PALATKA, Fla. — Sure, there's a possibility that Alton Jones could stumble and fall out of first place on the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series St. Johns River Showdown. But if you'd want to bet on that happening, the other 11 anglers fishing in Sunday's final would probably take your money.
"I'd have to have a great day, and he'd have to suck," said Keith Combs, who is in fourth place, more than 14 pounds behind Jones' three-day total of 62 pounds, 14 ounces.
The acknowledged sight-fishing king of the Elite Series simply isn't going to stumble after accumulating a 9-pound, 1-ounce lead over second place, where Todd Faircloth sits with 53-13. Jones has been both spectacular — with 28-7 on Day Two — and he's also been steady, catching 16-7 on Day One and adding 18-0 Saturday.
Unlike a year ago here, when Jones went into the final day with a 2 1/2-pound lead and a blustery weather ruined his sight fishing pattern, Sunday is supposed to be sunny with light winds.
And everybody else in the Top 12 is sight fishing for spawning bass too, for the most part. So bad weather for Jones also means bad weather for everybody else.
"Anything is possible on a lake with this many big fish in it," said Randy Howell, who slipped into 12th place with 43-12, just more than 19 pounds behind Jones. "But out of everybody on tour, Alton is the best sight fisherman, bar none.
"I love to sight fish, but I'm always amazed at how he manages fish. I don't think he'll have any trouble."
That "anything is possible" refrain was common.
"Anything is possible," said Skeet Reese, who is in seventh place with 46-15, "but I don't see it happening. He could have a 6- or 7-pound day and somebody could bust 20 pounds or better. But if he catches 12 pounds tomorrow, he's got a good shot at it."
Jones hasn't won a B.A.S.S. event since his victory at the Bassmaster Classic in 2008. But he's been consistently good, finishing in the Top 10 in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race three out of the last four seasons.
Elite Series followers will recall the April 2008 tournament on Florida's Harris Chain when Brian Snowden had a 10-pound lead going into the final day, didn't catch a fish and finished second to Mike McClelland. But that happened after an overnight cold front dropped water temperatures 10 degrees.
This finale is set up like a hanging curve ball for Alton Jones. Sure, he could swing and miss, but no one is counting on that.
"I love to do this," said Jones about sight fishing. "Stealth is a big part of my game. I pride myself in being able to catch fish that other people think are uncatchable."
He could catch the male bass he's been avoiding all week and have enough weight to stay on top Sunday.
"I've been intentionally leaving the males," Jones said. "You don't want to pluck those males. There's no reason for the females to be there if all the males are gone.
"There's at least a dozen males in my area, which is plenty enough for one of these big females to be there tomorrow."
And if they are, Jones, more so than anyone left in the final, has the ability to put them in the boat.