UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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Jones crushes pro field on Lake Wheeler, tightens grip on first place

Jones crushes pro field on Lake Wheeler, tightens grip on first place
Alton Jones used a two-day catch of 35 pounds, 13 ounces to grab the overall lead in the Pro Division.

Morgan overcomes sluggish start, vaults into co-angler lead

FLORENCE, Ala. - After turning in a spectacular performance on the first day of FLW competition, Alton Jones said that he needed about 8 pounds during Thursday's contest to guarantee a spot in the top-20. Jones not only accomplished his goal in dramatic fashion, but he also served notice that he would be a force to be reckoned with for the remainder of the tournament.

With the rest of the pro field looking on in amazement, Jones walked off the weigh-in stage with a whopping two-day total of 35 pounds, 13 ounces - almost 10 pounds more than his nearest rival. In the end, the accomplishment even seemed to surprise the native of Waco, Texas, himself.

"It's not very often that you get dialed in to what the fish are doing that strongly," said Jones. "Today was just one of those days where everything I did went right. I didn't intend to catch a big sack today. But I was really in tune with the fish."

Perhaps even more disturbing for the rest of the competition is the fact that Jones appears to be getting stronger with each round. Not only is he catching huge stringers of fish, but Jones also appears to be expanding his lucrative fishing holes with each passing day.

"Today I went to my good spot and caught two fish right away, so I knew I'd make the cut," said Jones, who caught a limit by 11:00 a.m. "After that, I decided to go practice fishing for some new areas. By the end of the day, I had found four new schools of fish. So I really expanded what I'm doing."

With water temperatures on Lake Wheeler varying between 45 and 49 degrees, Jones said that it is essential to fish as slowly as possible.

"I'm on an excellent cold-weather pattern and I'm continuing to fish slowly and methodically," he said. "There's no one near any of my spots and quite frankly, I'm kind of surprised none of the other guys have figured out (this pattern) yet."

Not surprisingly, Jones said he is sticking with the same tactics that landed him a semifinal berth.

"I'm absolutely going to use the same technique," he said. "There's no reason to change anything tomorrow. My confidence is high and I have about seven or eight good spots. And I should be able to catch a limit off of any one of them.

"For me, the hard part - all of the practice and figuring things out - is over," Jones continued. "Tomorrow, I'm just going to go out there and go fishing."

Coming up roses

After struggling on the FLW Tour for the last few years, Mark Rose decided it was time to make amends. Bolstered by a two-day total of 26 pounds, 1 ounce, Rose managed to grab second place and a spot in the all-important semifinal round of competition. To be sure, it was a long time coming.

"It really feels good," said Rose, a native of Marion, Ark. "My trail hasn't been a blaze of glory as of late. I had a terrible tournament on Lake Okeechobee last month. And I only had a fair year on the tour in 2001. So, I'm pretty excited right now."

Rose, who is fishing crankbaits and targeting shallow water areas, said he is cautiously optimistic about his chances for the remainder of the tournament.

"I feel good, but it also looks like (Jones) has a lot of things figured out," he said. "I also have a lot of company in my fishing spots. So, it could be tough. My goal is to go out there, fish hard and hope for the best."

Strader reels in third-place finish

Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., used a two-day total of 23 pounds, 13 ounces to claim the third qualifying position heading into the semifinals. Strader, who appears to be on the verge of becoming an upper echelon pro, said he was pleased with his performance to date.

"I was a little bit down after that last EverStart tournament on Sam Rayburn," he said. "But things seem to be working out. I'm familiar with the water and I'm fishing pretty well. It really feels good to be back in the top 20."

Best of the rest

Rounding out the top five were Larry Nixon (fourth) of Bee Branch, Ark., with a total catch of 22 pounds and Eric Holt (fifth) of Galena, Mo., with a two-day catch of 21 pounds, 6 ounces.

Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., claimed the day's Big Bass award after registering a 5-pound, 3-ounce bass. Rojas, who finished the day in seventh place, won $750 for his efforts.

Riding the coattails to co-angler lead

After catching exactly zero fish on the first day, Armil Morgan clearly had his work cut out for him if he was to make it to Friday's all-important final round of competition. However, as luck would have it, Morgan drew pro partner Alton Jones for Thursday's contest. The rest, as they say, was history.

Not only did Morgan qualify for the finals after landing a whopping 16-pound sack, but he also found himself atop the leaderboard in one of the most memorable come-from-behind stories of the tournament.

"It was pretty exciting. In a lot of ways, it was like being down in a basketball game by 25 points with only 3 seconds to go," said Morgan, of his sudden reversal of fortune. "Coming from behind like that gives you a high that's hard to explain."

Morgan, a native of Mineral Springs, Ark., with two top-10 performances already to his credit, acknowledged that Jones undoubtedly played a large part in his success.

"My partner was like a bird dog today," he said. "(Jones) would just point to a spot and there would be fish there. It was unbelievable. I think I'm going to call him the `Bird Dog' for now on."

While Morgan was undoubtedly pleased by his performance, the Arkansas native said his first-place finish also came with some other valuable perks.

"I get to fish with (Jones) again tomorrow," he said. "And because we're teaming up again, I have a lot of confidence heading into the finals. We didn't beat up our fish and we have a lot of good spots left. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow."

Morgan also won the day's Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division after registering a 6-pound, 14-ounce bass. The award was worth an additional $500.

Best of the rest

Rounding out the top five qualifiers in the Co-angler Division were Doug Caldwell (second) of Kane, Penn., with a catch of 13 pounds, 10 ounces; John Beason (third) of Jonesboro, Ark., with a catch of 12 pounds, 5 ounces; Don Harvey (fourth) of Franklin, Tenn., with a catch of 12 pounds, 1 ounce; and William Drown (fifth by virtue of a tiebreaker) of Roseland, Fla., with a catch of 12 pounds, 1 ounce.

Tomorrow's takeoff is scheduled to take place at 8 a.m. at Joe Wheeler State Park, located at 4401 McLean Drive in Rogersville, Ala.

Related links:

Quick Bites: FLW Lake Wheeler, Day 2
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Day-three pairings
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Tags: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2002-02-13-lake-wheeler 

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