Rick Clunn's wins at Lake Guntersville in 1976 and Lake Toho in 1977 stand as the only back-to-back Classic wins. This feat is one of many Classic records held by Clunn. This February, Alton Jones has the chance to match the Classic's most decorated angler in that claim.
"Winning the 2008 Classic has made me want to repeat even more," Jones said. "I've had more opportunities presented to me because of this that I am so thankful for. It has done so much for me and my career, I can't imagine what going back-to-back would do."
Jones says winning the Classic was more fantastic than he could have ever dreamed, but winning a second would bring a whole new level of opportunities. Despite his desire to win, Jones is realistic to the point of semi-pessimism when it comes to his chances of repeating.
"Is it likely? History says probably not, but I think if I can get a good game plan together, work hard and execute, it could happen," he said. "On the upswing, the Red River should play well into my strengths as an angler."
Jones has put in the legwork to set himself up for victory. Late last year, he chartered a small plane to fly over the river as he locked in coordinates in his handheld GPS unit over backwater entrances.
"There's so much of the Red River that may be accessible based on rainfall," he said. "You need to have a solid backup plan, because your first one may go out the window depending on the water level."
He has taken the 4-hour trip from his Waco, Texas, home to Shreveport several times. His goal each time was to become more and more familiar with the river's potentially treacherous waterways and determine whether or not the backwaters he spotted from the air were accessible.
"You may be able to get to one one day, but not the next," he said. "Some of them are so long they may not be worth fishing. If you have to spend an hour getting back to one, and you can only fish it for fifteen minutes, it may not be worth it."
Jones didn't throw a lure in the Red River unless he had to — like a photo opportunity for a local newspaper. His reason is because he didn't want any preconceived notions to creep into his head during the tournament days, potentially second-guessing himself.
"I didn't even want to take a rod and reel on these trips because the conditions were so different in November and December than they will be in February," he said. "However, I knew I had to go out with a local sportswriter and photographer, so I packed a few. Of course, my first pitch to a stump got a 3-pound bass."
Jones knows there will be a lot of eyes on him at this year's Classic, but he is determined to not let that bother him.
"Pressure' isn't the word for what I feel. It's more like 'obligations.' I need to guard against the mental fatigue that comes along with being reigning champion. There are a lot of appearances and obligations I have to do, and I need to keep them from affecting my fishing," he said. "I need to focus on the job at hand."
Jones plans on attacking the Red River like he would do any Elite Series tournament. He'll take the three practice days to hammer out a plan and a backup plan, then spend the tournament days carrying out his plans.
"It's critical I make the most out of my practice days," he said, "After all the effort I put in to get there, I need to execute. I'd love to repeat. It'd be a whole new level of success for me."