ALTON JONES JR.: My Process for Breaking Down Northern Fisheries with My Electronics - Major League Fishing
ALTON JONES JR.: My Process for Breaking Down Northern Fisheries with My Electronics
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ALTON JONES JR.: My Process for Breaking Down Northern Fisheries with My Electronics

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Alton Jones Jr. writes about how he breaks down northern lakes on the Bass Pro Tour as an angler from Texas. Photo by Phoenix Moore
September 2, 2022 • Alton Jones Jr. • Angler Columns

We have one event left in the 2022 Bass Pro Tour season, and that’s in Minnesota in a couple of weeks. Much like every season, we’re ending this year in the northern part of the country, with two back-to-back events north of the Mason-Dixon Line. While Cayuga Lake was won with smallmouth, I feel as though it’s not a smallmouth-dominated lake. That’s what made it different than other northern fisheries and why it was so fun to fish.

Really, in general, when I think of preparing for northern fisheries I think of one thing—simplicity. I get my spinning rods and I feel as though you’re only going to really need to focus on about five different baits. Smallmouth are simple, so your preparation needs to be simple as well.

Breaking It All Down

Smallmouth love a bottom mixed with rock and sand, maybe even some grass. If you can find a massive flat as well, that’s going to be a key factor. When I’m doing my map study and preparing for a northern fishery, these are some of the first things I look for on my maps. Before practice even starts, I know where the four or five largest flats on a body of water are located.

I learned a long time ago from fishing with my dad in practice that practice isn’t the glamorous part of professional bass fishing. You have to be out there grinding for bites and shaking fish off when you get them. I learned from an early age the hard work it takes to figure out a body of water by watching him do it.

I’m not sure that in order to be a successful pro nowadays you can just be a guy who’s comfortable fishing for smallmouth up north, or a guy that’s only comfortable down South catching largemouth. That’s where I think forward-facing sonar has helped so many pros become more well-rounded at catching fish anywhere in the country.

When I started using forward-facing sonar as I was trying to climb the professional ranks, I felt as though only about one percent of the field was actually doing what I was doing. Now, as the game has evolved, more people are using technology, and using it well. However, I feel like I have a little bit of an advantage on the rest of the field because I’ve already been using it for so long.

Am I the best at using it? No. But when you’re breaking down water that you’ve never fished before and using your technology to help you in doing so, you can figure out what you want to do and where you want to do it pretty quickly.

I think our game has become less about history and knowledge and more about being able to see what’s right in front of you, and how quickly you can process that information. That’s why I think the days of being a “northern guy” and a “southern guy” are over. Technology hasn’t just leveled the field but also raised the quality of anglers across the board.