Two years ago it seemed unlikely that anyone would ever say the following: "Chris Lane is the best angler in the world right now, and to have him on my back was scary."
But that's what Ish Monroe said about Lane last Sunday, after holding him off on the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Power-Pole Slam. Lane had cut Monroe's 13-pound, 9-ounce lead on Day Two to only 10 ounces on Day Three. At that point, it almost seemed inevitable that Lane would add to his string of success in 2012, which includes the Bassmaster Classic championship and the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #1 crown.
"It's just one of those grooves that you get in," said Lane's brother Bobby, who until this year had experienced more Elite Series success than Chris. "I don't think we've seen anybody go through one like this in a long time – maybe Skeet Reese a couple of years ago."
Lane sounded disappointed in finishing second and winning $25,000 Sunday.
"I had a lot of people pulling for me here," said Lane, who is sponsored by Power-Pole and lived most of his life in Lakeland, Fla. "I've got to go out there and do better next time."
So how did Lane go from questioning whether he should continue bass fishing as a career to evolving into one of the most confident pros on tour?
"Two years ago, Chris was going to quit bass fishing," Bobby said. "He was that down and out. The money was tough but we have great sponsors at B.A.S.S., and that's what carries you through.
"I think he's learning not to make the mistakes he made two or three years ago when he was down; he's not losing his head and running around trying anything."
The rise of Chris Lane started last year. After not qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic for the third year in a row, he opened the Elite Series season with a seventh-place finish on Florida's Harris Chain, then earned a $10,000 check with a 44th place finish on the St. Johns River. In the next two tournaments, he drew a top 50 check at Pickwick, then was in contention for the title at Toledo Bend before finishing fourth.
His confidence was back.
"I had it in the back of my head that the Lane family has always figured out how to make things work," Chris said. "Chris Lane doesn't quit. Put your head down and start catching fish. Learn from your mistakes. And I did – real quick."
Lane moved to Guntersville, Ala., two years ago. Last season, he had a wife and three kids to support, then he learned a fourth child was on the way.
"Toledo Bend was the big turning point," Lane said. "I thought I could win there. That gets you going again. It's just making decisions, period. What has Chris Lane got to do to succeed in this tournament?"
Lane easily qualified for the 2012 Classic by finishing 12th in the 2011 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. In his first Classic appearance since 2008 (and only the second of his career), Lane earned the biggest prize in bass fishing.
Even after that successful 2011 season, Lane's career B.A.S.S. earnings stood at $586,078. Now, only three months into the 2012 season, Lane has more than doubled that figure. It's a number that simply means confidence.
"Every flip he makes," Bobby said, "instead of a 2- or 3-pounder like the rest of us are catching, he's catching a 6- or 8-pounder."