CELEBRATION, Fla. — When Chris Lane was a young boy, one of his favorite television programs was The Bassmasters. He dreamed of someday being a professional angler — just like the ones he watched on TV.
His dreams now have become reality.
At 30 years old and with children of his own, Lane has enhanced his professional fishing career by competing this season in the new CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series, putting himself in the company of some of the same anglers who frequented his favorite childhood show.
The youngest of three brothers, Lane is following in the footsteps of his father, Robert, and older brothers Arnie and Bobby, all of whom have competed in BASS tournaments.
"I've always wanted to do this," said Lane, a resident of Winter Haven, Fla. "It's been my dream, mine and my brothers', since we were five years old. Back then, we couldn't wait for The Bassmasters on TV so we could watch it."
While maintaining a fulltime job as a salesman for a phosphate company, Lane fished well enough in selected BASS events last year to qualify for the Elite Series. The Series, which features 11 events and more than $7.5 million in prize money, is designed to showcase the most elite anglers on the best fisheries in America, with tournaments at peak times of year that produce optimum fishing for anglers and exciting viewing for fans. The Series also offers anglers and their sponsors an unprecedented level of exposure on ESPN2 and in other media outlets.
Lane and his wife, Holly, weighed their options late last year and decided the time was right for the angler to go fulltime. He gave his employer a two-week notice and then received a $71,000 boost by winning the opening event of the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour at Florida's Lake Okeechobee. At that moment, he knew he made the right decision. He has since placed 65th in the Elite Series opener and 33rd in the second event.
"We made the decision together, but I wanted Holly to decide," said Lane. "She's behind me 110 percent."
Lane is fishing the Elite Series with a Gambler Lures boat design. Other sponsors include Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Charleston Rubber & Gasket, Northlake Marina, Quantum Fishing, Bassmatic, High Roller Lures and Highlands Oil/CITGO.
Except for the Santee-Cooper Showndown presented by MotorGuide in Manning, S.C., — where Lane finished 91st — all the venues are new for the angler. "I prefer to go in with my own knowledge and an open mind about a new place," he said. "If you go in with something different from what everybody else is doing, that's how you can win a tournament.
"When you're fishing against the best of the best on the Elite Series, it's a little bit different than any other tournament," said Lane, who is currently in fifth place in the Toyota Rookie of the Year standings. "There's no room for error. You can't have a bad day. The competition is going to be very fierce and all of the tournaments are going to be tough."