FLORENCE, Ala. — The season is less than two months old, but if Alton Jones goes on to win the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, he'll look back on Day Three of the Alabama Charge as a critical part of his success.
"I don't know how this season will end, but if things work out for me, today was one of those crucial days," Jones said. "Crucial comes from the word cross — a fork in the road — you either make the right turn or the wrong turn. Today, I made the right one."
Right to the tune of 22 pounds, 3 ounces, moving Jones all the way from 37th to ninth place on the leaderboard. A spot in the top 12, fishing Saturday, gives him a shot to catch up to his nearest pursuer in the year-long points race, Terry Scroggins, currently fifth in the Alabama Charge.
Scroggins entered the event 18 points behind Jones, so if the tournament ended Friday, Jones would still be in the lead by a hair. It was his performance Friday that made the difference.
"Terry had a great day, so I just want to make the top 12 and fish tomorrow," Jones said. "I just wrecked them today. It was one of the most fun days of fishing I've had.
"My first stop, I caught a 4-pounder, a 3-pounder and a 3.5-pounder. It showed me that the fish had changed up a little bit and gave me confidence to adjust."
Those big fish came from a spot he had only caught smaller bass previously. When he found the 4-pound class fish there this morning instead, he tried to duplicate the pattern with obvious success.
With one day left to fish on Pickwick Lake, Jones hopes to improve on his position to put some cushion between himself and Scroggins.
"Going into tomorrow, I don't really have a chance to win, but I can move up several more spots and build on what I learned today," Jones said. "It's hard to compete with what they are doing up there at the dam."
The 10-pound deficit he would need to make up on Hite might be out of reach, but Jones has bigger goals this season than an Elite Series victory. Winning the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award is highest on his career to-do list.
"Angler of the Year is my top goal right now," Jones said. "You can't win it in one tournament but you can lose it. There is a lot of fishing left so this doesn't mean a whole lot, except that the dream is still alive. For 90 other anglers, that dream is dead for this year, but for 10 of us, it is still alive.
"Especially after missing the Classic last year, this really feels good and helps get my confidence back up."