Alton Jones is one step closer to winning the 2011 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title — and so are Terry Scroggins, Kevin VanDam, Edwin Evers and several other Bassmaster Elite Series pros.
All had strong finishes in both of the Elite Series season's first two events.
But it's Jones who is leading the pack. The AOY title, worth $100,000 and considered a top career achievement, will be awarded to the pro who accumulates the highest number of points by the end of the eight-event regular season. The points race also counts toward qualification for the 2011 postseason, the 2012 Elite Series season and the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.
Jones finished third in the March 17-20 Power-Pole Citrus Slam. That good showing came on top of his eighth-place finish the week before in the Sunshine Showdown. He now has 573 points, 18 more than Scroggins.
"I wanted to win this tournament, but more importantly, I wanted points toward the Classic and points toward the Angler of the Year race. I feel really good about my position on those," Jones said.
For taking the lead, Jones of Waco, Texas, won a $1,000 bonus from B.A.S.S. He said that winning the AOY race is his primary goal this season.
"For all of us out here, it's winning the Classic and AOY," Jones said. "I've achieved one — I'd like to do that again, too — but AOY has eluded me. It's something I want to accomplish very badly."
The 2008 Classic champ, Jones was third in the 2009 AOY race, and fifth in 2008.
Scroggins, with 555 points, would be a lot closer to Jones if Jones has not raked in 15 bonus points, five each for leading three days at the St. Johns event. But like Jones, Scroggins had two very strong tournaments: second place in the Power-Pole Citrus Slam preceded by 10th place in the Sunshine Showdown.
Kevin VanDam, the reigning Angler of the Year, moved up in AOY standings from 10th to third with 542 points, 31 ticks behind Jones. An AOY title in 2011 would be VanDam's fourth consecutive AOY achievement and seventh overall.
Evers collected 305 AOY points for his come-from-behind win last Sunday. Much like his climb up the leaderboard from 20th place to win that event, Evers jumped in AOY standings from 22nd to fourth.