I’m very proud of my son, Alton Jones Jr., but his recent win at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on the Red River is only part of that sentiment. It’s an important part, but it’s not the most important part.
What I’m most proud of is the man I’ve watched my son become. Let me start with some perspective.
You know, watching him experience the biggest win of his career brought many emotions, but the one thing that was foremost in my heart and mind was God’s goodness in our lives. I say that because the emotional roller coaster started a week before on Lake Champlain where he had a great event and finished third, but in order to qualify for the Elites, he needed to finish second.
He missed qualifying by one point and that was tough. It was tough for him, and it was tough for my wife and me. As parents, we felt his pain because we knew how badly he wanted to qualify for the Elites.
Any time you see your kids experience disappointments, it’s a hard thing to watch. We all grow stronger through adversity, and I hoped he would handle the adversity well. I hoped that coming so close, but missing his chance at Champlain would not derail him from the mission because he still had a chance in the Central Division.
I knew it would take mental toughness to prevent the prior week’s disappointment from affecting his fishing on the Red River. To see that God put him position to win the Red River event was overwhelming.
For one thing, I learned that my son had a lot more heart and mental toughness than I ever knew. Sometimes you don’t know until you see someone tested by the fire.
You hear the phrase “God’s grace” a lot. Well, grace means unmerited favor — God looking upon us with favor even though we don’t deserve it. For us, as a family, Alton Jr. winning that tournament was just God’s grace. It was His unmerited favor for His reasons on our lives and we’re just so thankful.
I really value this because fishing has been a major building block for our relationship because it has provided opportunities for us to spend quality time together. Alton Jr. has been passionate about fishing since he was a toddler and fortunately, when he was young, I had a job that allowed him to spend a lot of time with me.
Prior to the Elite Series, the Bassmaster Tour permitted family members to join anglers during official practice days. So, from the time he was about 6 years old, until he was about 15, he actually joined me on every practice day of every tournament.
I think that this time not only strengthened our relationship, it also laid a solid foundation for the angling awareness that he’s now using as a professional angler. Here’s why: Bass aren’t that hard to catch; bass are hard to find.
So, even though my son didn’t get to join me during tournaments, he got to be with me during my fish-finding exercise and learn some good habits about prefishing.
Now, I’m still overwhelmed by the fact that my son qualified for the 2017 Bassmaster Classic, so he and I will be competing at the same time in our home state of Texas. What makes this such a meaningful thing is that we can now talk to one another about the Classic as often as we’d like.
He and I love to talk about fishing, but in the Elite events and the Classic, once we go to the 30-days off-limits period, I can’t talk to him about any of the lakes we’ll be fishing. Now, we’ll both be in the Classic, so as competitors, we can share information.
Now that he’s qualified for the Classic, our conversations have changed dramatically because now he can ask me things that he never would have thought to ask me about the Classic waters, and I can ask him questions that I never would have thought to ask him.
We haven’t established any formal game plan yet, but I’m sure we’re going to strategize together. If I can’t win it, I’ll do my best to make sure he wins it, and if he can’t win it, I’m sure he’ll do his best to make sure I can.
That being said, you only win the Classic if you beat everybody. If my son’s going to win the Classic, he needs to beat me, and if I’m going to win the Classic, I need to beat him. There’s not going to be any rolling over from either of us.
I’d expect nothing less from my son, because he’s his own man. He’s funding his fishing right not because or two big tournaments he won in Texas. You want to train up your children to stand on their own two feet and that’s what he’s doing.
I’m really proud of Alton Jones Jr., but not simply because he’s a great angler; I’m proud of him because when I look at him, I see a young man that has really matured. I see a man who is willing to follow Jesus Christ with his life; I see a man who is selfless and willing to help others. I’m way more proud of that than I ever could be if he caught a fish and won a tournament.