Just a couple weeks ago Teb Jones fished from the back of the boat as a co-angler at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Douglas Lake. This week Jones moved to the front of the boat and is having similar good fortune.
Jones, an insurance agent from Hattieburg, Miss., is a veteran tournament angler with a successful track record as a co-angler and boater. He finished the Southern Open season in seventh place of the co-angler standings. Now, he's switched to the boater side for the Central Open series.
The longtime B.A.S.S. Nation member even has a world championship to his credit, having fished the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro. He got there through the club ranks as a boater.
A mediocre season opener as a co-angler on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in January led to better times. He finished third at Smith Lake, Alabama, and then 11th place at the season finale on Douglas Lake in east Tennessee.
Switching to the pro side for the Central Open series is all part of the plan.
"I grew up fishing rivers and the schedule really suits my style of fishing," he said.
So far so good. Jones started this Central Open on the Arkansas River in third place after Day 1. He currently is in second place with 31 pounds, 12 ounces.
No matter what happens on the Arkansas River he's stoked about the remaining two events as a boater.
The Red River falls into his wheelhouse of skills and so does the Atchafalaya River and it's myriad bayous and backwaters. A B.A.S.S. Nation regional event there once qualified him for bass club's championship. From there he experienced the dream of every bass club angler by advancing to the Classic on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina.
Jones, who works with Toyota at the Opens, tends to the booth at tournament registration to promote the Bonus Bucks program.
"As long as I was there it just made sense to stay, enjoy the long weekend and fish as a co-angler," he said of the Central season.
The carefree attitude is what served Jones well during his co-angler season this year and at other times.
"A lot of guys get all wound up and you really can be your own worst enemy," he explained. "They come into this with a me-against-the-world attitude and that's no good for your mental execution."
Instead, Jones eliminates all of the stress of competing against a pro with this simple strategy.
"All it takes is three bites," he said. "If you bear down and just focus on putting three keepers in the boat, every day, then you stand a chance of contending."
"You can't control the size of what you'll catch so there's no use in trying to go fishing for 'quality' bass," he continued. "Just settle down, have fun and enjoy the stress-free part of being a co-angler."
Well, sort of. For a guy like Jones there is stress involved but he manages to channel it.
"The biggest challenge for me, and anyone used to fishing as a boater in other tournaments, is how to consolidate tackle into one box," he said with a laugh. "It comes down to being able to take one of these, one of those and that's about it."
The simplified bait selection equates back to the simplicity of focusing on just three bass each day.
Jones packs a short list of lures effective under a wide range of fishing conditions. Shaky head-style lures and soft plastic stick worms like the Gary Yamamoto Custom Lures Senko are mainstays.
"Those are the typical co-angler baits," he added. "Being prepared for anything is the key."
As a co-anger Jones attempts to draw parallels between his tactics and lures with what the pro is doing. Fishing a deep diving crankbait means using a Carolina Rig or heavy spinnerbait through the same deep water. He found success doing that on Douglas Lake.
"You don't want to challenge the pro to change boat control speed just because you are doing something different," he explained. "It's better to work with him and especially when he's on fish."
"What I find on both sides of the boat is the co-angler a lot of times doesn't pay attention to what his boater is doing," he continued, switching gears to boater speak.
"When I'm casting to the right side of a tree the co-angler should pick up on that and cast to the opposite side," he continued. "He's not necessarily fishing used water."
Jones, an insurance agent for 31 years, is a longtime officer in the Mississippi B.A.S.S. Nation. He was president for a decade before retiring from the role in favor of other responsibilities. Jones currently is the conservation director. He's been a member of the B.A.S.S. Nation since the mid-1980s.
Fishing the pro side of Bassmaster events came in 2005. On his B.A.S.S. resume are 70 events for 21 times in the money.
Money or not, front or back of the boat, it's all about fun for Jones.
"I just plan to fish for fun, enjoy myself and let the chips fall where they may," he said.
Jones is less than two pounds out of the lead going into the championship round. The fun and enjoyment might just reach a new level. This time on the boater side.