Stuart Jones is a promising young bass angler and competitor from South Africa, who is also a fervent user of VMC products. A future international champion in the making? We wanted to know more :
Hi Stuart, please could you introduce yourself?
I am Stuart Jones, 20 years old, I was born and live in Durban, South Africa, however I am now currently studying at Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape of South Africa. I am an avid and competitive fisherman and have grown up fishing. This passion for fishing has led me to strive to continuously better myself, learning from others and putting in the time to continuously practice and improve. This for me has led to achievements and opportunities which I have been lucky enough to experience.
What do you fish and where?
For many years my whole life has and still does revolve around fishing. I was introduced to the sport by my dad many years back and being an avid deep sea fisherman himself, I found myself out on the ocean from the age of four. It was known amongst friends and family that if I was fishing I was considered happy. I spent many years deep sea fishing with my dad but then with his job forcing him to travel my time spent on the water began to dwindle, and this didn’t agree with me. A close friend of mine from High School at the time (2010) was a freshwater Bass fisherman, he started taking me Bass fishing to the local dams, targeting largemouth bass. Although in the past I had caught bass it was never something I fished for regularly. This new style of fishing came naturally to me and I leant and improved my styles and techniques at a rapid rate. Together we ended up forming a team where we competed in many of the local senior and televised competitions, where we were extremely successful. This helped me greatly being able to learn from the senior and experienced anglers in the sport. I now spend the majority of my time Bass fishing around South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, targeting trophy Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted Bass in some of the best dams that these countries and the world have to offer. However I still find myself being drawn back to my roots and heading out to sea to fish for the pelagic species when I get the opportunity. As I said as long as I am fishing I am considered happy.
We understand you have been pretty successful on the junior bass circuit. Can you tell us more about your achievements?
My Bass fishing career consists of many firsts… Being introduced to the sport of bass fishing at the end of 2010 I was able to develop my skills extremely quickly, the methods and techniques seemed to come very natural to me and because of this I was able to enter my first Junior Divisional Trials in 2011, these trials would take place over six months where we would fish all our local dams weighing in a five fish bag, where the heaviest bag wins and your points are then totalled over the six months. From which the top eight anglers make the divisional team. This divisional team would then go onto compete against the other divisions in South Africa at an unknown dam. Where after three days of fishing the top 13 anglers make the National team and therefore receive their Protea/National colours. At the end of the 6 divisional fish offs the final totals were tallied and in my first year of competitive bass fishing I was the overall winner (rangler angler) of the divisional trials (this was the first time in KZN (my province) Juniors history that someone had won in their first year). From here we went on to fish National Trials at a Dam in the Eastern Cape of South Africa called Groenvlei. With limited expectations I went there with an open mind to simply enjoy the experience. The dam consisted of a variety of structure from grassy banks with scattered trees to shallow flats that extended out into the dam covered with shallow weed clumps. This allowed for a variety of fishing techniques to be productive. On my one day of practice I worked that there was an early morning weightless bait bite in the grass along the banks and then as the day progressed a very shallow crankbait along the bank could pick up a few extra fish. This was hardly a solid and productive pattern but was all I had worked out in the time we had. On the first day of fishing I was able to pick up a few key fish with my shallow weightless bait pattern in the grass in the mornings, but that quickly died with the progressing day and I was left a long way from where I needed to be in terms of the fish I needed to catch. With my shallow crankbait bite being far from desired I decided to tie on a prototype Rapala CRR10 in shad colour. By chance this matched the colour of the local shad to perfection and out deep on the weed flats I located schools of bass feeding on balls of the shad, the pattern was unbelievable and I was able to land over 40 bass by the end of the day, putting me in a solid position. On the final day it was time to go all out, with a lack of wind throughout the day I was extremely worried this would affect the bite. I stuck to what had worked in the morning looking for the bigger fish in the shallows on the weightless bite but I came out without a bite. With panic setting in I pulled out the crankbait and went out deep and began to slowly catch fish. But the lack of wind was having a major effect on the fishing. The lack of wind was allowing the balls of bait fish to lift off the bottom and start suspending, which now meant we were trying to catch suspending feeding bass. With my crankbait picking up fish slowly but surely. I adapted by covering water with the crankbait but at the same time I rigged up a dropshot rig with a VMC swivel dropshot hook and a minnow imitation that I was dropping onto suspended fish feeding on bait balls that I located with the help of the fish finders. This proved to be highly effective and I put together a solid final day bag. Not expecting much we all attended the final prize giving the next day before flying home. With the announcing of the National/Protea team I was not expecting a whole lot, yet the thought of being able to represent your country and be awarded my National colours is something that dreams are made of. With the totals tallied I had done enough to rank first! I had won nationals by 1.16kg. I had achieved something that I had never even dreamt of. The 13 member of the National team would later that year travel to Zimbabwe to fish in an international competition against the Zimbabwe team. In Winning the National trials I had become the first angler to win it on their first year, the first angler from KZN province to win it and the first angler from KZN province to win Divisionals and Nationals in the same year. In winning I was also awarded the opportunity to go and fish in the Southern Division Bassmater Federation Nation that would be held in Tennessee the following year.
And what about the USA, we heard you won a place in a big competition over there, can you tell us more about it?
