I got to sit down and talk with Alton Jones recently about his past year as the reigning 2008 Bassmaster Classic Champion. I personally…
I got to sit down and talk with Alton Jones recently about his past year as the reigning 2008 Bassmaster Classic Champion. I personally was very curious to see how he managed all the obligations and still was able to fish and enjoy the sport. Jones simply said that “It’s just a matter of not letting urgent keep you from what’s important; fishing is important”.
Prioritizing with family, faith, and fishing at the forefront; all others came second. Jones said that in the first week after he won the 2008 Classic he received 1000 phone calls. It got so bad that if he would stay on the phone with someone for more than 10 minutes his voice mailbox would fill up and start rejecting calls. He finally had to have his wife start screening calls and determine which ones she could handle as a manager and which ones he had to handle personally. When it was time to go fishing, the phone was turned off so that he could concentrate on fishing. During the tournament week he wouldn’t touch it, his wife handled the business side.
Because of the time challenges of professional fishing Mr. Jones and his wife home school their children. As most of you know Alton Jones and his family were invited to the White House to visit with President Bush. While trying to schedule this, Mrs. Jones said that there just wasn’t time and the kids were too far behind in their studies to take the week from school that it would take to make such a visit happen. As Alton was telling us this story he started chuckling and said he told his wife “honey, I think a trip to the White House would qualify as a Field Trip!” They did go and he said it was an amazing trip and something that his children will probably treasure for the rest of their lives. “I was very excited that they had the opportunity to experience that and all because of bass fishing.”
Another question that is always a thought of mine is “What exactly is the biggest change in a fisherman’s career after winning the classic?” Sure you got this half million dollar check, but other than that what happens in the way of sponsors and other potential incomes? Alton Jones simply smiled and said I became a huge asset to my current sponsors: “Although my opinions didn’t change, a lot more people were listening to what I had to say! There was a lot more value placed on what I was saying as well.” I went on to ask if other sponsorship doors flew open for him. He said there were some opportunities but he has good partnerships and dedicated to his current sponsors and seen no reason to start jumping around.
Probably obvious to most, but I asked Mr. Jones if his fan base had grown since winning the classic? And how he was handling that? “It is definitely something to get used to”, he said his biggest challenge has been trying to not be distracted by the crowd and to concentrate on the task at hand, “Fishing”. He went on to say, he always had a few fans but now it gets crazy sometimes. Here on the Red River, being the 2009 Bassmaster Classic brings more spectators to begin with, however all of contenders have a large flotilla following them. I asked Alton his thoughts on it and he was very concerned, “The Red River is fishing very shallow right now so the spectators could become a factor in spooking the fish; however [with a grin] I am going so far up in a stump field I don’t reckon many will try to follow me”. He asked that we tell everyone we could to get the word out that in this event and any others; binoculars are the best way to go. Alton went on to say he enjoyed his fan base even though they get a little close some times, but if it wasn’t for each and everyone of them the sport wouldn’t be what it is today and if getting out and watching the pro’s up close “brings excitement to the fans” then he was all for it!
It seems to baffle most local fisherman when Professional Anglers come to our waters and catch these impressive stringers. So I asked Alton Jones what one thing he could tell the local anglers about their home water that would help them improve their ability to catch larger fish. His answer was simple and we have heard it many times before but for some reason most don’t listen… “Don’t lock in. Fish with an open mind and look for patterns, don’t just fish your favorite spot. Most local fisherman know the exact spot and exact tree stump they are going to fish before they hit the water. This can be good sometimes but you have to have an open mind and look for a pattern and then follow that around the lake. Your favorite stump isn’t always going to have a fish on it.”
Alton Jones is definitely very proud of his family and faith; he is a modest and humble man. I asked him about his classic win and how it made him feel. He replied, “To be honest the classic is just like any of these other tournaments, someone is going to win and that day it was my turn to win. Don’t get me wrong I loved every minute of it and I want to win again!” Well I don’t know about just like any other tournament, but maybe that’s how Mr. Jones tries to think about it to keep some of the pressure off. Alton was a pleasure to talk to and I look forward to meeting him again and sitting down with him and possibly talking about his Angler of the Year Title, he’s off to a good start!
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