Interview with Angler of the Year Leader Alton Jones

MONTGOMERY, Ala., April 17, 2003 - Alton Jones clings to a one-point lead in the Busch BASS Angler of the Year standings after winning the CITGO Bassmaster Tour's most recent stop at California's Clear Lake. The following are his answers to questions from sports writers during a BASS teleconference:

Question: Are you confident of winning the Busch BASS Angler of the Year title?

Alton Jones: I'm confident in my abilities ... I would probably stop short of saying I'm confident that I'm going to win it because we do have a lot of fishing left to go and anything can happen. My perspective on achieving a major career goal like that is just, 'God willing.'

You know, there are a lot of things that are going to happen that are beyond my control. What I can say that I'm confident in is that I'm going to go out there and give it my very best shot. I'm going to be putting everything mentally, physically, and spiritually into doing as well as I can at the next two events.

I really believe that God ultimately will determine who wins the Angler of the Year. Will that be me? I don't know.

Q: When did you start thinking, "Hey, I've really got a shot at winning this points race"?

AJ: I actually was mainly watching my position as far as Classic standings, (wanting to make) the top 40 during the early part of the season. Probably when that started changing was when I finished seventh at Santee Cooper. I don't remember exactly what place I moved to, but I was just a few points behind the leader. With so many tournaments left, I knew I was in striking range.

That's kind of when I realized and, you know, I actually told an outdoor writer who asked about the Angler of the Year, 'Well, for me that's a pie in the sky and not really a realistic possibility anymore this season.'

Probably after Santee I realized, 'Hey, you know what? This is actually possible.' I didn't change my fishing; it just became a reality in my mind that this might happen.

Q: Well you're certainly in terrific shape to qualify for another CITGO Bassmaster Classic and, of course, the top prize in consistency for this sport, the Busch BASS Angler of the Year title. Can you talk about that?

AJ: I finished 82nd in my first two events, and qualifying for the Classic was certainly not guaranteed. In fact, I was a little bit nervous about whether or not I would be making the trip to New Orleans. And to be sitting here now with only a couple of tournaments to go and leading the points race is mind-boggling. You know, it's a fun place to be sitting. But, we have a lot of fishing yet to go.

I'm not really too focused in on the points race. Again, it kind of goes back to that mental thing. I think sometimes, if you're too fixated on something other than the job at hand, it can detour you from accomplishing your goals. And the way I approach my fishing - (the way) I have all year and the way I'm going to continue to do it through the last tournament - I always want to focus on how to catch the next bass.

You know, the points, they happen if you catch the next bass and you catch the next bass and you catch the next bass. So if I focus on the right things and stay committed to achieving the small goals, the big things will just happen automatically.

Question: You mentioned a couple of times about how you approach fishing mentally. Does mental toughness really make that much difference in the sport of fishing?

AJ: Well, mental toughness absolutely is critical. There's a lot of different ways you can get bogged down mentally in your fishing. For example, if you're sharing a spot with another angler, it's really easy to look over and see what he's throwing and think, 'Maybe he knows something I don't and if I can look over and figure out what he's throwing maybe it will help me.' Or, 'I wonder how so and so is doing? I'm in a tight race with Roger Boler. I wonder what Roger's catching today?' But, every time my mind slips away from my fishing and onto something else (it's) a little bit of distraction.

Fishing is a game of seconds and just a split second distraction can mean the difference between that 7-pounder or making a bad cast and not even getting the bait presented properly and missing an opportunity completely. So, perhaps mental focus is even more important in fishing.

Just as an example, Tiger Woods could have a mental lapse for a split second at the Masters and, as long as it's not during his swing, he's going to be fine. That hole is still going to be there. He can regain his composure and continue.

But, in fishing, we're chasing these little green things around out there with brains that are about half the size of our thumbnails and they're swimming around under that water. So, if I have a mental lapse, the hole that I'm shooting for may not even be there anymore. So, you know it's very critical to maintain focus at all times. It's not a mystical or magical thing; it's just paying attention and making sure you're controlling all the things you can control and putting your best effort into every presentation.

For me, what I try to do? I have to believe I am going to catch a bass with every cast. I'm expecting a strike every time I throw that bait out there. If I'm not expecting to catch one, why bother to cast?

Q: You travel with your family as much as possible. How are you finding that the tour has been on your family? How are you holding up?

AJ: That has been a key strategy of mine. Let me tell you how we started doing that. Early in my career, the first five years I didn't qualify for the Classic, but I managed to have an occasional bright spot. (It was) a good tournament here, a good tournament there.

After five years, I ordered a print-out from BASS that showed me every single tournament I finished in the top 20. Actually (it showed) every tournament and I circled the top 20. I noticed every top 10 that I had in the first five years was a tournament that my wife was at. Those were the only tournaments that my wife had come to; she was working as a nurse at the time.

She and I put our heads together and on one hand we were saying we couldn't afford for her to go with me to all the tournaments and on the other hand we were saying we couldn't afford for her not to go with me to all the tournaments. We did a lot of praying about it. We had people here at our home church praying with us about it. You know God opened some doors financially for us to be able to do that.

We have really enjoyed the time we've spent together on the road. I believe they've actually been to every single event now for the past five years. As far as the home schooling, there are quite a few kids that travel on the Tour and when we're not on the road, our kids dearly miss their friends that they see from the tournaments and when we're at the tournaments they miss all their friends they see when we're at home.

It's kind of a mix.

It's a great educational experience. We try to rearrange for example their history curriculum to correspond with the ... area of the country that we're in. When they're studying George Washington, we will try and put that while we're at the Potomac River and go see Mount Vernon, for an example. It puts a place with a face. You know now when they hear, 'This and this happened in California,' now they know where California is. It's not some mystical place out in Neverneverland. It's a real place.

Even my 5 year old has an unbelievable amount of common sense that she has picked just from her traveling experience. It's been a great experience. Everybody is enjoying the opportunities that we have.

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