Zoneloc pro Alton Jones, Jr. didn't have the best or the worst season for a rookie fishing the the Bassmaster Elite Series during 2017. After the season was completed, Jones, Jr. ended up ranked 69th overall and out of the 2018 Bassmaster Classic. In many ways, it was a middle-of-the-road endeavor.
Alton Jr. isn't one to sit back and wonder why the season didn't end up in a Classic berth or battling for the Rookie of the Year title. Instead, Alton is using his experience and is analyzing his season to make improvements in 2018. He will continue to strive for his goals as a professional bass angler and become a legitimate threat to win events and qualify for the Classic.
Alton Jones, Jr. (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)
So, what did Alton take away from his first foray into the Elites? Plenty.
"I made some classic rookie mistakes," said Jones, Jr. "I started on a high note with a good finish at Lake Cherokee, then I had a terrible event at Toledo Bend.
"My Day 1 at Toledo Bend was good, then I made a gut decision to do something completely different on Day 2. It was a catastrophic decision. It failed, and from that point on I found it difficult to follow my instinct, my gut. I started to doubt myself and lose confidence on the water.
"I started to not be patient with my decisions. What I'll take away from that is to start to trust my gut again and be patient."
Travel was not a major difficulty for Jones, Jr. in 2017, but the level of competition surprisingly caught him off guard.
"The travel aspect and being away from home can be tough on an angler who is a rookie," said Jones, Jr. "It wasn't for me. Of course, being away from my wife was, but the rest of it wasn't. The previous year, I fished all of the B.A.S.S. Opens, and some of the FLW Costa Series, so being gone a long time and traveling is something I've experienced.
"What I was surprised by is how tough the competition really is. I mean, I thought I had a gauge about how good these anglers are. I grew up around a lot of them. But this level of competition is unlike anything I imagined. They are so good."
Although Jones, Jr. had some ups and downs in 2017's Elite Series season, his takeaways are all positive.
"This was an amazing experience and I can't wait to get back at it in 2018," said Jones Jr. "I had so many terrific experiences this season. I think the best one was my Day 2 on Sam Rayburn. Weighing in over 26 pounds, and the biggest limit of the event. It was a magical day, and doing that at this level really gave me confidence and reminded me why I love tournament fishing and fishing in general. I would've enjoyed it just as much whether I was at an Elite event or fishing with friends.
"It was a day filled with a lot of high fives a woo hoos.
"Also, look at how well the young anglers have done this year. Brandon Palaniuk with the Angler of the Year. Jordan Lee winning the Bassmaster Classic. Jordan is only 6 months older than me. Dustin Connell, Jacob Wheeler. Knowing what they've done really pushes me to compete harder.
"For me, my rookie year really improved my skills. I know I am a better angler today than I was on January 1, 2017."