PARIS, Tenn. — What started out as a slam dunk almost turned into a desperation shot from beyond the three-point arc for Bobby Lane here in the final round of the SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph. Though the Florida angler had put the big smackdown on the rest of the field for three days, in the final going it was closer than anybody thought when Day Four began. Lane wound up with 97 pounds, 9 ounces, 5 1/2 pounds better than runner-up Kevin VanDam, to claim his first Elite Series victory.
Lane had averaged more than 26 pounds per day heading into the last round, and he seemed to have a lock on topping 100 pounds. His last stringer was 16-15, and it didn't come easy. The 35-year-old fisherman got a preview of how tough the fishing was going to be Saturday, as he failed to catch a solid keeper within the first two hours of fishing on what he had termed his "promised land."
"With us being delayed for two hours this morning because of fog, I was on pins and needles because I had been catching my fish early," said Lane at the end of the scariest day of his life. "When I got out there, it was slick calm and I wound up with about a hundred boats around me. All of them were running their trolling motors and depth finders and I think it put the fish off."
Lane visited other areas throughout the morning and occasionally revisited his primary spot before heading off again. Slowly he built his stringer during the day. Then, at about 2 p.m., he returned to his glory hole and caught a 5-pound, 9-ounce bass that helped seal his win.
Like most of the contestants, Lane relied on crankbaits, swimbaits and big plastic worms during the event. In the opening round, a Norman DD22 (black splat) accounted for most of the bass in his 29-pound, 14-ounce bag. In days Two and Three, Lane added a Berkley Power Mullet swimbait to his repertoire, as well as a ribbon-tailed 10-inch Berkley Power Worm (plum).
He used a variety of All-Star rods and Abu Garcia reels, including an Abu Garcia Revo Winch with 5.4:1 gear ratio to fish the big Norman crankbait. Depending on the bait, Lane fished the lures on Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line in tests ranging from 12- to 17-pound. He rigged the Power Worm with an Owner 5/0 wide-gap hook and a half-ounce Tru-Tungsten worm weight.
"I didn't lose many fish all week, especially on the Power Mullet and the Power Worm," Lane noted. "When I hooked the big fish Saturday, it ran at me and I thought I was never going to catch up with it. When it came by the boat, I saw it was a good one and had one hook in its nose. Believe me, I never played a bass more carefully than I did that one.
"Though he's regarded as one of the best shallow-water anglers in the Elite Series tour, Lane made his first $100,000 payday by fishing deep structure, namely a bulge in the river channel where mussel shells had been deposited by current and created a haven for gizzard and threadfin shad. Water depth ranged from less than 10 feet to more than 20 feet deep and the bass were stacked up at different depths, depending on the time of day and wind and current conditions.
"I found the spot in practice on Monday. I'm not a crankbait fisherman as a rule, but when I hooked an 8-pounder and a 3-pounder together on the same cast with the DD22, I knew I was on something good," Lane recalled. "I have to say that the Humminbird 1197 was the most important piece of equipment I had in my boat.
"If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have been able to find my way around," Lane continued. "I was especially doing a lot of running Saturday, just trying to scrounge up enough fish to hold on."
Hold on he did, and then some. His victory here earned Lane the 11th place position in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, and that presents new possibilities for him. With two tournaments to go, no doubt Lane hasn't seen the last of nerve-wracking fishing days.