"I always say that the three most important things in fishing are location, location, location," Jones said. "That was certainly the case today."
He was 1 pound, 5 ounces in front of his nearest challenger, Brent Chapman of Kansas, in second with 25-4. In third was Texan Todd Faircloth with 23-10, and in fourth was South Carolina's Jason Williamson. Rounding out the top five was Tim Horton of Alabama, who had 22-4.
Aiken's Jason Williamson goes into the second day in fourth with 22-5, while Donalds pro Casey Ashely is tied for ninth.
Complete day-one standings can be found at www.bassmaster.com.
The 99-angler field is competing over four days for a $100,000 first prize. The winner's take also includes a 2012 Bassmaster Classic qualification. Elite anglers are also after points that count toward qualifying for the coveted 2011 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and 2011 postseason, a winner-take-all, $100,000 contest.
Jones' location was good, but he was sharing it. With multiple anglers working the same spawning grounds off the main St. Johns River, out-of-the-ordinary tricks were in order, Jones said.
"A lot of it is just patience, but I do have a bait that's really working well," said Jones, the 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion. "It's not like you catch a 5-pounder with it every time you throw it. It's a grind. You have to work for every one of those big bites. It's nice to have confidence in a bait."
He weighed in a 9-6 as his biggest bass, but it wasn't enough to take honors for largest of the day. That went to Williamson, who brought in a 10-3.
"That was the second biggest fish I ever caught in my life," Williamson said. "I actually lost one today that was a little bigger than she was, so I look forward to tomorrow. I think I'll have a good chance to catch her."
Chapman, also sight fishing in an area shared by 12 to 15 other Elite pros, had two anchors in his 25-4 bag. One was a 9-4 and the other was an 8-9.
The 9-4 almost came unbuttoned at the boat, but Chapman grabbed it. The 8-9 hit while he snuck a bite of a sandwich.
"All of a sudden, the rod about got jerked out of my hand," he said. "Those two fish there made a world of difference. They were typical big fish for Florida, and that's what you need here - a big one and a limit."