Bass fishing's next generation

alton-jones.jpg

James Overstreet
Alton Jones' guess for the winning weight at the 2017 Bassmaster Classic media day.

My first post-Classic comment here needs to be “kudos to Jordan Lee.” It was absolutely amazing to watch this young man mount the comeback that he did. 

I am excited about his win for many reasons, but ones is that Jordan’s just a good guy. He’s the kind of person you can be really happy for when you see him succeed.

On a more personal level, it was really special having my son, Alton Jr., fishing this Classic. The most obvious impact it had was it gave me someone to work with on strategy. From a logistical standpoint, it was really nice to compare notes at the end of each practice day — what baits worked and didn’t work, what waters were productive or not.

Of course, as a dad, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes when my son went across that Classic stage each day. I remember what it felt like at my first Classic, so I can only imagine it felt as good or even better for him.

There was a lot of pride for me as a dad to have him there participating. A big part of that is the example it sets of how fishing can connect generations. 

Just consider that Stanley Mitchell was 21 when he won the Classic in 1981 and Woo Daves was 54 when he won in 2000. Where else can you have such a big range for world champions? 

That’s why I’m so excited to see my son living his dream of fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series and earning his first Classic appearance. I think we’re going to see even more from this younger generation of anglers in the coming years.

I was really proud of the way Alton Jr. approached this event wanting to win, but I also told him to have fun and take time to enjoy it. Classics come and go, but your first Classic only comes once. It’s going to imprint memories that will stick with you forever.

For me, my most memorable Classic moment was riding back to the stadium, watching the first flight weigh in and seeing my son walk across that stage. It took me back to my first Classic; it took me back to when I was a kid fishing with my grandpa; and it took me back to when AJ was 7 or 8 and he’d be walking the bank of the campground where we were staying during a tournament.

His passion for fishing was in him all the time. To see that blossom on a Classic stage was something I’ll never forget.

Even before that first weigh-in, I couldn’t help thinking like a father. I commented to my marshal several times throughout both days that I hoped AJ was having a great day. My mind did wander to him, even while I was fishing. 

Probably the most meaningful interaction we had during the Classic week was during the final practice when he called me about 1:30 in the afternoon. He called me on my cellphone and said, “Dad, if you’re not on your trolling motor looking for spawners, you need to be. I just found two 8s, two 6s and another big one in one pocket.”

He had made an adjustment as the fish made an adjustment. It didn’t hold up during the tournament, but that was a really memorable moment. And it was also a source of pride for me, too, thinking, “Man, he’s really going to have a chance at this thing.”

It didn’t play out that way, but there was my son giving me advice. I think that says a lot about how much impact this younger generation of anglers is going to have on this sport. Personally, I’m excited to see what the future holds.

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