RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — One day after Chris Lane's bass boat was destroyed by fire, there are more questions than answers concerning the cause.
"The fire marshal is trying to figure out the cause of the fire," said Lane, prior to Friday's takeoff at the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Dardanelle. "That may take a day or a week or months, who knows?"
There has been one interesting development in the initial search for answers. It seems there were two fires in the boat – the obvious one in the back and another in one of the rod lockers below the front deck.
If you looked at Lane's boat, which was still parked in the Super 8 motel lot Friday, the back end was charred almost beyond recogniton. The backs of the driver and passenger seats were burned, but everything forward looked unscarred.
It appeared that Lane would have been able to get his rods, reels and tackle from the storage lockers and use them Thursday. But Lane needed all new everything. The locker fire destroyed the tackle stowed under the front deck.
"They can't explain the two fires, so nothing is being ruled out," Lane said. "I was out there with the insurance inspector late last night. He went over everything, and he's trying to put it together. We'll let him (and the fire marshal) do their jobs. We don't want to make any assumptions."
There's one more element of mystery to the story. When Lane got the 2:02 a.m. phone call Thursday and walked out of his motel room to see his burning boat, he spoke with the firefighters on the scene.
"I had to answer some questions," Lane said. "And I listened to the stories from the firefighters about what they saw when they got there. They said my rod locker was open and the front of the boat cover was off when they got there. That's one part of the story that needs to be figured out."
Lane, of course, didn't leave his rod locker open and the boat cover pulled back when he went to his motel room that night. But, again, no one is making assumptions in this case.
"Did the heat inside the rod locker push it open (and push the boat cover back)? Who knows?" Lane said. "The insurance inspector said when you're dealing with fires, especially ones that have oil and gas and all the stuff that's in a boat, fiberglass – he said it's just like a tornado. Anything can happen."
The worst didn't happen. There were at least three places where fire burned through or melted the gas tank, which is located under the back deck, near the outboard motor. When asked how that didn't lead to an explosion, Lane said, "Gas doesn't explode. Gas fumes do. It was probably good that my tank was full. If it had been half-full, it might have blown up. Who knows?"
Lane does know this: He's got to get his mind refocused on this tournament. He came into the event ranked sixth in Toyota Angler of the Year points. He does have the comfort of having already qualified for the Bassmaster Classic with his win at the St. Johns River. But Lane was off to one of his best ever Elite Series seasons. Dropping out of contention for AOY due to circumstances beyond his control is difficult to take.
Lane admitted his head wasn't in the game Thursday, when he finished in 104th place with three bass weighing a total of 8-9. It could have been worse.
"I caught a 3-pounder with about four minutes left," he said.
No one expected a stellar day on the water after what he'd been through in the four hours before the 6:15 a.m. start on Thursday.
"I didn't even have a boat until about 30 minutes before takeoff," Lane said.
Lane got plenty of help from everyone involved in this event, which allowed him to assemble everything needed, from a boat to rod-and-reel combos to baits and weights. But all that tackle wasn't much more organized than his thoughts at that point, understandably.
"No excuses," Lane said. "I had my chances. There was a time I remember specifically when I got a bite and wasn't expecting it. This sport is all about staying focused for eight hours, on every cast, on every bait selection. It's a big maze, and you've got to put it all together.
"That was hard for me to do yesterday."
Before takeoff Friday, Lane said he thought he could stay focused today. He'd like to salvage some AOY points. He could do that in a big way since the standings are so jammed. A big bag would score big points.
"I'm looking forward to today," he said. "If I could catch 17, 18, 19 pounds, that would mean a lot of points."
Lane smiled and added, "I've got nowhere to go but up."