MONROE-WEST MONROE, La. – Mercury pro Alton Jones Jr. provided one of the most epic beatdowns in Bass Pro Tour history on the final day of General Tire Heavy Hitters Presented by Bass Pro Shops. Jones won by 59 pounds and weighed in 81 pounds, 15 ounces of largemouth on Bussey Brake in northern Louisiana. However, what seemed like a walk-in-the-park victory for Jones was actually a bit of struggle, and required and an awful lot of quality observation to put him in position to find the pattern he needed to win.
“I was very fortunate to have found both of the patterns that worked for me on Caney and Bussey,” Jones said. “I struggled a bit at Caney after the first day and really was in survival mode, finishing sixth to make it to the championship.”
Jones fished Caney with a slightly different approach than the majority of the field, relying on a mixture of early morning deep-water bites, then focusing on sight fishing the remaining bedding bass.
“On Caney, I noticed how spread out the fish were,” Jones said. “There were very few still on beds. I think only me and Randy Howell were sight fishing at all there.”
Jones started every morning offshore, then migrated to the shallows to chase bigger fish.
“I’d start every morning offshore in about 22 feet of water,” Jones said. “I could get one or two key bites to get the ball rolling. The offshore bite gets so much pressure there. I could put my bait in front of two dozen bass per day over 6 pounds, and I’d be lucky to get one to bite. They are heavily pressured.”
Jones’ switch to bedding bass would start as the sun rose. The first day of the event, the conditions were ideal and revealed an interesting observation about the late season spawners.
“I noticed there were not many bass on beds,” Jones said. ”But the percentage of males paired with females was really high. I’d guess 60% or so. Probably as high a percentage as I’ve seen; that gave me the opportunity to catch some bigger bass.”
Jones had a distinct advantage over some of the offshore anglers, he didn’t have much company.
“It’s one of my favorite times to sight fish,” Jones said. “When people think it’s too late or too early to fish bedding bass, you can have the pattern to yourself. It’s fishing a little outside of the box, and it can be incredible.
Jones used a Geecrack Bellows Gill in the Sunburned Gill color, and his signature Bellows Shad in the AJ’s Juice color.
Weather played a major role in Jones’ success.
“I was fortunate that we had phenomenal weather on the first day,” Jones said. “I led my group heading into the second day. The weather didn’t really allow me to fish how I wanted to and I caught one scorable. The rain and the wind make sight fishing very difficult. I knew I had enough to make it into the Knockout Round, so I practiced.”
Jones caught four bass during the Knockout Round, placing him in 6th, enough to fish Bussey Brake and have a shot at the Heavy Hitters title.
“The weather was perfect for the Knockout Round,” Jones said. “I caught enough to survive and advance. But, I left a couple bass in the 6- to 8-pound range on beds. Those probably cost me another $50,000.”
Heading into Bussey Brake, Jones had a little something up his sleeve that developed and evolved into a big something and a massive victory.
Only spending half a day practicing on Bussey Brake, Jones maximized his time and found the clues to unlock the final day’s winning pattern.
“I found three decent areas on Bussey during practice,” Jones said. “I liked what I found. I also found a shad spawn at daylight. That clued me in to use a white bait. I love to flip a white bait, in this case a white Bellows Shad. I caught a 7-pounder.”
As practice continued, Jones switched over to other colors during the later morning, but fishing slowed.
“As the sun got high, I picked up typical colors,” Jones said. “I began to struggle. Then, I picked up the white Bellows Shad and a big bass blew up on it as I reeled it out of the willows. I knew the bass were still keyed in on shad. I never threw a spinnerbait in practice.”
With his initial game plan and locations with different cover to fish, willows in one area and cypress trees in the other, Jones felt confident in his chances. The game plan evolved as the weather changed during the Championship Round.
“At the start of the final day, I was fishing the willows in 6 to 7 feet of water,” Jones said. “Great conditions for it. It was slick, calm, and prefrontal. But then the wind picked up after the first period. The willow trees started to shake. In my experience, the bass don’t bite in those conditions, it’s like a sensory overload when the trees are shaking.”
What happened next was a classic swerve and some perfect timing, finding the juice and cracking one bass after another.
“I made a decision to fish the cypress trees on a berm that’s about a mile long, though I’d only fished about 200 yards of it in practice,” Jones said. “Cypress trees aren’t impacted like the willows. I caught some with the Bellows Shad flipping and pitching, then said to myself, ‘hmm, this looks good for spinnerbait.’
“I had a ½-ounce white spinnerbait with a silver willow leaf and gold Colorado kicker. The trailer was a white Bellows Shad. The weight made this bait easier to cast in the wind, and due to its bulk, it was buoyant; allowing me to fish it slowly and keep it near the surface.”
Jones caught a 3-pounder, then a non-scorable, then a 5-pounder all on the spinnerbait. He knew this was the ticket. He observed that all of his bites were high in the water column. Though he caught fish flipping, he felt that in this situation, a lot of the flipping baits went right past the bass.
“All the spinnerbait bites were in the upper 10 inches of the water column,” Jones said. “That was key. Keep the bait high and moving slower during the retrieve. That made all the difference. The flipping baits moved too quickly and went right by where most of the bass I encountered were positioned.”
Timing was everything for Jones’ victory.
“I got a couple of key bites that clued me in on what to do,” Jones said. “Other anglers used spinnerbaits, but I ended up fishing it in the right place at the right time.
“Plus, I love my forward facing sonars, but it was sure fun fishing old school and coming out on top.”