Lane Embracing Change

2012 Bassmaster Classic world champ Chris Lane knows how to deal with change, in life and on the water

Article by Steve Wright

Photo of Chris Lane fishing
Decision making was key in how Lane won on the Red River

No one faces change more than a tournament bass angler. It’s an almost-every-minute occurrence during competition: Do I change lures now? Do I move to another fishing spot now? Do I take a shot and change everything, or stick with what I’m doing?

Sometimes change is forced upon us. But usually it is a choice we face on a daily basis: Do I start exercising more today? Do I change my eating habits today? Do I start becoming a better father/mother/spouse today?

Photo of Chris Lane holding up his Bassmaster Classic Trophy

How we handle change ultimately determines who we are. You can run from it or welcome it. Thirty-six-year-old Chris Lane is the 2012 Bassmaster Classic champion because he has embraced change – both big changes in his life and those little every minute changes that determine success or failure in a bass tournament.

Let’s start with one of the big changes first: Chris has two older brothers, Arnie, 39, and Bobby, 37. Only 13 months separate the birthdays of Chris and Bobby, so they are especially close. Baseball and bass fishing were big hobbies in the Lane family. As most brothers do, they competed against each other.

But when Chris was 19 years old, he left Lakeland, Fla., where the boys grew up, to go to work for an uncle in Houston, Texas.

“I haven’t cried a lot in my life,” Bobby said. “I can probably count on both hands the number of times I’ve ever cried. But one of them was when he left and moved to Texas.”

Chris came home for his grandfather’s funeral a short time later and realized how much he was missing his family and friends. Shortly after, he made the decision to move back to Lakeland.

“When he called and said, ‘I’m tired of Texas and I want to come home,’ I was on a plane to Texas,” Bobby recalled. “We took all his furniture and threw it over the balcony. Some of it hit the dumpster and some of it didn’t.

“The landlady came running out, and we just hauled ass back to Florida. Every state we went through between Texas and Florida, and I know there aren’t that many, but every state we went though, I wrote the name of the state on my jeans. What a road trip. I was so excited when he wanted to come home.”

It was in the years after that when Bobby and Chris started making themselves known on various bass fishing circuits. Chris first qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2006; Bobby joined him there in 2008, when he earned Rookie of the Year honors.

In fact, Bobby overshadowed Chris in those first years when the Lane brothers were competing in the Elite Series. Both qualified for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, but Bobby finished fourth while Chris was 49th. Bobby qualified for the next three Classics and Chris didn’t.

In 2009 Chris and his wife, Holly, faced another big change in their lives. For a variety of reasons, they contemplated a move from Lakeland. Florida is on the periphery of the B.A.S.S. circuit, and they were looking for a more central location.

It was time for Chris Lane to take a shot, both for his family and for himself. He settled on Guntersville, Ala., as the place to do it.

“That’s probably one of the best decisions my wife and I have made since we’ve been married,” said Lane, who had three kids when they moved and has added a fourth since. “When you have a family, you quit thinking about yourself and start thinking about them, where you’re going to raise your kids.

“Guntersville has 10 churches for every bar, and that’s where I want to raise my kids. The people there are fantastic. It feels like home.”

Chris Lane and his family taking a vctory lap after a win
Lane, his wife Holly and their four children take the victory lap around the CenturyLink Center.

All you have to do is look back at Lane’s record in B.A.S.S. events to see that the move to Guntersville and his maturation process as the father of a growing family has made him a better tournament angler. Lane won one event while living in Florida — the 2006 Southern Open on Lake Okeechobee. He has now won three while living in Alabama — the 2010 Southern Open on Okeechobee, the 2012 Southern Open on Florida’s Harris Chain and the career-changer that is the Bassmaster Classic in February on Louisiana’s Red River.

“I started listening to myself and doing what I needed to do to excel at this sport and provide for my family,” Lane said of the move to Guntersville. “Last year was my best year ever.”

Lane had three top 12 finishes and finished 12th in the Angler of the Year standings in 2011. But only two months in to 2012, he’s blowing those marks out of the water.

The Southern Open he won in January was Lane’s 100th B.A.S.S. tournament. A round number like that is a good indication of how long it takes to refine your tournament fishing skills to the point where you have the ability to win the Bassmaster Classic.

“Traveling to the Classic this year, I had one intention and that was to win,” Lane said. “I felt so much different than I did in my first Classic (in 2008).”

After the final practice days on the Red River, Lane exuded confidence.

“I knew I was going to catch them,” he said. “I had a lot of bites in practice. I caught some 4- and 4 ½-pounders in practice on a crankbait in three to four feet of water. I knew those fish were coming up (to spawn). I thought it was going to be a slugfest.”

