Unless Chris Lane wins the upcoming Bassmaster Classic, the next few weeks mark the end of his year in the sun.
After watching KVD capture nearly every major accolade over the past few years, it was easy for most fishing fans – myself included – to forget that the initial thrust into the spotlight does not come naturally to all anglers, even battle-tested veterans. Chris has done a good job, as has newly-crowned AOY Brent Chapman, another talented veteran who finally grabbed a major title, but I have no doubt that for both of them the celebration came with occasional doses of fatigue and frustration.
Even if he doesn’t win another title in the future, Lane’s 2012 victory in Shreveport is enough to build a career upon and his triple qualification for the 2013 Classic seems to indicate that he won’t be a flash in the pan. Despite all of his success, and the increased exposure, I still don’t think most of us know the full Chris Lane story. Despite efforts to retain some modicum of privacy, anglers like Mike Iaconelli, Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese, are comparative open books. We know little tidbits about their families, what they like to do in their off time, their preferred vacation spots and other things that give their biographies color. The dominant theme in the Chris Lane biography is the fact that he's one of three family members -- along with brothers Bobby and Arnie -- who fish for a living.
Most of us already knew about that before he won the Classic. While I can’t necessarily expand on the topics we know about him, I think that a couple of behind-the-scenes anecdotes add depth to our understanding of the Lane family.
One of the most poignant images from last year’s Classic victory was older brother Bobby bear-hugging Chris after Chris was declared the victor. It was hard to tell who looked more excited. The cynical among you might suspect that Bobby was particularly amped because they’d made a deal that if either of them won he’d pay the other’s entry fees for a year. I’m as cynical as the next guy, but a little bit of “insider” knowledge leads me to have no doubts that the emotion was genuine.
Photographer James Overstreet and I had shadowed Chris much of the third day on the water, so I knew that there was a strong likelihood that he’d win. That also meant that it would be tough to get a good interview with him in the media room. Accordingly, I snuck into a place where I wasn’t supposed to be in order to ambush him before he weighed in. Bobby, you may remember, also made the final day cut, so I found him waiting in the wings before Chris came into view. I asked Bobby a few questions about his day on the river, but then shifted to the topic of his brother – how he’d progressed as an angler, what the win would mean to him, what the win would mean to his family, etc. Bobby was, as always, a gracious interview subject, but he particularly lit up when talking about his brother. It was obvious from his words and mannerisms that he really wanted Chris to win. It was also apparent that he was exceptionally nervous about that outcome. He couldn’t keep focused as he tried to get a sense of the weights other anglers brought to the scales.
The interview with Bobby provided me with a déjà vu moment: In June of 2009, I covered an Elite Series event at Kentucky Lake for B.A.S.S. It was an unbelievable week for Bobby Lane. He found a magic spot and landed just under 100 pounds of bass over four days to beat his nearest competitor (VanDam) by 7 ½ pounds. Things went so well for him on Day One that he arrived to weigh-in an hour early. Latecomers to the weigh-in didn’t even get a chance to see him weigh his fish.