Russ Lane, a former Lake Jordan resident, now lives in Prattville, Ala., five minutes from an Alabama River boat ramp. A native of the central Alabama area, he's fished both lake and river for many years, racking up significant prize earnings on a local level.
But will he now be able to cash in at one of the biggest tournaments in his life? And does his experience give him an edge in the July 24-31 fight for the 2010 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title — or, under pressure, can a lifetime of fishing history crash down on him and become a curse?
"It's definitely not going to be a curse," said Lane, who was the last-in postseason qualifier. "It's all in how you handle it. I feel like I'm fishing well. It all boils down to one thing: It's still just fishing."
He has a handle on the home-lake trap pros refer to as "fishing the past."
"I'll go out there and fish according to conditions," he said. "If something in my past helps me out, that's good, but I'm not going to call on past experience to make my decisions on the water."
He's expecting — welcoming, even — a cheering section on the water. If spectators can't pick out his black-and-red Big Bite Baits wrap, all they'll have to do is count the number of boats following him to surmise that the competitor is Russ Lane.
Lane is one of 12 Elite pros who will compete on the lake and river for the sport's most coveted title and a bigger-than-ever payday. For the first time, the winner of each postseason leg will take home a boat rig valued at $60,000. The title — which an angler could conceivably win without winning either leg — comes with a $200,000 prize.
Toyota Trucks Championship Week is split into two competitions. First will be the Ramada Trophy Chase, July 24-25 on Lake Jordan. Weigh-ins are set for the Wetumpka Civic Center beginning at 5 p.m. CT. The finale will be the July 30-31 Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph on the Alabama River. Weigh-ins will be in Montgomery at the Riverwalk Amphitheater starting at 6 p.m. CT.
In each leg, the pros will be awarded points according to their finishes (see list below). The newly earned points will be added to those accumulated during the Bassmaster Elite Series regular season, which wrapped up June 20.
Regular-season points were recalibrated for the postseason by moving a decimal one place to the left, rounding, then adding 2 bonus points for each win. The result was a tighter field.
In the No. 1 spot with 216 points is Skeet Reese. He leads by 15 over No. 2, Edwin Evers. Anchoring the list at the other end are four anglers tied at No. 9 — one is Lane — just 39 points in back of Reese. Because each leg awards points on a sliding scale from 10 to 50, any of the 12 pros could capture the AOY crown.
Of the dozen, five are repeat qualifiers. Returning are Reese; Kevin VanDam, who triumphed over Reese in 2009 in a to-the-wire contest; Tommy Biffle; Gary Klein; and Cliff Pace. A complete entry list is below.
The 12 anglers will have two official practice days on Jordan to scope out conditions on the Coosa River impoundment's 188 miles of shoreline surrounding 6,800 surface acres of water. After the Jordan competition, they'll have a few days off, then two days of river practice before the finale begins July 30.
Lane said he expects air and water temperatures in late July to be similar to those in mid-September during the 2009 postseason.
"The days are just a little bit shorter in September, which has subtle effect on the fish," Lane said. "They'll still be on the same structure and cover, but they'll feed differently. We'll have to fish a little bit slower; they won't be hitting reaction baits like they did last year."
After the Jordan competition, the pros will be off the water for two days. On Monday, July 26, at the Prattville, Ala., Bass Pro Shops location fans can meet the pros and get autographs beginning at 4 p.m. CT. On Tuesday, July 27, in conjunction with Hope for the Warriors, the pros will join up with 12 wounded military veterans for an outing on The Waters, a private fishery.
July 28, it's back to the water for all 12 pros — there's no cut in this competition. July 28-29 will be practice days on the Alabama River for the July 30-31 final round of competition.
The pros will take off at 9 a.m. CT from Montgomery's Riverwalk facility. Anglers will bring their catches to the Riverwalk Amphitheater stage each day beginning at 6 p.m. CT.
The weigh-ins, which are free and open to the public, will be followed by free concerts. On Friday, country artist and songwriter Jason Michael Carroll will appear. Saturday, after the new Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year is crowned, the popular group Lifehouse will perform a second free concert.
Wetumpka is the host of the Ramada Trophy Chase. For the Evan Williams Trophy Triumph, Montgomery and Riverfront Facilities are the hosts.
2010 TOYOTA TRUCKS CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK
Field and standings