LEESBURG, Fla. — Two Bassmaster Elite Series pros have guaranteed there will be an enthusiastic crowd for today's final weigh-in at the Sunshine Showdown presented by Advance Auto Parts. And those two anglers have the same last name — Lane, as in Chris and Bobby.
"There will probably be 75 people here," said Holly Lane, Chris' wife, at Sunday's 7:30 a.m. takeoff. "Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends.
"It's just been an amazing week. What a way to start the year."
Two weeks ago, Chris and Bobby Lane became the first brothers to fish in the Bassmaster Classic since 1980. Bobby finished fourth and Chris was 49th in the 50-angler field.
More importantly, that event signalled that the Lane brothers would both be fishing the 11-event Elite Series tour this year. Bobby, who is 16 months older than Chris, has fished on the FLW tour the past two years, while Chris has been on the Elite Series circuit.
But Bobby, in addition to qualifying for the Classic, earned an invitation to the Elite Series tour through his performance in the three-event Bassmaster Southern Open series last year.
For the Lakeland, Fla., anglers to start the season this week in their home state has been special. But what they've done since they've been on the Harris Chain of Lakes has taken that feeling to another level. And drawn a crowd in the process.
Bobby turned 34 years old Thursday and started the Lane family fireworks the next day when he caught a five-bass limit weighing 26 pounds, 9 ounces to skyrocket from 85th-place to third.
Saturday, it was his brother's turn. Chris, 32, sneaked into the 50th and final spot of the two-day cut. But in the Sunshine Showdown semifinals he caught 19-12 despite a howling wind and moved all the way up to 5th place for today's 12-angler finale.
"We are so excited for each other," Chris said Sunday morning. "I think we have finally realized we're going to do well this year. I think we've come together. We're not going to be sharing areas (of water) or anything, but I think we've figured out what these fish are doing."
It was beginning to look a bit one-sided, with Bobby recording a fourth-place finish in the Bassmaster Classic and then moving into contention here at the Harris Chain, two weeks later. But Chris put it back into proper perspective with his performance Saturday.
"Over the past couple of months, I've had a lot of questions asked about me and my brother," Chris said. "It always comes up, who's better, who's better, who's better? We always say, 'It's back and forth. It's back and forth.'"
Bobby admitted he spent much of his Saturday on the Harris Chain of Lakes thinking about his brother.
"While I was fishing, after I caught my limit, all I could think of is, 'I hope my brother has caught his and made the cut,'" Bobby said. "It's an exciting time for both of us."
When asked if he thought Chris might have grown weary of hearing his brother's name at the top of the leaderboard over the past two weeks, Bobby said, "I hope he got tired of hearing my name, because I want to hear his name too. We're both in this together. We're family, and we love this sport."
The Lane family love for bass fishing extends considerably further. Their 60-year-old father, Robert, competed as a co-angler in the Sunshine Showdown and finished 22nd. An older brother, Arnie, is competing in the Stren Series and hopes to work his way onto the Elite tour as well.
Robert Lane started taking his three sons fishing at an early age, and he created a competitive spirit in them at the same time.
"If you didn't catch 'em, you had to wipe down the boat at the end of the day," Bobby said. "That's still true today.
"That meant a lot to us. The last thing you wanted to do was wipe that boat down after you'd fished for 12 hours. That kept our motivation up.
"You also switched positions in the boat. If you kept catching fish you got to stay in the front of the boat.
"I think the whole thing back then has worked its way up to today."
Chris echoed that thought on their dad's motivational tactics.
"I have to say it worked," Chris said. "I got tired of cleaning the boat. I figured I'd better catch 'em."
Chris and Holly have three children — Cal, Hunter and Hanna Elizabeth, ages 6, 5 and 1. Bobby and Madeline have two children — Alexis and Robert III, ages 4 and 8 months. That's a crowd in itself. But when mom, dad, extended family and friends start rolling in, it's almost embarrassing for the other anglers, the lack of applause and cheers they receive from the weigh-in crowd, compared to when one of the Lane brothers is introduced on stage.
"It's awesome," said Chris, as a big smile spread across his face.
It's also serious business, with all those youngsters to support.
"We've both got a family to feed," Chris said. "We want to see each other do good. If it's him catching them in one tournament and me catching them in another, so be it.
"But our goal is to be right where we're at now in every single tournament. We're going to help each other as far as figuring out what the fish are doing."
That's a perfectly legal tactic on the Bassmaster Elite Series, although it wouldn't have been legal for Chris to ask Bobby's advice about a particular body of water last year, when he was fishing the FLW tour. That would have been considered "outside help," and therefore against the rules, even if it did involve family.
Several Elite Series anglers have paired up over the last two seasons, to offer advice on understanding how the bass are biting at each stop on the tour. But there's not another set of brothers among the 109 Elites Series anglers signed on for 2008.
"We've been fishing together since I was four years old," Chris said. "And we've fished a lot of local tournaments together. We know how each other fishes. I've learned from him, and he's learned from me. We've learned from our oldest brother, Arnie, and from our dad.
"We've kind of got a whole array of things I think we call our strengths. But I don't think he's got something he does a little different than me, and I don't have anything I do different from him, except for that big fish factor. And there's no explanation for that."
Chris admitted that Bobby has always had a flair for catching big bass.
"We'd be fishing a (buddy) tournament, and I'd catch five fish," Chris said. "I'd think I was doing pretty good. Then he'd catch a 7- and an 8-(pounder)."
After Sunday, the Elite Series moves to another Florida location, the Citrus Slam on the Kissimmee Chain.
"Hopefully, we'll do this again next week," Chris said.