in 15-pounds tomorrow out of that area, it’ll be a miracle.  There’s still has to be a couple big fish left in there, so we’ll see what happens,” he concluded. 

Walker Committed to the Sight Bite
With his first Tour level victory in the final regular season tournament of the 2011 Elite Series on Alabama’s Wheeler Lake, Tennessee’s David Walker has kicked off the 2012 season in contention for another “W.” 

After a solid opening day at the St. Johns River, where he broke the 20-pound mark and finished in 6th Place, Walker came to the scales on Friday with 17-1 and will enter the weekend tied for 2nd Place.  “Yesterday I had three fish that were 5-pounders, but today I had an 8-pounder,” he explained. 

David Walker

“It was a lot tougher today, no doubt about it.  Everyone is looking for the same stuff and they’re good at finding it.  I was really excited coming into this event, because most tournaments that you’re going into, there’s always a list of things that you have to eliminate in practice. 

“This tournament made things easy,” Walker continued. “You know good and well coming into it that there’s going to be some sight fishing going on.  I know that sight fishing is the best option down here so that’s what I came down and did.  It’s made things really simple.”

While the sight bite has positioned Walker near the top of the leader board, he’s also aware of the fact that the main river bite is a viable option.  “I just don’t know the river well enough to fish out there, but there are places out there where you can really catch them.  That’s why I thought that Scroggins would really dominate in this tournament.  The spawn just isn’t as dominant as it was last year.  I tried fishing in the actual river on the first day, but I knew it was a futile attempt.” 

Walker is optimistic about his chances on the weekend, but admitted that his main sight fishing areas are “pretty broke down.”  The key thing giving him some hope is the fact that the St. Johns’ bedding bass are well hidden.

“You go past a fish 20-feet away and never even know that it’s there,” he explained.  “When a cloud goes over, it’s like somebody put a bag over your head because you can’t see anything.  Just because there’s another boat there, you can’t assume that they’ve caught everything.  Florid and crowds just go hand in hand.” 

Faircloth Went Big Late
Texan Todd Faircloth jumped to 4th Place on Friday after crossing the stage with the day’s heaviest bass weighing 8-15 that anchored his 20-8 limit.  “Yesterday afternoon, I found that fish really late,” he said. “I went to her this morning, and I just couldn’t see it.  I fished throughout the day, and gave myself 15-minutes on the way back in to see if it had come back.  Three pitches later, she was in the boat.” 

Todd Faircloth

Faircloth explained that although his biggest bite on Friday came sight fishing, he didn’t see as many fish on the beds as he had hoped.  “Overall, I don’t really anticipate a big wave of fish coming in over the next two days.  There’s still some out there, but it’s like a needle in a haystack.  You may find a 2-pounder or you may roll up on a 10-pounder.  It’s Florida, and that’s just how it works down here.”

Spending the majority of his day fishing within sight of other anglers, Faircloth explained that despite the company, he’s still confident that there are untapped fish in the area.  “You can’t go through that grass in a straight line and see fish,” he said. “When you get into an area where there are beds, you really have to explore it.  It’s not like you’re just going down a bank. You really have to be patient.”

Using his GPS trails, Faircloth explained that he made an effort on Friday to explore new water in familiar places.  “I’m really paying attention to where I haven’t been.  It’s key that you don’t look at the same stuff more than twice.” 

Chapman Took a Gamble
“I’ve been fishing an area that’s not getting near the pressure that a lot of the community stuff is getting,” explained Brent Chapman after an 18-13 effort on Friday.  “Tomorrow, I should have the area completely to myself and I should be able to slow down a little bit.” 

Brent Chapman

Like many of the other anglers who are relying on sight fishing, Chapman said that he’s had trouble seeing many of the bedding fish this week on the St. Johns River.  “If the wind dies down and it’s slick, I can really see them better.  I’m really hoping that we can have some more calm weather on Saturday.”

