Alton Jones bringing fresh rig, perspective to Saginaw Bay following car crash - Major League Fishing

Alton Jones bringing fresh rig, perspective to Saginaw Bay following car crash

Image for Alton Jones bringing fresh rig, perspective to Saginaw Bay following car crash
After a car crash last month left his truck and boat totaled, Mercury pro Alton Jones said he and his wife, Jimmye Sue, are doing as well as can be expected. Photo by Tyler Brinks. Angler: Alton Jones.
July 18, 2023 • Mitchell Forde • Bass Pro Tour

Even after he caught more than 20 pounds on the first qualifying day of General Tire Stage Six Presented By John Deere Utility Vehicles at Lake St. Clair last month, Mercury pro Alton Jones admitted that he couldn’t focus, his mind was elsewhere.  

While he found himself in eighth place in Group B at the time, it was hard to blame him. 

Four days earlier, as he was driving from Saginaw Bay, Michigan, to Detroit for the tournament, a car traveling the opposite direction veered in front of Jones’ tournament rig. His truck collided broadside with the vehicle, rolled onto its side and skidded off the road. Jones, incredibly, suffered only minor injuries, but his wife, Jimmye Sue, had to be hospitalized due to a broken sternum. His truck and boat were both totaled

Less than a month later, the Mercury pro reported that both he and his wife are doing as well as could be expected. Jimmye Sue is “mostly pain free,” and Jones finds himself once again able to focus on fishing. While he’s had to overcome some unusual obstacles to make sure he can take to the water when the Bass Pro Tour season concludes at Stage Seven on Saginaw Bay in early August, Jones is happy to be back to focusing on how he can boat more bass. 

“It’s going as well as it could possibly go right now, given the circumstances,” Jones said in a phone interview from his Texas home. “And my mind for Saginaw is back on fishing.” 

While Jones wasn’t able to replicate his Day 1 success on St. Clair, he still managed to scratch out a 47th-place finish. Avoiding a bomb helped improve his chances of qualifying for REDCREST 2024; he currently sits 29th in the Bally Bet Angler of the Year standings, and the top 40 anglers will earn a spot in the annual championship event.  

It was an impressive result considering the circumstances. Jones considered withdrawing from the tournament, only opting to compete after Jimmye Sue urged him to. He missed the first day of practice as he made arrangements for Jimmye Sue to fly back to their Texas home and tried to take stock of his damaged gear. He then took to the water in a boat loaned by Major League Fishing for about half of the second practice day. Despite working with an unfamiliar brand of electronics, he managed to find a stretch of bank that had a few smallmouth guarding spawning beds. That area produced all of his weight during the first day of qualifying, when he fished out of his son Alton Jones Jr.’s boat. 

“My head wasn’t in it, I wasn’t dialed in,” Jones said. “I was on unfamiliar equipment, I only got half a day of practice, and I was very fortunate to land on some fish the first thing the first morning. My one day of practice, the only thing I found — I think I’m the only guy that found it — I found one little stretch of cattails that had some fish on beds in it. And I went there, I went down that one line and I caught 20 pounds off of it. And I knew they were leaving quick. When I went back the second day, there was nothing left in there, so I ended up just running up the river and fishing some history that didn’t work as well.” 

Jones’ Stage Seven boat

While the fallout from the car crash has made his break in the tournament schedule much busier than anticipated, Jones will be back on a boat of his own with familiar equipment at Minn Kota Stage Seven Presented by Suzuki. He has both his sponsors and the family of some Bass Pro Tour competitors to thank for that. 

When Jones arrived home from St. Clair, he said the car dealership he partners with had a new truck ready for him. And awaiting him in Michigan will be a brand-new Ranger powered by a Mercury FourStroke, compete with Garmin electronics, PowerPoles and Pro-Guide Lithium batteries. That boat will come from the inventory of D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The sporting goods store is owned in part by Randy VanDam, the brother of Kevin VanDam and father of fellow BPT pro Jonathon VanDam

“I’m going to be in a brand-new Ranger for this event with equipment that I’m very familiar with,” Jones said. “I’m just so thankful. I mean, people have rallied around and gone above and beyond to get me back on the water for one single event.” 

The June accident left Alton Jones’ tow rig and tournament boat totaled and much of his tackle lost or ruined.

(Re)gearing up

Incredibly, Jones said not a single one of his Kistler rods broke during the accident. The same could not be said for his tackle, though. His lure collection is one thing Jones won’t be able to replace by the start of Stage Seven, and likely ever.  

Virtually all of his plastic tackle trays and storage bins shattered due to the force of the collision, and when his truck rolled onto its side, “thousands and thousands” of lures spilled across into a roadside field. He wasn’t able to recover many of them. 

“I can just picture it – in 500 years there’s going to be somebody out there with a metal detector just finding these lures. ‘There used to be a lake here,’” Jones quipped. “No. And that was just not salvageable.” 

Still, Jones is counting his blessings. If there’s one positive that has come from the crash, it’s been a fresh dose of perspective.  

When he hits the road for Saginaw Bay next week, Jones will drive a new truck to pick up a fully-rigged boat. He’ll have his wife back by his side, as she has been for virtually every road trip during his 30-plus years on tour. And he could have a chance not only to punch his ticket to REDCREST, but to see his son punctuate a remarkable campaign by lifting his first Angler of the Year trophy. Jones Jr. enters the season finale with a seven-point lead in the Bally Bet AOY race. The elder Jones believes the excitement about their son’s season has helped him and Jimmye Sue endure the physical pain and logistical headaches that have resulted from their wreck. 

“I’ve learned this lesson before in my life, but one thing that’s really impressed on me is the need to just trust God,” Jones said. “Even in difficult circumstances, he’s very trustworthy. And this has been a difficult circumstance in a lot of different ways. It could have been worse. But you know, God’s provided this boat through my sponsors and He’s gotten my tackle all put back together, and things are coming together. Jimmye Sue is healing. I’m very thankful. It’s a good time to take self-inventory, self-introspection, I guess, and it’s just a good time to reflect on life and what’s really important.”