PALATKA, Fla. — It was only a month ago when Randy Howell came from 11th place and a 9-pound deficit on the last day to win the Bassmaster Classic at Alabama's Lake Guntersville.
So why shouldn't Davy Hite be able to overcome a 12 ½-pound deficit to Chris Lane on the final day of the St. Johns River Elite Series Tournament?
Lane wouldn't even have to stumble much for Hite or Mark Davis, who is 14-6 back, or Keith Combs, who is 15-4 behind, to win this $100,000 first place prize Sunday.
There have been too many bass in the 8-, 9- and 10-pound range caught here over the previous three days for any lead to be safe.
"I promise you, (Sunday) I'll give it everything I've got," said Lane, whose 37-pound, 9-ounce five-fish bag Friday showed everyone what was possible on the St. Johns River. "I've got to stay focused."
Instead of four lunkers and a 5 ½-pounder, like Lane had Friday, he had only one giant in his bag Saturday. But it was a 9-10, and it may well have put Lane where he needs to be to win this event.
"I knew that was a game-changer," he said.
He's got a number in mind that will be game-over on Sunday. Lane's three-day total is 75-13.
"The goal is to hit the century mark," he said. "If I had 25 pounds at 1 o'clock, I'd come in."
But it's the veteran and former Bassmaster Classic champion Hite who has been most consistently near 25 pounds. He had 24-1 on Thursday and 24-13 Saturday. If not for the 14-7 hiccup Friday, Hite would be in the thick of this.
"There's no safe lead here," said Lane, who has had an area to himself all three days and will again on Sunday. "I've got to make an adjustment, but not change too much."
On a lake where three 10-pounders were weighed-in Friday, including a 10-10 by Greg Hackney, anything can happen. Scott Rook witnessed some of that Saturday. The Little Rock, Ark., native and B.A.S.S. veteran took big bass honors with a 9-14.
"That's the biggest I've ever caught in a tournament," he said.
And he saw David Walker hook but fail to land a fish of similar size in the same area.
"It looked like a 10-pounder," Rook said. "I saw it's mouth and head. It was 20 feet from where I caught my fish. And Mark Davis caught a 9-10 in there the day before."
As to the chances of anyone catching Lane, Rook noted, "Two 10-pound bites and you're there."
That would be crazy talk at almost every bass fishery in the world. But it's not unthinkable at Florida's St. Johns River in March, and Chris Lane is well aware of that.