GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Bassmaster Classic champion Chris Lane is the perfect example of how the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation can mold an amateur into a pro.
“If a guy is chasing his dream to become a professional fisherman, there is no other place to start than the Federation Nation,” said Lane. “The good thing about the Federation is that you are fishing with all of your buddies and guys you grew up with who like fishing the local tournaments. I had fun in the Federation and got to hang out and eat dinner with my buddies.”
Chris joined the Lakeland Bassmasters in the Florida B.A.S.S. Federation Nation 18 years ago with his dad, Robert Lane and older brothers Bobby and Arnie.
“That was the largest B.A.S.S.-affiliated club and the toughest club to fish,” recalled Chris, who now lives in northern Alabama. “If you did well in a tournament against those guys or did well in the points, then you had done something special. I felt that if I was going to chase my dream, then these were the guys that I was going to have to beat just to get to the next level. If I couldn’t beat them on my home lake, then what good was it to try and go to the next level?”
During their time in the Lakeland club, the Lanes never drew each other in a tournament, but that never stopped a friendly family rivalry. “We bet on anything,” said Robert Lane. “I was always a big topwater fisherman and I used to smoke the boys on topwater, and then they got real good with worms and flipping and then they started smoking me.”
"We just had fun,” said Chris. “We had some excellent times together in the club.”
Robert said he thought his son Bobby was the best angler in the club at the time. “I never thought much about [Chris turning pro],” said Robert. “He was always a good fisherman, but he would stick with one lure for a long time and not switch around a lot. He has really learned to adapt.”
Chris said he remembers fishing in the Federation Nation for five years, making the state team and competing in the Southern Divisional his last year as an amateur.
“You learn something every single tournament in the Federation,” said Chris, who also joined the Tampa Bay Bassmasters and fished a few tournaments before turning pro. “When I made the state team, I remember being down at Okeechobee and learning so much at the state tournament that I still take with me every day.”
Jim Hooven, longtime Lakeland Bassmasters president, recalls Chris was “testing the water” to become a pro so he never fished all of the club’s tournaments. “When he did fish, he was very effective,” said Hooven. “He won a couple and placed in a couple, but he was not competing for Angler of the Year. He was a great angler, and if he had fished the entire year he would have been in the hunt for Angler of the Year every year.”
Chris was also a frequent speaker for the club’s monthly educational program. “We used Chris to do seminars for our educational program,” said Hooven. “Chris is a PR man. He had a great attitude and he fit right in our club.”
Now Chris has become an inspiration for all Federation Nation anglers wanting to chase their dreams.