BASS Insiders get to ride along with reigning Classic champ Alton Jones as he works to formulate a tournament-winning pattern during the official practice day for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.
Follow the timeline below as Alton dissects the Red River. Note: Timeline is CST, local Red River time.
6:20 a.m. Alton checks his iPhone for moon phases and local forecast.
6:44 a.m. Alton discusses his plans for the day — a run to the lock southeast
7:00 a.m. Aton is backed in, idles up to dock and ties off
7:15 a.m. Alton's 250-horsepower Yamaha VMax roars to life, he idles out through the no wake zone, pegs the throttle on his Hot Foot and we're off.
7:35 a.m. Fourteen minutes and 15 miles later Alton pulls into the lock, followed shortly by other anglers. Eight o'clock the lock is set to open.
8:15 a.m. After a 30-foot drop in the lock, we're back on plane and heading further down river.
8:43 a.m. Alton pulls into a backwater he thinks has potential. He reaches into his rod locker for five Ardent/Kistler combos; three soft plastics, a spinnerbait and a crankbait.
"If you look at this whole pocket back in there, it's a key piece of cover. A blown down cypress tree coming out of those hyacinths. You don't need to fish the whole area if you don't get bit on the most strategic places."
"I want to eliminate some water today. That's as good as finding fish. Anything to narrow your each and focus you more on task will get you better off"
9:02 a.m. Alton alternates between a YUM Wooly Hawg Tail, YUM Dinger, Booyah! Spinnerbait, and a shallow running crankbait.
"This is some good looking stuff; getting near the points and little cuts going behind islands. It's everything a bass could ever want right there."
8:53 a.m. Alton drops his Minn Kota and reaches in his rod box for his flipping stick.
"I need the puncher here for the hyacinths." A 1-1/2 ounce tungsten weight is behind his flipping craw.
9:09 a.m. Alton lowers his Power Poles "We're coming to a real good spot here. I'm going to start throwing a YUM lizard.
9:27 a.m. Alton reaches into his dry box for breakfast. "It's important to stay fueled to stay mentally sharp."
We troll deeper into the backwater.
Alton's baits are all hookless. "No sense in educating them early. You can tell if it's a good fish by the way it shakes its head. If it only moves a little bit on a tight line it's a small one, but a lot of side-to-side motion means it's a bigger fish."
9:46 a.m. We head back toward the main river passing an area Alton says will produce is temperatures drop. He intentionally stays off of it.
10:07 a.m. It's off to another spot.
10:19 a.m. We arrive at Alton's next spot which he is confident in.
10:24 a.m. Idling through another backwater Alton hits a stump with the trolling motor on high, sending him scrambling to maintain his balance. "That one almost had me swimming!"
10:30 a.m. Alton trolls through another backwater fighting stumps and the wind.
10:34 a.m. Alton reaches for another rod to swim a worm
10:40 a.m. Alton switches his worm out for a different color as he struggles with stumps. "It's a pain navigating through these stumps, but that's part of the deal with this body of water."
10:53 a.m. Alton is having some success in this new area and is excited with what he found.
10:57 a.m. Alton notices fish are more aggressive as the water warms. "We can feel the sun on our back and so can they. The afternoon bite is going to be the strongest in this tournament."
11:23 a.m. Alton shakes off a bite.
11:37 a.m. "We're about to head out of here now," Alton says. He believes the Red River is better than he anticipated. "I think there's plenty of fish in here, but it may fish just a little small."
11:44 a.m. Alton shakes off another, "That one felt like it had some weight to it."
11:52 a.m. Alton puts the trolling motor on high and heads back toward the river.
12:06 p.m. Alton throws his YUM lizard back in.
12:11 p.m. Alton shakes off another good fish that went for his lizard.
12:12 p.m. Alton raises his Power Poles and we drift further toward the Red River. He tosses his YUM Dinger at some stick-ups along the way.
12:17 p.m. Alton clicks another waypoint in his sonar.
1:12 p.m. "Time to head back toward the lock," he says.
1:16 p.m. At full song Alton's Skeeter/Yamaha rig will see just under 70 miles per hour. We arrive at the lock, hoping to get through early. If not, we're stuck until 2:25 p.m., until the next scheduled opening. Alton pulls the signal rope sounding a horn near the tower. "It'll be a few minutes until we know if we can go through early or not. Alton digs into his turkey sandwich and potato chips.
1:18 p.m. The lock attendant comes to inform us we can lock through at 1:40 p.m. Other anglers arrive to lock through, as well.
1:39 p.m. The lock finally opens and Alton files in with four other Classic contender boats — Randy Howell, Ish Monroe, Dave Wolak and Bernie Schultz.
1:45 p.m. Alton starts removing the line from all of his reels to start respooling.
2:00 p.m. We're still waiting on the lock to close and Alton is busy tying on fresh baits.
2:35 p.m. Alton hits plane again on the wind-blown Red River making the return more difficult.
2:36 p.m. Some of the stories told by anglers in the lock are questioned.
2:52 p.m. We arrive at Alton's last location, "I want to check a backwater I hadn't gotten to yet."
2:59 p.m. Alton runs a little too shallow and kicks up some mud to dislodge his boat.
3:01 p.m. Alton begins trolling through some stumps throwing his YUM lizard again while a speck fisherman watches.
3:09 p.m. Alton shakes off a 2-plus-pound fish. "I'm kind of worried about getting out of here."
3:12 p.m. "I have to fish pretty quickly on back toward the mouth so we can get out of here. This area has probably been hit 100 times today, too."
3:15 p.m. "I came in thinking I needed some new pieces — today has helped me get some arranged in the right order. Now it's down to execution on Friday. On Friday the dream will die for about half of the field, probably only 12 or 15 will still have it alive. Alright, let's get out of here."
3:17 p.m. "It'd be easy to mess up here." Alton drops the trolling motor to try and navigate but to no avail. "I am majorly stuck. I can't even turn the boat." Alton revs his Yamaha to inch his Skeeter forward. We're free and heading back to launch.
3:23 p.m. We're back at the launch ramp. "Now it's time to spend time in prayer and trust the Lord. It'd be mine to win again, but I'll be where He wants me to be. I want to be where He can use me the most."