It was a different story on Sunday at Lake Hartwell.
Jones capped a consistent three days of fishing with a 5-fish limit weighing 13 pounds, 7 ounces to claim a 5-pound victory over Cliff Pace in the 38th Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell.
Jones finished with 49 pounds, 7 ounces. He won $500,000, the biggest payday of his career.
"I don't know how I feel right now – it's a bit overwhelming," said Jones, a 44-year-old angler from Waco, Texas. "I grew up fishing with my granddad in east Texas. I wish he were here to see this."
He wasn't, but a lot of people were. Jones – the final angler to weigh in – clinched the victory in front of a near-capacity crowd of 13,300 at the Bi-Lo Center in downtown Greenville.
Bathed in confetti and flanked by fireworks, Jones took a victory lap around the Bi-Lo Center in his boat with his wife, Jimmye Sue, son Alton Jr., and daughters Kristen and Jamie.
Jones won't have much time to savor his victory before heading to Florida for sponsor commitments and the first Bassmaster Elite Series event of the season.
"I hope (the victory) won't be such a big distraction," Jones said. "I feel like I'll have a lot of momentum coming off of this."
Jones was in 10th place after the first day of the Classic with 17 pounds, 5 ounces. But he jumped into the lead on Saturday after catching 18 pounds, 11 ounces. To clinch the victory on Sunday, he went back to the tactics that put him in position to win.
Jones said he used a jigging spoon to catch bass during a half-hour window early each day, then concentrated on working the edges of timber 28 to 35 feet deep with jigs the rest of the day. He said a brown-and-purple color combination was productive, but that color wasn't the most important thing.
"They key was finding the right places to fish, which for me were ditches – the narrower the better – with timber nearby," Jones said.
Charlie Hartley of Grove City, Ohio, the first-day leader who entered Sunday in second place, plummeted from contention after weighing in just two bass. He slipped to 15th place.
"What a great experience -- I wouldn't trade it for anything," said Hartley, who emerged as a crowd favorite here. "I've never seen so many people come out on their docks and wish us good luck. We were treated like kings."
Pace, who entered the day in third place, caught 11 pounds Sunday, but couldn't catch Jones. He finished second, 5 pounds, 2 ounces back.
Two-time Classic winner Kevin VanDam continued his string of high Classic finishes, placing third with 43-8. VanDam, who has qualified for 18 consecutive Classics, has placed no lower than fifth each of the last five years and has 11 Top 10 finishes in the Classic.
Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., used a final-day catch of 12 pounds, 10 ounces to jump from eighth to fourth and finish as the top rookie at 42-7. Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., rounded out the top five, coming in with 41-7.
Local favorite Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., finished 17th after a five-bass limit weighing 11 pounds, 6 ounces on Sunday.