By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Chris Lane's victory in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic at Louisiana's Red River began a streak that saw him win a top-level event in four consecutive years. That was followed by an 8-year drought that finally concluded with his recent MLF Bass Pro Tour triumph on the Kissimmee Chain in his native Florida.
He thinks that perhaps a renewed focus on fishing this past offseason may have paid dividends. For the past several years, the father of four had always devoted a great deal of time to family matters when his kids were at ages when they constantly needed a chauffeur, a chaperone, a coach or whatever.
"I did a lot of prep work this offseason – a lot of cleaning up tackle and just stuff like that," he said. "I got back into more of a focus on bass fishing.
"For a while I had other priorities in life with younger kids coming up, and now they're out of school and going to college and things like that. I was at a stage in life where I wanted to do everything I could for them because life's not all about fishing. It goes to show you that preparation and mindset are very important."
With vast experience on the Kissimmee Chain, Lane encountered a situation that he was both familiar and comfortable with for the BPT opener. The weather was stable during the two-day practice period and he got some high-quality bites from fish holding on isolated cover. Then a cold front rolled through, causing most of those perpetually weather-sensitive Sunshine State fish to back out.
He was pretty certain that they would return to the lily pads, arrowheads and grass stickups when the mercury started climbing again. He was correct in that assumption.
He caught enough weight from Lake Hatchineha to advance to the Knockout Round. Then he compiled a 49-03 total over the next 2 days from Kissimmee to claim the victory, overcoming a deficit of more than 12 pounds to previous leader Mark Davis on the final day. He caught a 5 1/4-pounder in the last minute of the final day to overtake Davis.
"This one set up the opposite of the way so many tournaments have before," he said. "This time the cold front hit and then it started to warm up and it put the fish right in place for me and the way I wanted to fish Kissimmee.
"I knew where those fish were going. When it warms up, they don't stay in those places very long – only a few days. They were there for the last 2 tournament days and it couldn't have worked out better for me."
He focused on various types of isolated vegetation away from the shoreline in 2 to 3 feet of water. He had it mostly to himself, as most competitors were hammering the bank, where the bite was also very good.
"I was never really near any other tournament boats and that kept me excited for the whole event," he said.
A Bass Pro Shops Stick-O Worm (black and blue) was his primary bait – he utilized both the 5 3/8- and 6-inch versions. He used a 7'4" medium-heavy BPS Johnny Morris Signature rod, an 8.3:1 gear-ratio BPS JM casting reel, 20-pound XPS fluorocarbon line, a 3/16-ounce XPS weight and a 5/0 straight-shank XPS hook.
The tournament was the first to take place under the BPT's new scoring format of counting only an angler's heaviest five fish for the day (they're still weighed and released immediately) instead of the previous system of tabulating all fish that met or exceeded a minimum weight. Lane said likes the change, but that's more due to continuity across the breadth of the sport rather than any perceived advantage he may gain.
"I'm in favor of it just due to the fact that it's what everybody else goes out and does," he said. "In football the field is always 100 yards long and in basketball the goal is 10 feet high. You're playing the same game that everybody else does.
"With that said, I really think I could've won this one with the old format. I was catching a lot of fish. What we figured was that for 2 days (the Knockout and Championship rounds), I was over 100 pounds."