PALATKA, Fla. — Chris Lane has been enjoying a fast ride since winning the Bassmaster Classic on Feb. 26. But when you ask him to recall his biggest memories since that $500,000 victory on the Red River, he offers a couple of surprises.
Lane revisited a couple of those memories at the registration meeting Wednesday night for the start of the St. Johns River Showdown. Lane was the man of the hour, sitting in a position that the 98 other anglers will begin fighting to get to when competition starts Thursday morning.
For Lane, though, he was OK with staying with the moments that come with winning the Classic.
For instance, last Saturday Lane was eating breakfast in a Cordele, Ga., restaurant at 6:30 a.m., when a 5-year-old boy wearing a Bass Pro Shops hat and camouflage clothes put both elbows on the table in front of Lane's biscuits and gravy.
"I'd just rolled out of bed," Lane said. "My hair was all smashed up on one side. I was just getting something to eat before going on the road. This kid looks at me dead in the eyes and says, 'You're Chris Lane, aren't you?' I said, 'Yes sir.' And he said, 'I just watched you on TV.'
"I thought to myself, I would have done the same thing at his age, if I'd seen Denny Brauer or somebody like that."
Instead of signing the kid's shirt, like he asked, Lane took him out to his boat, signed a new Mercury cap and gave it to him, then gave him a handful of Gambler Ugly Otter soft plastic baits – one of the lures Lane won the Classic on.
Cal Lane caught a winner of his own under dad's watchfull eyes. (Courtesy Chris Lane)
Lane's other special memory since the Classic involved another youngster, this time one of his own. Last Monday, Lane let his 10-year-old son, Cal, go fishing in the cove near his Lake Guntersville home.
"I let him use this old 1985 bass boat that we use for duck hunting," Lane said. "He can only use the trolling motor. He has to stay in our cove. And he has to wear his life jacket the entire time."
Lane was talking on his cell phone while standing in the yard facing the cove, when he saw Cal set the hook.
"I thought he hooked a stump or something," Lane said. "Then I see him start fighting this fish, and it's going out deep. He takes his rod and goes around the trolling motor, just like a pro.
"Then he said, 'Dad, I need some help.' I just laughed and said he was on his own. I was thinking he had a 4- or 5-pounder."
Cal got the fish in his landing net, then set his rod down so he could use both hands to lift the net. In it was a monster largemouth bass that measured 24 inches long and had a 19-inch girth. Its weight was estimated at 10.4 pounds.
"He was shaking so bad," Lane said. "I told him, ‘Buddy, trust me, it doesn't get any better than this. You catch a big fish like that, you're always going to shake.’ "