GREENVILLE, S.C. — When Alton Jones motored back into Lake Hartwell's Portman Marina, he was pretty sure he didn't have enough fish weight in his livewell to win the Bassmaster Classic.
"I thought I had an outside chance," Jones said. "I never dreamed that would be enough for a victory, based on what had been caught the first two days."
In the end, no one else's catches could keep up with Jones'.
In his 11th Classic, the Waco, Texas, pro came back from 10th place on Day One to claim the $500,000 top prize in the biggest event in bass fishing.
"This is the fulfillment of a dream I've had since childhood," he told a near-capacity crowd at the 15,000-seat Bi-Lo Center. "My grandfather taught me how to fish, and I wish he could be here to see this."
As it turned out, Jones' bag of five bass weighing 13 pounds, 7 ounces was the third biggest in the 25-angler field for Sunday's final day, and the best among the top seven finishers. His three-day total was 49-7.
The Classic victory is the fifth B.A.S.S. tournament win for Jones, whose highest previous Classic finish before this year was 7th place in 2000 and 2003.
Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., who entered the day in third place, finished second with 44-5.
- Lake Hartwell produced the third heaviest total poundage of bass in Classic history — behind, ironically, the other two February Classics in 2006 and 2007. The move to the early part of the year has paid off if you like bigger catches..
- Jones is far from the oldest Classic champion, but at 44 years, 7 months and 11 days, he's closer to the oldest than he is to the youngest. In fact, Alton ranks sixth among the Classic's oldest winners. Woo Daves still holds the top spot at 54 years, 2 months and 28 days.
- With Jones, Texas claims its ninth Classic. Rick Clunn, of course, grabbed 4 of those. The others belonged to Larry Nixon, Tommy Martin, Jay Yelas and Takahiro Omori. The next closest state is Arkansas with 5.
Top 6 finishers
- Alton Jones Waco, Texas 5 17-5 5 18-11 5 13-7 15 49-7 $500,000
- Cliff Pace Petal, MS 5 18-10 5 14-11 5 11-0 15 44-5 $45,000
- Kevin VanDam Kalamazoo, Mich 5 20-3 5 11-14 5 11-7 15 43-8 $40,000
- Bobby Lane Lakeland, Fla. 5 15-0 5 14-13 5 12-10 15 42-7 $30,000
- Greg Hackney Gonzales, La. 5 16-2 5 14-9 5 10-12 15 41-7 $25,000
- Jeff Kriet Ardmore, Okla. 5 12-15 5 18-12 3 9-4 13 40-15 $22,000