Enjoying the northern swing

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Alton Jones (11th, 75-13)
James Overstreet
Alton Jones (11th, 75-13)

You know, even though I would’ve preferred to have a single “1” in my last two tournament finishes, placing 11th in two consecutive Bassmaster Elite Series events is very gratifying for a couple of reasons. First, earning Top 12 finishes in the first two events of our northern swing gives me a lot of confidence and momentum to carry through the rest of the season.

At the beginning of the year, I marked the St. Lawrence River as one of the events I was most looking forward to. I knew this would be a purely smallmouth event and the fish were good to me. Moving on to Champlain, largemouth played a significant role in my success, but with Lake St. Clair coming up next, I’ll be unloading all that largemouth tackle and preparing for another great smallmouth event.

I don’t anticipate needing a lot of different baits on St. Clair, but one that I absolutely won’t leave home without is a bait that I consider the perfect size and shape for dropshotting — the YUM Warning Shot. I keep telling other anglers what I’m using, but as is the nature of competition, I think they might worry that I’m trying to lead them astray.

Nevertheless, it’s true — I have done very well with this bait in the morning dawn and green pumpkin with purple metal flake colors, as well as a custom-poured translucent pink with silver metal flake pattern that PRADCO created just for my tournament competition. In clear water with no wind, the smallmouth love this one.

I will say that, on Champlain, I caught most of my largemouth by flipping and pitching a YUM Bad Mama, while a Super Spook Jr. produced several quality smallmouth, including a 4 1/2-pounder. It amazes me the depth of water from which smallmouth will come up to hit a topwater plug. Twenty feet is not too deep.

They’ll hear that noise and that will trigger them. The deeper you’re fishing, the more violent the strike, because they have more room to gain momentum. A lot of times, they’ll literally come 2 feet out of the water and catch that topwater on the way up.

Another thing I like about smallmouth is their curiosity because this makes them easier to locate than largemouth. If you’re around smallmouth, they’ll show themselves, so you can power fish to the extreme in practice.

I don’t even worry about catching fish in practice. I just look at the quality of fish that follow my bait and when I see the ones I want, I mark the spot so I can go back during the tournament. The good thing is I don’t even have to use a bait that they want to eat; I just cover water with something like a YUM Pulse Swimbait and keep watch for followers. 

Now, the other reason I’m so pleased with my two Top 12 finishes is that I really needed the points for the Classic cut. Coming into the northern swing I was on the bubble, but now I’ve solidly in the cut with a good buffer.

Now my goal is to go into the AOY Championship only needing to catch one fish to lock myself in for the Classic. What this will do is give me the comfort to swing for the fences at the AOY and try to earn the best paycheck possible.

Of course, this puts more pressure on the upcoming St. Clair event. It’s going to be very important to maintain my momentum, so let’s hope that these smallies continue to treat me well.