Alton Jones, Texas pro angler, tops the leaderboard after Day 2 at the St. Johns River Showdown — the Bassmaster Elite Series event near Palatka, Fla.
Jones, from Woodway, brought in a five-fish bag weighing 28 pounds, 7 ounces. His total after two days is 44-14.
He’s not the only Texans high on the leaderboard.
Todd Faircloth of Jasper wrapped up Friday with five fish at 20-8, for a two-day total of 36-6.
The event runs through Sunday, and stakes are high: a $100,000 first prize, an instant spot in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic and points toward this season’s Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
According to B.A.S.S., it was one year ago on the same fishery when Jones led the Elite Series field after two days by 7 pounds, 9 ounces. He finished the tournament in third place; coming up short of fulfilling his goal of a first Elite Series win.
Now, like Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog’s Day,” he has a chance to change the ending of the story.
Closest to Jones are Rick Morris of Lake Gaston, Va., and David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., who share second place with 37 pounds, 10 ounces. Morris moved up from fourth place on Day 1, and Walker inched up from sixth place for the tie.
Faircloth was in 19th on Thursday, before landing in fourth place a day later. Another big mover, Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan., went from 15th place to fifth with an 18-13 day and 36-2 after two days.
Jones, who learned last year how a 7-plus-pound lead can evaporate when the game is catching fat spawning bass, said he is grateful for the three big fish that propelled him into the Day 2 lead. His fortunes were helped by an 8-5, an 8-11 and a 6-something, all taken off beds, according to B.A.S.S.
“The big ones are at a premium right now,” Jones said. “Getting three big ones like I caught today is just a blessing; that’s the only way I can say it.”
He called the 8-5 a “dumb, easy one.” That’s because before he realized it was there, he almost ran over it, his trolling motor buzzing — something that usually sends a bedding bass for cover. It didn’t move. He backed up and flipped once to the fish, and it took his bait.
“I was literally 1 foot from it when I first passed it,” he said.
The other two made him sweat for the bites, especially the 8-11. He waited her out and was finally able to catch her.
But the sight bite is tough overall, he said. So tough, in fact, that many pros are backing off a game plan that relies 100 percent on sight fishing, or actually being able to see a bass on the bed and casting to it.
“That’s one thing that’s helping. You’re not having the same pressure in the areas with beds because there just aren’t enough fish,” he said. “I’m using my time looking for big females — not that I wouldn’t spend a cast or two on a pound-and-a-half fish.”