LAKE GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — For the first time in his career, Alton Jones knows what it feels like to be Number One — in the boat parade. Though Jones has been a pro for 19 years, he has never been the first boat in the first flight on the first day until his number came up in the Southern Open.
How does it feel? No big wow, according to the 2008 Classic champ.
"At least I'll get to the 'community hole' I'm fishing before everybody else does," said Jones. "I'd rather be the first one there to stake my claim than have to wait and take what I can get."
Apparently, beating the pack helped. Jones weighed in 28 pounds, 12 ounces, good for 6th place going into Friday's second round.
Thanks for the loan
When his turn on the weigh-in stand came, Charlie Hartley praised Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., for loaning him a boat during the practice round after Hartley's developed some temporary issues. The Ohio angler was up and running by tournament's start, but thanked Martens effusively.
"I was glad to do it," said Martens. "It was last year's boat and just sitting there wanting to go fishing. Heck, Charlie even brought it back cleaner than when I loaned it to him."
Two at a time
Fishing was nothing short of fantastic at Lake Guntersville Thursday, as the standings attest. Mark Davis, who used a Strike King crankbait to boat most of the bass on his 26-pound, 14-ounce stringer (ninth place), noteded that he doubled up on bass three times during the day.
"They were just two-pounders, but, hey, I'll take them two at a time like that any day."
In his own homespun way, the Arkansas pro summed up the hot action on Thursday by noting that "the bass are just now getting to where they wanted to be, and they're getting there unmolested by fishermen. A bunch of them got educated today, but there is lots of untouched water still waiting to be fished."
Sight fishing can be tough
Dean Rojas spent a couple of hours Thursday trying to coax a bedding 7-pounder and a 6-pounder into biting, but finally gave up on them. The fish would have boosted the Arizona angler's haul by a few pounds and at least boosted him into the top 50. He's currently in 59th place with 20 pounds, 4 ounces.
"It was one of those deals where I just couldn't get them to bite no matter how I approached them or what I threw," said Rojas. "There still are some good bass on beds. I might be the only guy fishing shallow, but I'm going to try it again tomorrow."
Will Clunn fish?
All-time great Rick Clunn complained of flu-like symptoms to tournament officials early Thursday afternoon and left Lake Guntersville State Park after weighing in a limit of bass totaling 25 pounds, 14 ounces.
Clunn, who's won two events on Guntersville, is in 12th place heading into the second round and is famous for his late charges. Assuming his condition isn't serious, the four-time Classic titlist will be favored to reach Sunday's final round of 12.
"There's some toads coming," — Mike Wurm, yelling to the crowd gathered for the weigh-in.
"I think I was fishing at Wheeler. I don't think I was fishing the same lake as these other guys," — Jason Williamson, disparaging his 85th place stinger weighing 16 pounds, 4 ounces.
"I swear I had rubber hooks." — Chris Lane, reflecting on the ones that got away before he finished with a limit that totaled 13 pounds, good for 95th place.
"I just couldn't stand there and hammer them. I left my fish and it was a huge mistake. I'm going back there and wail on them tomorrow." — Gerald Swindle, who finished the day with 20 pounds, 9 ounces.
"I think I've got the whole lake to myself, I'm the only one fishing the bank." — Dean Rojas
"I didn't see this train wreck coming." — Kevin Short
"I had a rough day today and only caught 50 fish, I was expecting more like 100." — Steve Kennedy
"The lake is as good as I've ever seen it." — Timmy Horton
"I thought I knew where they were, but I guess I didn't." — Terry Butcher
"I went through 80 fish by noon and just left them alone." — Dave Wolak
"When I catch 20 pounds, everybody else catches 30 pounds." — Peter Thliveros
"I fished my first tournament on Guntersville in 1989, but these are the good ole days right here." — Kevin VanDam