Russ Lane is pretty sure that if he or Jeff Kriet or Kevin VanDam would've had exclusive access to the spot they all shared pretty regularly during BASSFest at Lake Chickamauga that one of them would've had a legitimate chance at winning the event, possibly by a wide margin.
VanDam came close, finishing 2nd by 5 1/2 pounds, which goes to show just how good the area was. Lane, on the other hand, rebounded from a so-so day 1 (he said he gave up too soon on the community hole) that had him in 46th place and came away with a 10th-place finish, his best Elite Series finish since a 7th at Wheeler Lake in June 2011.
"I was disappointed in practice that I couldn't get a crankbait bite going," he said. "That's pretty rare on a TVA lake in early June. The water was clearer than it normally is, plus a lot of places were pretty obvious and the fishing pressure was way up."
Instead, he got the lion's share of his bites on a 10-inch Big Bite Baits Kriet Tail Worm and a 3/4-ounce Buckeye football jig with a Big Bite Baits Yo Daddy or Swimming Craw trailer.
All but three of his weigh fish came from the community hole. The key to the area was the presence of large boulders and irregularities along the hard bottom. The fish would then group up and feed when the current got to a certain point in the area.
"You could idle over it and see all of the boulders and dips and depressions," he said. "There were a lot of little things going on with the hard bottom. There's hard bottom throughout the lake, but it's mostly mussel beds. That spot was unique because it's mostly rock."
Timing was a big key to the area as the current needed to be moving at a good clip for the fish to get active.
"On day 1, it seems like the water turned on a little while after Kriet and I left and that's when Kevin did most of his damage," Lane said. "When I left, I had a small limit and one decent one and Kevin only had two. I gave up on it too quick, but came back with 30 minutes left and caught a good one. I felt then that I was going to be all-in on that spot."
He caught 20-14 on day 2 to move up to 18th heading into the off day.
"On day 3, I knew it was going to be a tougher day and I wanted to make sure I wasn't the first one to leave," he said. "Kevin and Jeff both left and 30 minutes later I caught a 7-pounder."
That carried him to an 18-10 day that pushed him into 9th place entering the final day.
"I don't know if it was one of the bigger schools, but it definitely had the quality that was as good as any other place on the lake," he said. "If any of us had it to ourselves, it could've been won there."
The Sunline Strong Performer, which focuses on the angler who makes the most significant single-day move in the standings at each tour-level event, is brought to you by the great people at Sunline.