The cheering of the fans was like an echo from the day before as Russ Lane threw the first pitch at the Monday, July 26, Montgomery Biscuits baseball game.
On Sunday, Lane's family, friends, neighbors and fans roared as he won the first leg of the Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason in Wetumpka, Ala., about 15 miles from his hometown of Prattville. Lane bested Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., by just 3 ounces.
On the Bassmaster stage, Bassmaster emcee Keith Alan asked the jubilant victor about his upcoming pitching gig. Lane smiled even wider.
"That's as exciting to me as this is here," Lane answered Alan.
His appearance at the Double-A Tampa Bay Rays affiliate's game brought back memories of the days he pitched for Minor League Baseball teams, including the Richmond Roosters in the mid-1990s, before the team moved from Indiana.
Lane can look back and be happy he switched careers. He's now a successful Bassmaster Elite Series pro. He's been at the top level of competitive fishing for over five years, and is a four-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier. Sunday's win on Lake Jordan was his first and all the sweeter because he considers it home water.
His prize was a $60,000 Triton-Mercury boat rig and 50 points in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. The big points boost gives him a solid chance to win in the coveted Angler of the Year title.
After two days of competition on small yet challenging Lake Jordan, Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason pros had much to say. Below are some of their comments as they completed the first leg, the July 24-25 Ramada Trophy Chase in Wetumpka, Ala., and looked to the finale, the July 30-31 Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph on the Alabama River.
The top prize is $200,000 and the most coveted title in pro fishing, Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. (See below for the points standings going into the final leg).
Points leader Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.:
"My hat's off to Russ and my heart goes out to Aaron."
— on Russ Lane's 3-ounce win over Aaron Martens
"It was the toughest day of the season."
— on his final Lake Jordan competition day, when he failed to weigh a five-fish limit, a rare occurrence for him
"I stubbed my toe a little bit — and it hurt."
— on finishing 10th, thus losing ground in the points race for $200,000 and the title of 2010 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year
Defending AOY Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.:
"I just want to go into it next week knowing I have a shot at Angler of the Year."
— after moving up to within 8 points of Reese, points leader
"One minute you're cussin' them, and the next you're lovin' them."
— on Lake Jordan's hard-to-hook, fun-to-fight spotted bass
First-leg winner Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala.:
"He snatched the rod right out of my hands."
— after a hooked spotted bass won a good fight
"I looked behind me all day and saw guys I grew up fishing with."
— on his Lake Jordan entourage of boats
"I knew that when they turned the water on at 11, I could catch a limit."
— on being fishless until late morning and waiting for the dams to begin generation, thus creating current and a bite
"Up until this point, I hadn't really thought about the AOY title. Now I realize it's definitely a reality."
— on moving up to 2nd place in points, 5 ticks behind Reese
Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La.:
"It's a lot like the river I grew up on, and I'm pumped."
— looking forward to the July 30-31 Alabama River competition
Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla.:
"It was a tree, right in the middle of the river."
— on running over a large floating log Sunday in upper Lake Jordan — after running aground Saturday
The first half of Toyota Trucks Championship Week jammed the points spread up so tight, any of the 12 pros trying for the $200,000 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title could win it. (See before-and-after points standings below.)
First-leg winner Russ Lane was the biggest gainer. He pulled up seven places, from 9th (in a four-way tie for last place) to 2nd. Losing the most ground was Derek Remitz, who dropped seven places into 11th.
But the — ahem — point now is the points system. In this week's final leg, the greatest number of points any angler can earn is 50; 10 points is the least. So while Skeet Reese still leads, and Lane is only 5 points behind Reese, any of the other 10 pros could claim the top spot — if the leaders falter.
All will play out Friday and Saturday, July 30-31, on the Alabama River out of Montgomery, Ala. Weigh-ins, free and open to the public, begin at 6 p.m. CT each day at the Riverwalk Amphitheater.
Current standings (in parentheses are points out of 1st place):
1. Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., 232 (0)
2. Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala., 227 (-5)
3. Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 225 (-7)
4. Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala., 222 (-10)
5. Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., 220 (-12)
6. Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La., 213 (-19)
7. Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., 212 (-20)
7. Terry Butcher, Talala, Okla., 212 (-20)
9. Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas, 209 (-23)
10. John Crews, Salem, Va., 203 (-29)
11. Derek Remitz, Grant, Ala., 198 (-34)
12. Tommy Biffle, Wagoner, Okla., 192 (-40)
Former standings (in parentheses are points earned Sunday):
1. Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., 216 (+16)
2. Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., 201 (+19)
3. Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., 187 (+25)
4. Derek Remitz, Grant, Ala., 185 (+13)
4. Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 185 (+40)
6. Terry Butcher, Talala, Okla., 184 (+28)
7. Tommy Biffle, Waggoner, Okla., 182 (+10)
8. John Crews, Salem, Va., 181 (+22)
9. Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas, 177 (+32)
9. Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La., 177 (+36)
9. Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala., 177 (+45)
9. Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala., 177 (+50)
Bassmaster Elite Series pros Michael Iaconelli and Bradley Roy, along with bass fishing legend Hank Parker, are scheduled to take part in the 2010 Scout Jamboree happening this week in Virginia.
Iaconelli, whose fishing credentials include 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and 2003 Bassmaster Classic champ, will appear at the scouts' fishing competition. Iaconelli will also be on hand at the Berkley exhibit to meet and talk with scouts.
Roy, the 19-year-old 2010 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, is scheduled to be there July 31.
Parker will present The Grand Prize for Angling, the award for the fishing competition. Sponsored by Berkley, it is an all-expenses-paid trip for a scout and a parent for a fishing outing with Parker.
More than 44,000 Boy Scouts and their leaders were expected for the gathering, July 26-Aug. 4, in Caroline County.