JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. (March 21, 2023) – After taking over the lead early in the first period, pro Alton Jones, Sr., of Lorena, Texas , held his ground throughout the day to finish first on Tuesday, catching a five-bass-limit weighing 14 pounds, 14 ounces, to cruise to a Group B Qualifying Round win at the Major League Fishing (MLF) U.S. Air Force Stage Two Tournament on Douglas Lake. Jones’ two-day total of 10 bass weighing 28 pounds, 12 ounces gave him a 1-pound, 9-ounce margin over second place pro Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, who finished with a two-day total of 10 scorable bass weighing 27-3.
It was also another stressful day for anglers around the cutline. Pro Zack Birge of Blanchard, Oklahoma started the day in 22nd before going on a morning flurry to jump to third place by the end of Period 1. Birge then went five long hours without catching a bass yet managed to finish the day in 19th place and move on to the Knockout Round. Britt Myers of Lake Wylie, South Carolina came into Group B’s second day of competition in 33rd place, having only caught two fish on his first day of competition, but managed to rack up the biggest bag of the day – a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds even – to finish the day in 16th. Jordan Lee of Cullman, Alabama dropped below the cutline in the third and final period but caught two key fish in the final hour to finish the day in the 20th spot.
“I’m so happy finishing in 20th place,” said Lee on the MLF NOW! live stream. “I’m drained. I literally feel like I won the tournament.
“My heart can’t take it – it’s beating so fast,” Lee continued, laying down on the floor of his boat. “We gave it all we had boys. I feel bad for the guys who barely missed it, I really do, but sometimes it’s just your lucky day. I’ve been right out of the cut and have been right inside it. Those last two fish today are really what made the difference for us, and I couldn’t be more excited to get to regroup and get on them tomorrow on Cherokee Lake.”
The remaining 40 anglers – the top 20 from each group – now advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round, where weights are zeroed, and the anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to the Championship Round on Thursday. Weights will carry over from the Knockout Round into the Championship Round, which will feature the final 10 anglers competing for the heaviest two-day cumulative total and the top prize of $100,000.
Among the 40 pros moving on to Wednesday’s Knockout Round are Tennessee’s own Andy Morgan and Michael Neal, both of Dayton, Ott DeFoe of Blaine, Matt Becker of Ten Mile and Jacob Wheeler of Harrison.
Jones started the day in fifth place but caught two fish within the first 45 minutes to jump from 5th to 1st – and never looked back.
“This was a good round, but it was a tough round for me,” said Jones. “I only caught five scorable bass, and I lost one and missed a couple. I just didn’t get a lot of bites today, but fortunately I found a few places that had some quality on them.
“I’m grateful to have made the cut and am ready to move on to Cherokee Lake. It’s great winning the day and winning the round, but it all zeroes tomorrow, so this is just bragging rights at the dock – and I’ll probably do a little bragging while we’re there,” Jones continued, laughing.
Jones is a four-time Qualifying Round winner, and did most of his damage up the river on a jerkbait, although he did catch one key fish on a football jig with a Zoom Baby Brush Hog as a trailer.
“Usually when I do well, it’s because I’ve made a game plan and executed it and bass fishing is no different than any other sport,” he went on to say. “You have to have a plan that you’re confident in. A plan is something you develop as you go through practice and something you develop in preparation before practice ever begins, and the Bass Force app is key to helping me develop my game plans.”
Jones said now it’s time to totally shift gears going into the Knockout Round.
“Cherokee is an entirely different lake, a whole different mindset from what we’ve been fishing over here on Douglas,” said Jones. “We’ve got to forget everything we thought we knew over here about what the fish were doing, and totally retrain ourselves to dial in on what’s happening over there right now, and that’s going to be a big challenge for all of us.”
The top 20 pros from Group B that now advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round on Cherokee Lake are:
1st: Alton Jones, Sr., Lorena, Texas, 10 bass, 28-12
2nd: Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, 10 bass, 27-3
3rd: Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 10 bass, 26-12
4th: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 10 bass, 25-7
5th: Josh Butler, Hayden, Ala., 10 bass, 25-1
6th: Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz., 10 bass, 24-12
7th: Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 24-11
8th: Mark Rose, Wynne, Ark., 10 bass, 24-11
9th: Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., 10 bass, 24-9
10th: Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 10 bass, 24-0
11th: Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 10 bass, 23-0
12th: Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, nine bass, 22-14
13th: Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., 10 bass, 22-7
14th: David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., 10 bass, 22-6
15th: John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., 10 bass, 22-5
16th: Britt Myers, Lake Wylie, S.C., seven bass, 21-8
17th: James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., 10 bass, 21-3
18th: Fletcher Shryock, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 20-15
19th: Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 10 bass, 20-13
20th: Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 20-13
Tuesday’s $1,000 Big Bass Award went to pro Spencer Shuffield of Hot Springs, Arkansas , who caught a 4-pound, 13-ounce largemouth on a glide bait in Period 2. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and another $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.