Alton Jones leads Elite Lake Wheeler

DECATUR, Ala. – Three previous Bassmaster Classic champions are separated by 11 ounces of each other after the opening day of the Evan Williams Bourbon Dixie Duel on Wheeler Lake. 2008 Classic champ Alton Jones…

DECATUR, Ala. – Three previous Bassmaster Classic champions are separated by 11 ounces of each other after the opening day of the Evan Williams Bourbon Dixie Duel on Wheeler Lake. 2008 Classic champ Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, bagged 17 pounds, 12 ounces, to lead the field of 100 anglers on the third stop of the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series.

Right behind Jones is Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, in second with 17-8, who won the 2004 Classic. Mike Iaconelli, winner of the 2003 Classic, is third overall with 17-1.

The trio of anglers, fishing for the top prize of $100,000, was surprised in being able to secure larger weights on Day One. During official practice earlier this week, all mentioned catching a lot of fish, but said they were on the smaller side of the scale.

“It really was a good day and it went a lot better than my practice days,” said Jones, 45. “I had to realize that the conditions were going to change and had to practice for what those conditions were going to be on tournament days. I am really excited with what I had today and would have been pleased with 13 to 15 pounds.”

Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from the Evan Williams Bourbon Dixie Duel on The Bassmasters, which airs Saturday, April 11, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The daily weigh-ins for this and all other regular-season Elite events and two postseason events will air live at 5 p.m. ET on, ESPN’s broadband sports, while a wealth of unique content will also be available at Also this week on, fans can get daily, live Hooked Up updates, featuring BASS emcee Keith Alan, throughout each day’s competition at noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Jones fished a couple of areas throughout the day before finding his honey hole. The five-time BASS event winner was able to haul in four bass from one location that included a largemouth that tipped the scales at 7 pounds, the big bass of day.

“I caught four of the fish I weighed-in today in about 30 minutes,” said Jones. “I knew this spot had potential to cough up good quality bites. I also lost a 3-pounder from here.”

Jones is holding his tackle and strategy close to his chest as other anglers were competing nearby. He is concerned about Friday as a thunderstorm unloaded during the weigh-in.

“Tomorrow will be a different stroke when the wind comes around from the opposite direction,” Jones said. “We will play that game when it comes.”

Omori moved around Wheeler Lake frequently and used fast moving baits to boat his limit. He is not sure about Friday’s second day of competition because of the continuing rain.

“I probably caught 12 keepers today, with the biggest being 6-9,” said Omori, who had other pros close. “It was a quirky day. I got bites right before the storm came. Tomorrow will be a different day.”

Iaconelli, who finished second at the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, also fished a lot of areas and a variety of lures to boat his limit. He was shocked at his actual weight after estimating a 15-pound bag prior to weigh-in, that included a large kicker fish.

“I had one in there that I estimated was a four-pounder, but it actually ended up being 6-9 so that helps a little bit,” said Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J. “I’ve had three tournaments in a row where I have found nothing in practice. I went out today with 15 rods on the deck and basically went junk fishing and I was able to put it together.

He was able to catch fish throughout the day up until the weather front moved in close to check-in.

“Unlike a lot of the guys in here, I don’t have anything solid or a specific area, I don’t have a pattern so I am just fishing,” said Iaconelli. “I’m catching them on multiple different kinds of baits, I caught them as shallow as a foot-and-a-half and I caught my deepest one in about 20 feet of water.”

Rounding out the top five are Rick Morris of Virginia Beach, Va., with 16-13 for fourth position, while Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., is in fifth with 16-6.

Almost the entire field brought a five-fish limit to the scales on Thursday – 97 to be exact. Other notables include last week’s Elite Series champ Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., in seventh and 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., in eighth.

If Jones can hang onto the lead throughout the event, he could overtake the No. 1 position for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. He currently is in second with 514 points, with four-time AOY winner Kevin VanDam in first with 560 points.

After Friday, the field will be cut to the top 50 competitors. The final day of competition, Sunday, will feature the top 12 anglers. With 1,063 miles of shoreline, Wheeler is the largest of three Alabama lakes that connect with the Tennessee River. It has been the host of 10 BASS events, including the 1974 Bassmaster Classic and also will feature the second Bassmaster Southern Open of 2009, set for April 30-May 2.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Dixie Duel includes a top prize of $100,000 and awards valuable points in the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title race. Fans are encouraged to attend daily launches (7:15 a.m. CT) and weigh-ins (4 p.m.) through Sunday at Ingalls Harbor, 701 Market Street NW, Decatur.

At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, fans are invited to experience Bassmaster University, which includes the “Ask the Experts” session with the Elite pros at 3 p.m.

Sunday’s activities include the live taping of Hooked Up, hosted by ESPN Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders. The show, which will air live at 4:30 p.m. ET on, will preview Sunday’s final weigh-in.

Other activities Saturday and Sunday at the Dixie Duel will begin at 12 p.m. CT at Ingalls Harbor, featuring the popular Dog Training & Retriever Demonstrations Brought To You By SportDog. The fun also includes Skeeter boat demos; a rock-climbing wall presented by the U.S. Army; Jubilee Hot Air Balloon rides; an American Red Cross blood drive; the Just Add Kidz moonwalk, obstacle course and super slide; a BTK Motorsports booth with kart demonstrations; and the Sci Quest Hands-on Science Center for kids.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Visit for ESPN Outdoors’ latest releases, schedules, other news, plus photos and more.

Local sponsor of the Dixie Duel is the Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine; Bass Pro Shops, Costa Del Mar, Ramada, SpongeTech and Triton Boats.


2009 Dixie Duel 4/2-4/5 Lake Wheeler, Decatur AL. (PROFESSIONAL) Standings Day 1

Angler Hometown No./lbs-oz Pts Total $$$

1. Alton Jones Waco, TX 5 17-12 305 Day 1: 5 17-12,

2. Takahiro Omori Emory, TX 5 17-08 295 Day 1: 5 17-08

3. Michael Iaconelli Runnemede, NJ 5 17-01 290 Day 1: 5 17-01

4. Rick Morris Virginia Beach, VA 5 16-13 285 Day 1: 5 16-13

5. Randy Howell Springville, AL 5 16-06 280 Day 1: 5 16-06

6. Tommy Biffle Wagoner, OK 5 16-02 276 Day 1: 5 16-02

7. Mark Menendez Paducah, KY 5 16-01 272 Day 1: 5 16-01

8. Skeet Reese Auburn, CA 5 15-10 268 Day 1: 5 15-10

9. Jason Williamson Aiken, SC 5 15-07 264 Day 1: 5 15-07

10. Timmy Horton Muscle Shoals, AL 5 15-02 260 Day 1: 5 15-02

About BASS

For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive Web properties in, ESPN’s sports broadband network,, and, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content – from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage – to passionate audiences.

The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women’s Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.

BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

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