By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Having your boat and truck totaled in a rollover highway accident would put a damper on any angler's season. Other than that mishap, Alton Jones' 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour campaign went extremely well.

The 60-year-old veteran from Texas performed solidly across the schedule and qualified for this year's REDCREST Championship with a 33rd-place finish in the Angler of the Year (AOY) points race. What was perhaps even more satisfying was watching son Alton Jr. take another step on his journey to becoming one of the premier competitors in the game.

"Every tournament I always want to finish ahead of him and it's the same with the end-of-the-year standings – we've got our own family competition," Jones said. "But at the same time, I'm his biggest fan and for me as a dad, it's been really fun watching him excel.

"I go into every event feeling like I have two chances to win."

The 31-year-old "Little Alton" was in contention for the AOY crown throughout the season and ended up 4th, just five points behind winner Matt Becker in an extremely tight four-angler battle. He also dominated Heavy Hitters (a non-points derby) on three venues in Louisiana to claim his second tour-level victory.

The son's success adds to the father's motivation to remain competitive against a bevy of standout anglers that are approximately half his age.

"He definitely drives me to work harder than I might otherwise be working," the elder Jones said. "Having him out there and being able to ping ideas off him is a benefit and the success he's had makes me want it more."

Their fishing styles are naturally pretty similar, but the former Bassmaster Classic champion says there's one critical facet of the game that his son has taken to a higher level than he ever reached.

"He's such a good strategist and he's probably better at game-planning than I ever was," he said. "I feel pretty fortunate that I get to sit around and have brain-storming sessions with him. I'm probably garnering a lot more from him at this point than he does from me.

"I look at the decisions he made (in Heavy Hitters) and they all make sense to me, but in real time I don't know if I'd have been able to make those decisions and execute the way he did. It sort of made me stand back in awe."

The elder Jones didn't do anything spectacular last year – his best finishes were a pair of 15ths at Lake Murray in April and Cayuga Lake in June. On the flip side, he avoided bombs entirely, with his worst showing (51st) coming in the season opener at Florida's Kissimmee Chain.

The accident occurred just prior to the second-to-last tournament at Lake St. Clair after he and wife Jimmye Sue had made a pre-practice visit to Saginaw Bay (the site of the season finale). He walked away with just some bumps and bruises while his wife suffered a fractured sternum and other injuries that were treated at a Michigan hospital.

Fishing from a borrowed boat, he failed to advance to the Knockout Round in either of the last two tournaments, but didn't miss by much (47th and 49th, respectively). Those showings were easily good enough to get him to REDCREST, which will take place in March at Lay Lake in Alabama.

"Fortunately I had enough points before than that I could kind of coast in," he said. "It would've really been an uphill battle if I'd needed two Top-20 finishes or something like that."

In regard to his goals for 2024, there's one scenario he hopes to experience and his son will be a big part of it.

"One day it's going to happen – we'll both be fishing on the final day with the Top 2 weights, vying for the win in the last hour. At that point, I'll have to be more of a competitor than a father, although I don't know quite how that will play out emotionally.

"I've seen him win more than once now and I also have a desire for myself to not be done with that yet."