After securing a spot in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic with his Central Open victory on Lake Lewisville earlier this season, Chapman said that he decided to take a risk this week , and it appears to be paying off.  “If I didn’t have that Classic qualification already, I probably wouldn’t have even gone to that area to start with,” he said.  “I would have played it more conservatively and stayed in Lake George.  I took a gamble and found something that was off the wall.” 

On Saturday, Chapman said that he believes more fish should move into his primary area.  “I had a bigger bag today than I had yesterday, so I think that there are some fish moving up each day.  The fish are only getting beat up for a few hours so they have a lot of time to replenish.”   

DAY 2 STANDINGS

Place PRO ANGLER Day 1Day 2 Total Fish Total Weight
FishWeightFishWeight
1 Alton Jones 5 16- 7 5 28- 7 10 44-14
2 Rick Morris 5 21-12 5 15-14 10 37-10
2 David Walker 5 20- 9 5 17- 1 10 37-10
4 Todd Faircloth 5 15-14 5 20- 8 10 36- 6
5 Brent Chapman 5 17- 5 5 18-13 10 36- 2
6 Matthew Herren 5 14-14 5 19-12 10 34-10
7 J Todd Tucker 5 24- 0 5 9- 9 10 33- 9
8 Randy Howell 5 14-10 5 18- 1 10 32-11
9 Dean Rojas 5 17- 2 5 15- 5 10 32- 7
10 Terry Scroggins 5 14- 0 5 18- 4 10 32- 4
11 Bill Lowen 5 22- 3 5 9-15 10 32- 2
12 Cliff Crochet 5 21- 5 5 10-12 10 32- 1
13 Skeet Reese 5 16- 2 5 15-15 10 32- 1
14 Greg Hackney 5 23-14 5 8- 1 10 31-15
15 Shaw E Grigsby 5 7-11 5 23- 1 10 30-12
16 Marty Robinson 5 10-15 5 19- 9 10 30- 8
17 Kevin VanDam 5 12-12 5 17-10 10 30- 6
18 Edwin Evers 5 20- 4 5 9- 3 10 29- 7
19 Yusuke Miyazaki 5 18- 8 5 10-11 10 29- 3
20 Keith Combs 5 12- 6 5 16- 7 10 28-13
21 John Crews 5 19- 9 5 9- 3 10 28-12
22 Stephen Browning 5 18- 5 5 10- 5 10 28-10
23 Cliff Prince 5 15-10 5 12- 4 10 27-14
24 Gerald Swindle 5 11-11 5 15- 9 10 27- 4
25 Russell Parrish 5 15- 3 5 12- 1 10 27- 4
26 Brandon Card 5 10-15 5 15-13 10 26-12
27 Grant Goldbeck 5 13- 3 5 13- 7 10 26-10
28 Casey Scanlon 5 18- 1 4 8- 8 9 26- 9
29 Nate Wellman 5 14- 8 5 11-15 10 26- 7
30 Tommy Biffle 5 19- 0 2 7- 7 7 26- 7
31 Derek Remitz 5 17- 8 5 8-12 10 26- 4
32 Dustin Wilks 5 12- 4 5 14- 0 10 26- 4
33 Scott Ashmore 5 15-10 5 10- 8 10 26- 2
34 Chris Lane 5 15-11 5 10- 2 10 25-13
35 Pete Ponds 5 15-12 5 10- 0 10 25-12
36 Greg Vinson 5 12-10 5 13- 2 10 25-12
37 Casey Ashley 5 14- 3 5 11- 6 10 25- 9
38 Takahiro Omori 5 11- 7 5 13-15 10 25- 6
