Rookie season lessons

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Alton Jones
James Overstreet
Alton Jones Jr.

I believe that life is a constant learning opportunity, and I definitely learned some valuable lessons during my rookie season on the Bassmaster Elite Series.

The first lesson I learned is something that my dad always told me, but something I had to learn myself. It’s a big jump from the Bassmaster Opens to the Elite level. Growing up around it, I thought I had a good grasp for just how good all these guys were, but it really surprised me when I started competing against them. The amount of respect I gained for all of these anglers top-to-bottom was incredible.

For example, you always hear the term “sand bagging” where a guy says he had a tough practice and they caught 20 pounds. That was the case in several tournaments this year, but I came to realize that they weren’t sandbagging.

We have two and a half days to break down a body of water and that’s not much time to develop a pattern or to really learn a spot. What these guys are really good at is taking those two to three bites they had in an area and maximizing it. 

When they come back in the tournament and they really settle down and get to pick apart the area, they’re good at getting that 15- to 17-pound bag. Whatever lives there, these guys are going to pick it out of there.

I also learned this year that being young isn’t a bad thing. The young anglers really showed out and it’s inspiring to us other young anglers. You had Jordan Lee winning the Classic, Brandon Palaniuk winning Angler of the Year and other guys like Jacob Wheeler who won at Cherokee Lake, Dustin Connell and Jesse Wiggins. The success those guys had drives me, as a young angler, to want to compete at that level.

Because of that, I noticed myself putting in harder practice days, longer hours and just trying to go that extra mile to get to that level. I let the competition push me.

Now, even though my rookie season didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, I’ve decided to not let it get me down; instead, I’ve found some great insight and inspiration in a blog post that Matt Lee wrote earlier in the year.

Talking about his goals going into the season, Matt acknowledged that he has not had the career he’s wanted to have. He said that coming into this year, whether I catch ‘em or whether I don’t catch ‘em, I want to fish patiently.

After fishing this year, I can very much relate to that and understand that. When the season started heading in the wrong direction, I let that get in my head, and I tried to be a different angler than who I was. I was making decisions I wasn’t comfortable with and trying to fish like other people.

I believe Matt’s phrase “fish patiently” means be patient with your own decisions. You’re a good angler, so have a little faith in yourself and the decisions you made. I know that was Matt’s motto for this year, but it’s something I’m going to adopt for next year.

I really want to fish patiently, I want to trust in my decisions and just stick to my guns; go with my gut a lot more.

Even though this year didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I had some really high points. I made my first Top 12, I got several checks, I fished the Classic; I really got the car wash of being an Elite angler. I also had some really bad finishes, but I feel like I learned a lot about myself as an angler.

Going from the Opens to the Elites is like going from high school football to the NFL. I feel like I learned a lot and I’m well prepared going into next year.