The unbreakable heart of an angler

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All photos Chris Brown

As the weigh-in for Day 2 of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at Lake Hartwell presented by Bass Pro Shops concluded and the standings were revealed, a sense of excitement and relief fell over Jacksonville State University senior Jarred Jones and his father Mark. 

For the first time in his college career, Jarred had made the Top 12 cut with a two-day total of 15 pounds, 13 ounces, landing him in 10th place for the day. 

“It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do,” Jarred said after Friday’s weigh-in. “I’ve been bass fishing my whole life, and I’ve been fishing at JSU for three years and I’ve qualified for two National Championships and never made a 12-cut. It’s just unbelievable.” 

Jarred fished the event solo after COVID-19 rescheduling conflicts kept his partner Logan Tate from making the trip — and he did it just two months after having open-heart surgery to remove a tumor that doctors determined to be B-Cell Lymphoma.

After healing from the surgery for seven weeks, doctors cleared Jarred to participate in the tournament before starting chemotherapy in a couple weeks.

“This has been the first time I’ve been out fishing since July, right before my surgery,” Jarred said. “I was ready to see what I can do and ready to show people that no matter what happens, no matter what can put you down for a little bit, you can still do what you want to do.

“I was praying all morning, praying I could get through it and try to do my best or the best God had given me. It worked out, He was with me all day, and He has been with me since then.” 

With the added challenge of fishing by himself, Mark made the trip to make sure his son put as little strain on his body as possible. 

“I’m his dad, I can read him better than the general public,” Mark said in an interview Friday evening. “I know he is struggling this week. He is pushing himself to the limits. But to see him today when he came in and gave me the thumbs-up and told me he has a decent bag and he’s gonna make it, watching that weigh-in was nerve-wracking but super exciting to watch his reaction when the scales were closed and the Top 12 was set.

“I know it isn’t as good as winning the Classic, but buddy it was pretty good.”

Jarred wrapped up the Lake Hartwell event with a 6-7 limit, finishing in 11th place — a new career high — and earning valuable points toward the School of the Year Standings.