Elite Series Pros Take to the Air


Alton Jones did it. Jeff Connella did it. Terry Scroggins thought about it.

"It" - chartering a pilot and plane to obtain an aerial view of the Arkansas River - was a step Jones and Connella took leading into the Bassmaster Elite Series' June 9-12 Diamond Drive out of Little Rock, Ark. They reportedly were just two of the Bassmaster Elite Series pros who used the scouting tactic. The object was to check river conditions during the off-limits period (OK to do from the air, according to the rules).

Connella of Bentley, La., went up Sunday, a trip he planned before Jones' flight was featured on Bassmaster.com. From the water at noon on Monday, the first practice day, Connella gave a quick evaluation of his investment's return.

"I would say it has helped," said Connella. "Mind you, this is my first morning on the river, so it's early yet to say exactly how."

He said the pre-practice time he put in on the river before the off-limits period definitely was proving valuable.

Connella is trying to improve his chances for a 2012 Bassmaster Classic berth, which would be his first. He ranks 47th in points. The first cut for the Classic is at 28th place, but double qualifications likely will push the line to 37th or 38th. And last week's Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open winner could not claim his Classic qualification because he had not competed in the other Southern Opens. That seat will revert to the next-in-line Bassmaster Elite Series pro, giving anglers like Connella another foothold on the Classic.

Jones, currently No. 3 in points, has no worries about a Classic qualification. The pro from Waco, Texas, is out for the title of 2011 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. A sharp performance on the Arkansas River is critical to him, thus the flyover, which he did on May 24.

"I definitely think it helped me," Jones said Monday afternoon. "The best place I found today I spotted from the air. That said, the fishing on the river is really tough right now."

The river current had reached advisory stages of 70,000 feet per second around Memorial Day. Jones said Monday that the water was still swift, but the flow rate is slowing.

Scroggins, the Florida pro who leads the points race, said that "probably half the field's flown over it (the river)." Just off another Bassmaster event in Tennessee on Friday, he said he had considered the same scouting tactic.

"You can see so much stuff from the air that would take you so long to find by water," Scroggins said. "What really helps is seeing clean water vs. dirty water. The cleaner water will be more productive."

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