If you’re not up to speed on what happened at the Bassmaster Elite tournament last month, here’s a brief recap: Todd Faircloth pulled away from the field and blew past third day leader, Dean Rojas, with a 14.9-pound, final round bag on Texas’ Sabine River, a tough as nails fishery where anglers were forced to make long runs to live or die with what they had found. Simple, right?
Unfortunately for Alton Jones and Dean Rojas, not so simple. Both of these veteran competitors had been fishing the same narrow ditch all week. The dilemma facing Jones was obvious – he was over nine pounds off the lead and faced with the most biblical of decisions that tournament bass fishing has to offer – Honor the leader or fight for a miracle finish?
To me, there was no gray area. There never has been and never should be. You fall on your sword and pay it forward with the clear understanding that when the roles are reversed, you expect the same treatment. Somehow, this unwritten “golden rule” of tournament fishing was lost on Alton Jones, a true veteran.
Predictably, the chat rooms ignited with misguided banter about who was right and who was wrong and therein lies the problem. I don’t care if you don’t like Dean Rojas, if he had just machine-gunned a busload of orphans in the desert, Jones was wrong. Yes, it sucked to be him during the final round, all dressed up and no place to fish, but that’s the roll of the dice.
Alton didn’t help his situation by going on line with Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona to plead his case, perhaps expecting a softball interview. To their credit, Sanders and Zona asked the tough questions and got nothing back except a rambling, self-serving explanation that provided no real answers.
Jones admitted that, indeed, there is an “unwritten rule”; a rule – in his world – that is observed differently at different fisheries. Huh? Unless they find more standing water on the Martian landscape, I think not. There is no interpretation when it comes to doing the right thing.
Alton even admitted that he had “put all his eggs in one basket” and that coming from behind was a “long shot”. He went on to say that by not conceding his water, he did it for his competitors, his sponsors and his fans, wondering rhetorically “How would this sound at a NASCAR event?” Well, Mr. Jones, I’m thinking the sound you would hear on the track would be Tony Stewart’s fist breaking your nose.
So, is this where we’ve come to in professional bass fishing? Are we merely a group of English schoolboys marooned on a tropical isle where the rules of civilization don’t apply?
Rest assured, there will be a certain group who just can’t wrap their minds around the concepts of decency and integrity. They’ll sniff and call it “old school”. Sorry, there are only two schools on this issue, those being the “right school” and the “wrong school”. For a veteran angler like Alton Jones to be sucked into the vortex of playing for early season points and sponsorship dollars at the expense of his professed values, it makes one wonder, “How far have we fallen?”