By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
With two-thirds of the Bassmaster Opens season in the books, Bobby Lane isn't where he'd hoped he'd be in the points standings. The 2022 REDCREST champion who left the MLF Bass Pro Tour this year in order to renew his longtime quest of winning a Bassmaster Classic has some work to do in order to get back to the Elite Series in 2024.
He's 21st in the Opens EQ (Elite Qualifiers) standings. Elite invitations will go to the Top 9 when the nine-tournament campaign concludes at the Harris Chain in his home state of Florida next month.
"I am confident and I believe I can do it," he said. "That being said, I've fished pretty poorly this year. I've made some really poor decisions.
"I don't know if it's the pressure or a whole new atmosphere or what's going on, but the way things have gone just have not been suited to the way I normally fish. I can't explain it."
His finishes in the six Open events thus far have ranged from 17th (Buggs Island) to 76th (Toledo Bend). He's pocketed a little less than $7,500 in prize money.
The 49-year-old fared much better in the three derbies comprising the MLF Toyota Series Southern Division, posting two 12th-place showings and a 20th and ending up 2nd in the points. Those placements do him no good whatsoever, though, in pursuit of his ultimate goal.
He was a perennial Angler of the Year contender back in the days when he fished only the Southern Division of the Opens, but the new EQ setup is a much different game.
"It's not that there's more boats; if anything, I'm feeling a little extra pressure," he said. "I thought I could handle it. Maybe the younger crew has caught up and passed me, but I'm not accepting that as the answer. I still believe in everything I'm doing.
"History has had something to do with it. I thought I'd have an advantage having been to some of these places, but that's turned out really sour. What was there before isn't there now and what worked then doesn't work now. I've been waiting for that big opportunity and it just hasn't shown up. When you don't have any pressure, it seems like they pop up everywhere."
He was quick to give credit to those who've done better than he has to this point.
"Everyone who's up there above me (on the points list) deserves all the credit – they do their homework and they know what's going on. They're nice guys, but they're mean, too. They'll shake your hand and then catch a 6-pounder right in front of you. They're full of confidence and full of ego, but they're backing it up."
Lane competed in 12 consecutive Classics during his prior stint on the Elite Series and was the runner-up to hometown favorite Casey Ashley in the 2015 edition at Lake Hartwell. He was a Major League Fishing competitor from that organization's inception in 2011 and won an MLF World Championship event in addition to his REDCREST crown.
"I truly enjoyed my time at Major League and I've got plenty of friends there that I still talk to, but I just felt like I had to try to fulfill my dream and give myself a shot at the Bassmaster Classic. I'm having a fun year and I'm enjoying myself and I'm spending a little more time at home with the mainly.
"It might seem like the end of the world if it doesn't work out this year, but it's really not. I'll get right back up and try even harder next year. I've got my foot on the pedal as far as it'll go and God is in control of my ship. Wherever I end up at the end of the year is up to Him."