In winning the Nationals held in South Africa I was able to secure myself a position in the Southern Division Bassmaster Federation Nation, it was held at Douglas Lake Tennessee. For me this opportunity was a dream come true, from a young age I would always watch the Bassmasters on TV as you see them on these huge stages weighing in their fish in front of the crowds. The thought of being able to be up on that stage representing my country was unreal. In leaving for this trip for me it was all about the experience, I was going to make the most of it, to make childhood dreams come true and most of all to have fun. On arrival at the dam I was faced with many challenges from the vast quantity of water, extremely cold and unpredictable weather and just the challenge of being on a new body of water. I was paired up with a great guide for the first two days in order to get a feel for the dam after that I was left to practice by myself. The unpredictable weather saw the fishing change by the hour, with it being April and pre spawn looming the fish were starting to stage but were kept back by the cold weather. The fishing varied which saw the use of many techniques which included, slow fishing a caroliner rig and a shakey head, flipping docks with jigs and when the weather warmed up throwing a Rapala DT10 on the shallow flats. With good practice days behind me I was confident for the competition day. On the morning of competition day I woke to find the boats covered in ice as an extreme cold spell came through in the night. This had a major effect on the fishing, causing the fish to drop completely of their staging beds and into deep water, causing for slow and tough fishing. On the day I struggled tirelessly to put a bag together, with small upgrades being few and far between. At weigh in I managed to do enough to end up in third place overall, something that I was personally extremely proud of. Standing on that stage with my fish is the proudest moment and highlight in my bass fishing achievements.
How does bass fishing in the USA differ from that in South Africa?
In my brief experience of bass fishing in the USA I can easily say that there are some major differences between there and South Africa. Although I can’t be sure that this is the same across the USA as I haven’t experienced anything outside that of Douglas Lake in Tennessee. The most noticeable is the size of the dams/lakes. I have fished majority of the major dams in South Africa and our biggest dams measure around 25km in length at Douglas Lake in Tennessee it measured 78km in length, the difference in size of our dams compared to that of those in the states is incomprehensible, the total volume of water and areas available to fish is considerably more in the USA which I personally think makes the fishing that much harder. However in the spots that I did fish in Douglas Lake I did seem to think that the quantity of fish was more and the quality in terms of the health of the fish was better in the USA thank here in South Africa. However in comparing pre-spawn times in my local dams to that in Douglas lake I would say that here the average size is bigger. In terms of catching and landing the fish I found it noticeably easier to land the fish in the USA as I didn’t have one single fish throw the hook in my week of fishing at Douglas lake, however this is something that one cannot prove its just a mere observation of mine.
Which are your favourite VMC products and why?
VMC have a wide variety of hooks and accessories that cover my every need. I fish many different types of baits that I rig in many different ways, the variety that VMC has allows me to present a bait in every way I want. However there are a few products that I use religiously in my favourite baits. As a bass fisherman I am always looking for a way to put me above the rest and putting the fish in the boat is a place that I cannot compromise, VMC hooks allows me perform at my best and land my fish. My style of fishing sees me fishing a lot of soft plastic baits, this for me is one of my more effective ways to catch bass. For ordinary conditions in throwing a soft plastic one of my favourite hooks is the Texan 7316, this hook for me has been extremely good and I have had a lot of success with it. The hook is light allowing a natural presentation, but also strong which allows me to put pressure on the fish to pull them out of structure without the worry of the hook opening. They are also extremely sharp which allows for exceptional penetration. When it comes to fishing heavy cover for big bass like I do a lot of when fishing our big fish dams and a dam in Botswana there is only one hook for the job and that is the VMC 3xtra strong Texan 7317, the strength of this hook is exceptional and is the only hook I go to when fishing soft plastics in heavy structure. I have caught countless trophy largemouth bass using this hook. I throw a lot of spinnerbaits and I never throw one without the VMC trailerhook 7250 this often allows me to hook fish that short bite the bait which is often the fundamental difference when it comes to success in competitions. On all my crankbaits, jerkbaits, and hard topwaters I only rig them with VMC sureset scorpiic trebles. These trebles increase the hookup ratio on these baits 10 fold. A new favourite of mine is the Mystic range, I have had great success with this range. The Mystic range covers all aspects of bass fishing and allow for greater success and improved fishing results, the range is extremely innovative and is a huge success in the world of bass fishing. My tackle boxes are filled with VMC products and because of this advantage it allows me to have continued success on the water.
Who are your fishing heros?
My fishing heros don’t stray far from the VMC family, my three predominant fishing heros that I dream that I would one day have the pleasure of meeting is three of the major fisherman in the USA bass fishing circuit namely Mike Iaconelli, Brandon Palaniuk and Jacob Wheeler.
What’s your fishing ambition for the future?
At the moment with studies playing a major role in my life I am looking to continue to fish the local competitions in South Africa and strive to continue to make the National team on a senior level. As well as doing guided tours to the trophy bass dam in Botswana (letsibogo dam). In terms of my long term fishing ambitions I would love to and ream of the possibilities of one day after my studies to go and fish in the American league be it at a senior or college level, just to allow for the experience and to see where it may lead.
Thanks for taking time to answer our questions Stewart & best of luck in your future endeavors!!