39 Matt Reed 5 12- 7 5 12- 8 10 24-15
40 Kelly Jordon 5 14-14 5 10- 0 10 24-14
41 Jared Lintner 5 15- 7 5 9- 7 10 24-14
42 Jamie Horton 5 10- 6 5 14- 3 10 24- 9
43 Ott DeFoe 5 13-10 5 10-10 10 24- 4
44 Stephen Kennedy 5 10- 0 5 14- 2 10 24- 2
45 Andy Montgomery 5 15-14 5 8- 0 10 23-14
46 Timmy Horton 5 13-13 5 10- 0 10 23-13
47 Mark Menendez 5 10- 7 5 13- 6 10 23-13
48 Jeremy Starks 5 9- 0 5 14- 5 10 23- 5
49 Billy McCaghren 5 10-10 5 12-11 10 23- 5
50 Kevin Ledoux 5 18- 9 2 4-11 7 23- 4
51 John Murray 5 12-13 5 10- 6 10 23- 3
52 Keith Poche 5 12-15 4 10- 4 9 23- 3
53 Travis Manson 5 9-12 5 13- 6 10 23- 2
54 Fred Roumbanis 5 11- 9 5 11- 5 10 22-14
55 Bradley Roy 5 10- 5 5 12- 6 10 22-11
56 Byron Velvick 5 9-12 5 12-13 10 22- 9
57 Matt Greenblatt 5 8-13 5 13- 9 10 22- 6
58 Michael Iaconelli 5 14- 4 5 7- 8 10 21-12
59 Fletcher Shryock 5 15- 3 4 6- 6 9 21- 9
60 Bobby Lane 5 13- 7 5 8- 1 10 21- 8
61 Jami Fralick 5 11- 8 4 10- 0 9 21- 8
62 Boyd Duckett 5 11-10 5 9-12 10 21- 6
63 Mike McClelland 5 12- 1 5 8- 4 10 20- 5
64 Gary Klein 5 12-13 5 7- 4 10 20- 1
65 Pat Golden 5 11-13 4 8- 3 9 20- 0
66 Zell Rowland 5 8- 9 4 11- 4 9 19-13
67 Brandon Palaniuk 5 11- 1 5 8- 7 10 19- 8
68 Jason Williamson 5 9-10 5 9-12 10 19- 6
69 Jason Quinn 5 8- 7 5 10-11 10 19- 2
70 Jeff Kriet 5 10- 3 5 8-14 10 19- 1
71 Morizo Shimizu 5 14- 4 4 4-11 9 18-15
72 Russell Lane 5 11-10 5 7- 2 10 18-12
73 Brian Snowden 5 10- 1 5 8- 9 10 18-10
74 Michael Simonton 4 5-11 5 12-12 9 18- 7
75 Jared Miller 5 12- 0 5 6- 6 10 18- 6
76 Kyle Fox 5 10- 3 5 7-15 10 18- 2
77 Kevin Short 5 8- 6 5 9- 1 10 17- 7
78 Terry Butcher 5 12- 2 4 5- 4 9 17- 6
79 Rick Clunn 5 8- 8 5 8-13 10 17- 5
80 Bernie Schultz 5 6- 3 5 10-11 10 16-14
81 Chad Griffin 5 9- 1 5 7-10 10 16-11
82 Chris Zaldain 5 7-13 5 8-10 10 16- 7
83 Mark Davis 5 8- 4 5 7- 7 10 15-11
84 Aaron Martens 5 7- 5 5 8- 6 10 15-11
85 Charlie Hartley 5 10- 8 4 5- 3 9 15-11
86 Davy Hite 5 8-11 4 6-15 9 15-10
87 Scott Rook 5 9- 1 5 6- 8 10 15- 9
88 Jonathon VanDam 5 7-12 4 7-12 9 15- 8
89 Clark Reehm 5 11-11 2 3- 3 7 14-14
90 Cliff Pace 5 7-10 5 7- 0 10 14-10
91 David Smith 5 6- 7 4 8- 3 9 14-10
92 Kenyon Hill 5 5- 8 5 9- 1 10 14- 9
93 Paul Elias 4 8-11 3 3-13 7 12- 8
94 Denny Brauer 5 9- 1 1 1-11 6 10-12
95 Brent Broderick 1 1- 4 5 9- 6 6 10-10
96 Ishama Monroe 5 6- 8 3 4- 1 8 10- 9
97 James Niggemeyer 5 7- 1 2 2- 1 7 9- 2
98 Kotaro Kiriyama 3 3-12 2 4- 1 5 7-13
99 Britt Myers 3 3-15 3 3- 7 6 7- 6