Texas sweep: Jones first at St. Johns River; Faircloth, Combs follow at second, third

JonesSundayAlton Jones ran out of time Sunday to entice a lunker he could see on a bed during the final moments of the St. Johns Bassmaster Elite Series event near Palatka, Fla.

But he still won the event with 75 pounds, 9 ounces, and by a margin of 1 pound, 2 ounces, over runner-up, fellow Texan Todd Faircloth of Jasper.

Another Texan got third, Keith Combs of Huntington, with 71-2.

“I am absolutely speechless that I won,” Jones said, who lost this event by a slim margin last year. “I entered the weigh-in line today thinking I had lost this tournament.

“It was a complete reversal of fortune from last year. That’s all gone now.

“It always feels good to win.”

His prize is $100,000 and an instant berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. He also is leading the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.

“That’s what I’m most excited about,” said the Angler from Woodway. “To have a Classic qualification frees me up to really go for Angler of the Year, take a few more risks in other tournaments this season.”

Faircloth’s 20-pound, 10-ounce bag of Sunday could have stopped Jones in his tracks if only Jones had stumbled a bit.

Jones started the St. Johns River Showdown under the radar: 17th place after Day 1. He became a big player with his Day 2 sack of 28-7 — the tournament’s largest — and he snapped up the lead by more than 7 pounds. By the third day, he was up by 9 pounds.

He relied on sight fishing all four days in several areas of the river’s Lake George.

Each day, he intentionally left some of the males on beds so that they’d draw the bigger females he knew he would need to excel at the scales.

He said his primary lure of the week was a 6-inch junebug-colored Yum Dinger. It was the bait that brought him all his fish heavier than 4 pounds.

“I have a lot of confidence in that color, and if it’s working, I don’t switch it,” he said.

Faircloth said he fished clean, with no mistakes and in keeping with a sight fishing plan that he stuck with.

“I really felt good about today, like I had a shot at the win,” he said. “I never felt like I was out of it. I knew Alton would have to have a day like he had today for me to catch him, but I was just that one fish short.”

Elite Series competition continues this week with the Power-Pole Slam on Florida’s famed Lake Okeechobee.

— B.A.S.S.