KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA – Most sports have a family or two that become synonymous with the game.
Football has the Mannings and the Harbaugh Brothers, the latter pair, of course, who will square off as coaches in the Big Game on Sunday. In baseball, there were the Alous and the Alomars. In NASCAR, Earnhardt is a name unfamiliar to few.
In bass fishing, there have been numerous family connections through the years. But the Lane Brothers are on the tips of many tongues this week when the action takes place on Lake Tohopekaliga in the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open. After all, the trio of Arnie, Bobby and Chris Lane grew up in Lakeland, which is less than an hour from the launch and weigh-in site for this event. So, not only do the Lanes bring a wealth of knowledge about the Kissimmee Chain to the tournament, they bring a strong desire to win. And, they are super competitors, especially when another Lane is in the field.
Chris has had the hottest hand recently, winning the Bassmaster Classic on the Red River last year, as well as taking top honors at last year’s Southern Open on the Harris Chain, not far from Toho. He currently sits in 31st place in the 2013 version of the event, but he would be much higher had a four-minute late penalty cost him a four-pound deduction on Thursday.
“I was hungry,” Chris said. “I was trying to win this thing and I may have been one fish away from doing it. I’m not going to look at the scales and see where I’d be. I just need to bust a big bag and get into this thing.”
That cool-headedness has benefited Chris well in the past. Fishing on a chain of lake he knows so well adds to his comfort.
“That’s all we did as kids was fish,” he said. “We played sports and stuff, but in Lakeland, there are so many lakes and ponds and stuff, we’d wake up mom or dad would bring us out here to Kissimmee to fish. We’d take the John boat out for the weekend.”
Arnie caught a five-fish limit on Thursday, but his sack weighed only 6-10 – a total that had him sitting in 108th place heading into Friday’s action. He wants to fish on Saturday, of course, but just being able to fish with his brothers and share time together is important, as well. Arnie and Bobby still live in Lakeland, but Chris moved to Guntersville, Ala. Both Chris and Bobby fish on the Elite Series, while Arnie joins them for the Opens.
“It means everything in the world having our dad and our granddad teaching us how to bass fish, teaching us about the great outdoors,” Arnie said. “You stay out of trouble. You can’t get into too much trouble bass fishing. It’s our heritage. It’s what we love doing. It’s great that we’re all three of us still together….We hope to all keep it going and aim for the next generation”
Speaking of kids, Bobby has three and Chris has four. Both dads have been active in sharing their time and energy with other children, as well. They said it’s a calling to reach out to all children and encourage them to try their own hands in the outdoors.
“The experience we had as kids with that rod bending (was incredible,)” Chris said. “Maybe it wasn’t that. Maybe it was seeing who could swim across a lake quicker….We did so many things outdoors as kids. Not only fishing, but it’s at the top of the list. There’s nothing like getting that bite, setting the hook. It’s important to let the young kids know how important it is to be outdoors instead of sitting on video games all the time.”
Bobby, who is in 47th place with a 9-12 total, agreed.
“It wasn’t growing up in a fishing family, as much as it was just handed to you,” he recalled of his childhood. “They handed you a rod and reel the day you were born. Never once did someone say ‘You are going to be a pro fisherman.’ They said ‘Enjoy the outdoors and we’re gonna’ take you every chance we get.' That’s the way we were born. It just comes natural to us.”
What also comes naturally is the healthy rivalry the brothers share. Even if none of them cash a check at the Southern Open (an unlikely scenario,) they’ll be looking to beat one another, for sure.
“It’s a sibling rivalry every time we go out,” Arnie said. “We have a dollar bet, we’ve always had that for first bass, biggest bass, most bass. It could be five bucks now that we’re making some money from our sponsors.”
“This is how we make our living, so we want one another to do well,” Chris said. “But there’s always a little side bet – money, dinner, whatever comes up.”
So who’s the better of the Brothers Lane?
“At any given time, one of us can win,” Chris said.
Arnie agreed, with a twist.
“I would say me on any given day, but it could be Chris on any given day, Bobby on any given day…it’s hard to say. But on the Kissimmee Chain, it’s anybody’s game.”