Photo of Chris Lane pulling in a catch on the Red River
Lane pulls in a fish from one of his Red River spots.

It was over the three days of the Classic when Lane put on an impressive display of his skills. The show began on Day One – a Friday – when Chris and Bobby finished tied for sixth place with 16 pounds, 4 ounces. Chris spent the entire day in one backwater area close to the Red River South Marina launch site. But, in his first bold decision of the event, Lane wouldn’t go back there during the final two days of the Classic.

Saturday, Day Two, Lane made his move, locking down to Pool 4 and sacking a five-bass limit weighing 19-4. His two day total of 35-8 gave him a one-pound lead over Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala.

Bass tournament anglers often refer to “making good decisions” and “listening to your instincts” when describing a successful performance. It’s all about change — when to go and when to stay. Lane made some classic decisions in taking his best shot to win the Classic.

Lane locked down the Red River from Pool 5 to Pool 4 for the Sunday finale. But two anglers were already in his spot, so he had to wait. And the wait was excruciating. Lane planned to lock back up to Pool 5 with enough time to hit another spot before check-in time.

As the clock approached 11 a.m., Lane didn’t have a bass in the boat, but he finally had access to the place he wanted to fish. Using a soft plastic Gambler Otter to flip heavy cover, Lane caught five keepers in the next 30 minutes, including a big bass that would add some drama to the final weigh-in.

During that half-hour, Lane was feeling pressed for time, but kept telling himself, “One more pass down this bank. One more pass down this bank.”

Then, with what he figured to be 13 pounds in the boat, he left, once again listening to his instincts, even though fish were biting in the spot he was vacating.

Brother Bobby explained that Chris’ actions were based on what they learned while growing up in Florida.

“When you’re on a body of water like Okeechobee and you know 10 pounds is no good and you’re catching 50 fish and they’re all small, you need to leave,” Bobby said. “We just know when it’s time to move.”

Chris admitted allowing himself to think about being the Classic champion as he boated back to Pool 5.

“Coming up that river 40 miles, I’d go through these things like, ‘You might have just won the Bassmaster Classic,’” Lane said. “The tears would start coming down out of my eyes and I’d shake my head and say, ‘You’ve got a job to do, go finish it.’ And I stuck with that mentality.”

By the time he got back in Pool 5, Lane felt that Vinson had probably moved ahead of him in what came down to a two-man race for the Classic title. And Lane had two small bass in his livewell that he knew he needed to cull if he was going to top Vinson.

“I thought I could win it in that pond up north,” Lane said. “I started flipping and caught a 2 ¼-pounder that helped me by almost a pound. Then I added a 2 ½-pounder and that was it. It was a game plan that I executed just like I had it in my head.”

There was plenty of drama left for the weigh-in, primarily because of Lane’s big bass, which he’d estimated at five pounds when he quickly stashed it in his livewell that morning. Vinson’s Sunday total was 13-7 giving him 47-15 for the tournament. Lane was last to the stage. When his total of 15-14 hit the scales, the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Lane defied gravity with a Michael Jordan-esque vertical leap.

Rather than 5 pounds, Lane’s lunker weighed 6-10. It was the second-largest caught in the Classic and went a long way in providing Lane with his final 3-pound, 6-ounce margin over Vinson.

“We did a photo shoot after the tournament with that fish,” Lane said. “That was the thickest bass I’ve ever put my eyes on. I kissed that joker as big as I could before I let her go.”

Photo of Chris Lane celebrating a win at the Bassmaster Classic

Chris and Bobby made a bet during the Classic: If one of them won it, he would pay the other’s $43,000 entry fees for the 2012 Elite Series. Bobby suggested making it a round number — $50,000. Chris was happy to fulfill his end of the bargain after earning the $500,000 first-place check.

Accepting the Bassmaster Classic champion’s trophy from Kevin VanDam, winner of four Classics including the previous two, was another highlight for Lane.

“To take it from the best fisherman in the entire world, I can’t explain it,” Lane said. “Kevin, my hat’s off to you, buddy, thank you.”

Lane realizes that with the title of Bassmaster Classic champion there will plenty more changes in his life.

“It has been one heckuva ride, probably the most exciting 48 hours of my life,” said Lane on the Tuesday after his Feb. 25th victory. “I’ve really had to stay focused on the job at hand. Being Bassmaster Classic champion comes with a lot of responsibility. I’ve got to make sure I do it right.”

After riding a long learning curve for many years, Chris Lane has hardly done anything wrong in 2012. Now the changes seem to be embracing him.