Johnson: BASS Reporter's Notebook

The growing fame of Lane; VanDam fan from 'Bama wins boat; Michigan hosts Federation Nation; and Two new 'Legends'

The growing fame of Lane

When Russ Lane's first name appeared incorrectly in a newspaper photo caption, he shrugged off the inadvertent error. It was the kind of thing that happens to you when you are almost famous.

But that was early on in the recent Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason. By the time the July 22-31 event was over, even people who don't follow professional bass fishing knew Lane's name.

A good part of that notoriety stemmed from the fact that he was in a major sporting event that happened to take place a few miles from where he lives in Prattville, Ala. His built-in fan base seemed to grow every day. The most avid fans were, of course, close acquaintances and blood relations.

"It was great having my friends and family there at the weigh-ins and also following me on the tournament waters. At one point on Lake Jordan, there were about 40 boats watching me fish. Everyone was cheering and hollering every time I'd catch one," Lane said.

He said the publicity prompted old friends to get in touch. He hadn't seen some of the people since childhood.

"That was a cool deal," Lane said. "A lot of friendships came back together."

They weren't just supporting the hometown pro, they were encouraging the underdog. Lane slid into the Postseason in a tie for last place in the field of 12 anglers. They competed in the Bassmaster Elite Series through eight regular-season events to win enough points to advance to the Postseason competition for the $200,000 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.

Lane was able to cash in on his knowledge of Lake Jordan to win the first leg of competition. His prize was a Triton/Mercury boat rig valued at $60,000, and enough points to be a contender for the crown.

Suddenly, Russ Lane's name and face became known throughout the Montgomery River Region and far beyond. He's still glowing over the experience, even after stumbling in the second leg and missing his opportunity to win Angler of the Year.

As the fishing world knows, the Alabama River leg and the title was taken by Kevin VanDam, now a six-time AOY champion. But Lane sees himself as a winner too. He scored his first Bassmaster event win when he came out on top in the Lake Jordan tournament. He gave the other 11 Postseason competitors something to worry about. On an off day, Lane (a former Minor League Baseball player) was asked to throw out the first pitch for the Montgomery's Double-A MLB team, the Biscuits.

All were joyous events for Lane, but they aren't the only reasons he sees the Postseason as all good.

"How else could I go to work, have a great time and reconnect with old friends and family and make that much money in one week," said Lane, who also took home $20,000 in AOY winnings for his 7th place AOY finish. "I told myself going into it that if I won just one of those legs, I'd be happy. Shoot, I've got a smile on my face right now." 

VanDam fan from 'Bama wins boat

Every time he steps aboard his new Nitro/Mercury boat, BASS member and BASS Insider subscriber Darrin Gibson of Deatsville, Ala., likely will think of Kevin VanDam.

Gibson chose to vote for VanDam over the other 11 Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason qualifiers in a recent Bassmaster.com online contest, the Toyota Tundra Fan Favorite. A vote was a show of support for a pro as well as an entry in a sweepstakes for a 2010 Nitro Z-9, 225-hp Mercury OptiMax engine, trailer and boat wrap of the winner's choice.

Gibson won the sweepstakes, which drew more than 88,000 participants. One vote a day per person was allowed by contest rules. Gibson is a long-time VanDam fan, and he registered every one of his votes for the three-time Classic champion.

"I like Kevin's power fishing because it's kind of my style, too," Gibson said. "And he's into charity events and shares his time in support of a lot of good causes."

VanDam garnered the most votes, with California's Skeet Reese finishing second. It was an echo of the Postseason results, which VanDam won after a slow, and very un-VanDam-like, start to the Elite Series.

"He had me worried there early in the season," Gibson said. "I felt if he could do well on Lake Jordan, then he could pull it out on the Alabama River, like he did last year."

Gibson said he immediately responded to the June 29 e-mail inviting him to vote. Every day thereafter through July 25, Gibson logged into www.Bassmaster.com and voted. He needed no prompting.

"I just remembered," said Gibson, an avid angler and member of a BASS Federation Nation club, the Christian Bassmen of Montgomery.

Winning a new boat is "perfect timing," Gibson said. He was eager to retire or sell his 10-year-old boat for something newer, especially for use in club tournaments.

"I started bass fishing when I was in the second grade," he said. "I've been in the Military for 23 years now and haven't always been where I could fish, or allowed me enough time to fish."

He has more time now, and myriad Alabama bass fisheries from which to choose from now that he serves in Montgomery as a full-time soldier in the Alabama National Guard. He had served for five years in the Marine Corps, followed by three years of active Army duty. He's a veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm and of Iraqi Freedom campaigns. 

Michigan hosts Federation Nation

BASS Federation Nation anglers are already on the water practicing for the Aug. 11-13 Northern Divisional out of Escanaba, Mich.

Monday, the first official practice day, the 96 anglers and their alternates hit Lake Michigan, Little Bay de Noc and Big Bay de Noc. They have a second crack at the tournament waters Tuesday.

But it will be the real deal on Wednesday morning. That's when the amateur anglers will begin the contest that determines which of them will advance to the BASS Federation Nation Championship, Oct. 25-29 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. In turn, the championship will qualify six Federation Nation anglers for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, set for February on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans.

The Northern Division encompasses eight states: South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. Each state's team is made up of 12 members and two alternates. Only the top angler from each of the state teams will go to the Championship in Louisiana.

Joining the Escanaba competition teams on Friday will be two Junior Bassmasters from each state. The young anglers will be trying to qualify for their championship, which will take place in conjunction with the Nation's finals in October.

Free and open to the public, the Wednesday-Friday weigh-ins of the Northern Division Championship are set to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET at Escanaba Harbor, 201 Loren Jenkin Memorial Drive, Escanaba, MI 49829.

Daily results will be available at www.Bassmaster.com. 

Two new Legends

Bassmaster luminaries Judy Wong of Many, La., and Charlie Ingram of Santa Fe, Tenn., have been tapped for 2010 induction into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame.

"It's a huge honor," Wong said. "Certainly it's one I'll cherish, it's such a prestigious award. I've been in this sport for a long, long time, and it's a sport I love and I've been very fortunate."

The induction is set for Aug. 14 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville, Tenn.

Wong owns three Bassmaster titles. She won the 2007 Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship, repeating in 2009. She also won a regular-season WBT tournament in 2009. Since the WBT disbanded, Wong has been competing in the Bassmaster Central Open circuit. Lately she's been devoting more time to acrylics painting, concentrating on a wide range of outdoor-related subjects, including, of course, bass.

Ingram is a four-time Bassmaster tournament winner whose career has spanned three decades. Ingram is also co-owner and host of Fishing University, an instructional TV show.

Past Legends inductees include Ray Scott, founder of BASS; and Hank Parker, 1979 and 1989 Bassmaster Classic champion. Wong will be joining former WBT pros Emily Shaffer of Tennessee and Pam Martin-Wells of Georgia, who also now competes at the Open level.

Besides Wong and Ingram, the 2010 class includes Peggy Vallery, Glen Andrews, John Satterwhite, Jim Zumbo, and the late Jack Miner.

The event — a lunchtime banquet featuring keynote speakers and an auction, as well as an induction ceremony — is produced by Legends of the Outdoors, which is owned by Garry Mason and based in Springville, Tenn. The event is open to the public; tickets are $75 each. Information is available at legendsoftheoutdoors.com. 

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