Jones leads on the Red

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Ronnie Moore

SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER CITY, La. — Alton Jones Jr. of Lorena, Texas, weighed one bass shy of a limit Friday, but his four fish included a difference-maker. A 5-pound, 15-ounce bass will make up for most shortcomings this week on the Red River, where bass fishing is extremely tough.

Jones goes into the final day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open with a two-day total of 22 pounds. He has a two-ounce lead over Tommy Murray of Bedford, Texas. Murray also had a difference-maker – a 6-pound, 2-ounce largemouth bass that is the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the tournament so far.

Less than four pounds separates the top 12 entering Saturday.

“That’s what this tournament will come down to – someone catching a four- or five-pounder tomorrow,” said Billy McCaghren of Mayflower, Ark., who is in 6th place with 20-1. “When you get to fish on Saturday, you’ve got a chance to win.”

That’s especially true this week on the Red River, which has been ravaged by floods twice this year, most recently in August. Here’s how difficult it has been to catch five bass a day measuring at least 12 inches long: Only 41 of the 179 pros caught limits Friday, and only six of the top 12 have weighed a limit both days.

But Jones, the son of Bassmaster Elite Series veteran Alton Jones, couldn’t be happier. He’s been working out some frustrations this week after missing a 2017 Elite Series invitation by one point last Friday at the final Bass Pro Shops Northern Open on Lake Champlain.

“That was an emotional, emotional deal,” Jones said of his near miss last week. “The last guy that weighed-in bumped me out. I needed to finish second and I wound up finishing third. I idled my boat into the marina and shed a few tears. It’s hard to get that close to a lifelong dream and not make it.”

Jones will have a good chance to make that dream come true no matter where he finishes Saturday. He was 15th in the first Central Open this season on the Arkansas River at Muskogee, Okla. The final Central Open is set for later this month at the Atchafalaya Basin in Morgan City, La., and Jones will be among the point leaders. The top five from each of the Northern, Southern and Central Open three-tournament series receive Elite Series invitations.

Jones was originally supposed to be part of his longtime friend Chris Weatherly’s wedding tonight in Dallas, but Jones expressed his regrets when the Central Open schedule was announced.

“I talked to him on the phone last night,” Jones said. “I told him I’d catch a big one for him tomorrow. Sure enough, I caught Chris his fish today.

“It was a community hole deal. It was just my time. Probably 100 boats have fished that place over the last seven days. I hadn’t been able to get on it before. There was always a boat sitting on it.”

In addition to catching the big bass of the tournament so far, Murray’s 13 pounds Friday is the big bag of the tournament as well. Luke Estel of Murphysboro, Ill., is third with 21-9, only seven ounces out of the lead. Luke Palmer of Coalgate, Okla., is fourth with 21-2. Rounding out the top five, which is separated by exactly one pound, is Todd Murray of Prairieville, La., with 21-0.

On the co-angler side, Marvin Delong of Colfax, La., caught a three-bass limit weighing 6 pounds to lead with a two-day total of 12-15. Charlie Hewitt of Prairieville, La., is second with 11-5. Nathaniel “Rudy” Rudisill of Bossier City, La., is third with 10-13, closely followed by Robert Parkison of Marshall, Texas, with 10-12, and Robert Fortner of Conway, Ark., with 10-4.

Saturday’s 7 a.m. takeoff will take place at the Red River South Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the Bass Pro Shops, 100 Bass Pro Drive, in Bossier City beginning at 4 p.m.

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