With just four years as a competitive bass fisherman, Justin Jones knows he has plenty to learn. So far, so good.
Lessons from fellow anglers and his own discipline helped the 25-year-old Apex resident take a $25,000 payday in the co-angler division of the Walmart FLW Tour tournament on Lake Okeechobee in Clewiston, Fla.
The Feb. 7-9 FLW Tour Majors event tested Jones’ skills and confidence. With an hour left to fish, Jones was without a bite – and his two-day lead was in jeopardy.
“I just knew it was going to be like last year in the Everstart (Series) where I zeroed on the last day (and lost the title). It was mentally challenging,” he said.
Then, with just 45 minutes left, a 6.5-pound bass hit, and Jones had his first victory.
“It was the prettiest fish I’d ever seen,” said Jones, who also caught a 9-pound, 7-ounce bass on the first day that was the co-angler event’s big fish.
Jones had 22 pounds, 11 ounces on the first day and 10-4 the second. The final fish gave him a 39-4 three-day total to hold off Richard Peek of Centre, Ala., who had 13-9 on the last day for a 35-8 finish. Drew Benton of Panama City, Fla., won the pro division and $100,000 with a four-day total of 75-7.
Co-anglers fish aboard professionals’ boats. Jones had a first-day pairing with Charlie Ingram of Santa Fe, Tenn. “I really enjoyed fishing with him,” Jones said. “He’s had a TV show teaching people to fish for 25 years now. It was pretty much like fishing with a legend.”
Jones’ uncle, Manley Jones of Raleigh, introduced his nephew to tournaments and says the angler’s ability to keep his mind on his goal makes him a good fisherman.
“He does well as far as staying focused and paying attention to what he’s doing,” the uncle said. “When he goes for something, he gives 100 percent.”
Even though he’s competitive, Justin Jones has a maturity that helps him along the way, his father, Harrison Jones, said.
“I’m most proud of how he has handled himself throughout all of this, but even more proud of how he handles the adversity that comes with competitive bass fishing,” the father said.
Jones, a 2006 graduate of Grace Christian School in Raleigh who has a few sponsors but seeks more, works part-time for his father’s construction business and at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Apex.
Among the advice he shares for new tournament anglers: Find a club. “It’s always a good place to learn,” he said. “If people ain’t willing to teach you, you need to change clubs.”
Follow Jones at www.justinjonesfishing.com.
Bear Creek Access reopens: The renovated Bear Creek Boating Access Area in Jackson County has reopened, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said in a news release.
The site on Bear Creek Lake, part of the Nantahala chain of lakes, features two 14-foot-wide, 90-foot-long ramps. A floating dock with handicapped-accessible handrails was also installed, and Duke Energy plans to add an accessible pier.
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