By Todd Ceisner
A life jacket and a couple boxes of hooks and weights.
That's really all Chris Lane could salvage from his boat after he awoke to it on fire in a hotel parking lot early Thursday morning, just hours before competition began at the Lake Dardanelle Bassmaster Elite Series in Russellville, Ark.
No one was injured as a result of the blaze, which left Lane's boat, motor and much of his gear in ruins. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Photos of the damage indicate the fire was confined mostly to the rear of the boat.
Lane competed Thursday out of a boat owned by Jodie Haralson, who was Kevin VanDam's marshal on day 1. Haralson's boat was previously owned by Fred Roumbanis and still has the wrap and decals on it. Lane was admittedly distracted today and weighed three fish for 8-09, which put him in 104th place.
"I know one thing: Staying focused on what you're doing is a big part of fishing," Lane told BassFan this evening. "It was hard for me today to do what I needed to do. I'm not making any excuses. It was just hard for me to stay focused.
"This is a sport where you have to stay totally focused the whole entire time and it was not an easy thing to do. I was trying to stay focused and do all of that. I tried as hard as I could, but sometimes when I got a bite, I'll be honest, I was thinking about something else and that's not good."
Lane said hotel personnel called him around 2 a.m. advising him that a boat was on fire in the parking lot and asked if he could move his boat.
"I walked out the door and I remember seeing Todd Faircloth and Jeff Kriet coming back in," he said. "They were like, 'Dude, your boat's on fire.' I walked out and there was a fire truck."
After the fire was put out, he was left to wonder what could've caused it.
"I'm going to leave that up to the fire marshal and police and let them do their jobs," he said. "They see it every day. I don't want to make an assumption as to what it was. It's so far gone that I don't think I could make a good hypothesis anyway.
"I'm as lost as lost can get as to what caused that fire. Last night, I put everything on charge like I have my whole career."
Aside from Haralson's charity with his boat, Lane said many of his competitors stepped up to make sure he could still compete in the event.
"Everybody offered stuff," he said. "Everybody was fantastic with the support they offered to help get me on the water. (Brother) Bobby (Lane) gave me some rods and reels. Todd gave me some rods and reels. Kriet gave me some baits."
After a nightmarish day, he'll try to hit the restart button for day 2.
"There's a lot of time and effort that goes into getting ready for a day of fishing, especially for the first day," he added. "It's usually after the first tournament day you get dialed into what you need to be doing the next 3 days. I'm going to try to regroup a bit. I had three for almost 9 (pounds) today and I thought I could've caught 15 or so or at least felt like I was on pace for that. I missed some opportunities."
Below is a photo gallery of Lane's damaged boat.