PARIS, Tenn. — By all conventional standards, Bobby Lane had every reason to be smiling on this final morning of the SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph. With a lead of nearly 9 pounds over his closest competitor and a once-in-a-lifetime spot that shows no signs of letting him down, the Florida pro seems to be on the fast track to a hundred thousand dollar payday.
While Lane may have had the most obvious reason to be excited, the angler who smiled the brightest before this morning's blast-off was North Carolina's Britt Myers. To the average fishing fan, that may come as a surprise, but to those who know him well, it's par for the course. After all, Myers is always smiling.
"He is probably the most upbeat, positive guy I've ever met," said Gerald Swindle, who is sharing a house with Myers this week. "Even if he doesn't catch them, he's always positive."
"What people don't know about Britt is that he's probably the hardest working guy on tour," Swindle continued. "When he's home, he works six days a week. His fishing career doesn't start until he gets home at 9 o'clock every night, and then he works on his tackle for an hour.
Myers concurred with that assessment: "I'm a business owner," he said."Four years ago I was fishing club tournaments and other small tournaments at home. I couldn't fathom this whole deal. Even now, when I'm at home, I'm a weekend angler. I work six days a week and you can see me out every Sunday on (Lake) Wylie."
During breaks in the Elite Series season, he may be a weekend angler in the traditional sense of the term, but this week being a weekend angler means fishing against the crème de la crème of the tour. This is the first time he's made an Elite Series top twelve since August of 2007. Last year he finished in the teens three times, but could never get over the hump to Sunday.
Among the other remaining 11 anglers, on the other hand, there is a lot of final day experience and plenty of hardware under the bridge. Both Bobby Lane and 12th place qualifier Steve Kennedy have previously won Rookie of the Year honors. Skeet Reese, Kevin VanDam and Swindle have all earned Angler of the Year titles. Reese and VanDam also know what it's like to taste Bassmaster Classic victory. Kelly Jordon and Fred Roumbanis both have multiple tour-level wins. Byron Velvick holds the BASS three-day, five fish limit weight record. Russ Lane, Jeff Kriet and Rick Morris have each qualified for multiple Bassmaster Classics.
Myers hasn't achieved any of that — yet.
"I know that I'm not a Skeet Reese, but I'm confident in what I can do," Myers said. "I'm still young in the sport and these guys are the best. Every year I'm learning more and more."
The other thing that distinguishes him from the other 11 remaining competitors is that all of them entered today's competition inside the Classic bubble. Kennedy was the lowest-ranked after Friday's weigh-in at 36th overall. Myers, on the other hand, entered Saturday in 61st overall. Last year, with two events left to go he was in 38th place, just on the cusp of qualifying for February's Red River Classic, before two poor performances doomed his chances.
The season-ending tournament at Oneida was particularly tough to swallow. He caught over 16 pounds of bass on the first day and sat in third place, before blanking on the second day and plummeting down the leaderboard to 95th.
"I think I set a BASS record," by falling that far, Myers said a year later, and despite the painful memory he still had a smile on his face. "All I needed was any kind of good bag, but I just ran out of fish."
With the last tournament of this year's regular season on Oneida once again, he hopes to get revenge on the lake and he believes if he can pair a good finish there with another one next week on the Mississippi River, he'll rise enough in the standings to claim a spot at next year's Classic on Lay Lake.
While Myers may be the least-known among the remaining 12 anglers this week on Kentucky Lake, many of the sport's biggest names still come to him for advice and help. As the owner of CS Motorsports ("Go Fast Look Good"), he has customized tow vehicles for well over half of the Elite Series field. That group includes half of the top twelve at Kentucky Lake, and all of the top three — Bobby Lane, Skeet Reese and Kevin VanDam.
An expertise in tricking out trucks is the last thing you might expect from the unassuming Myers. He agrees that other than his vehicles, he may be "the least flashy guy out here."
"My clothing is very simple," he said. "To give you an example, I once saw a watch that I really liked and my wife went and bought it for me. It was kind of expensive, so I took it back. That's just not me."
Swindle painted an even more vivid picture of how down-to-earth the Myers family may be: "I mean, come on, his wife drives a hubcapped minivan." The pairing of the outspoken Swindle with the soft-spoken Myers may seem unlikely, but it also seems to be working this week. They've each caught over 65 pounds of bass in three days and stand to collect both a sizeable check and valuable Angler of the Year points.
The key may be the cooking of Swindle's wife LeAnn, who has kept the two anglers well-fed and able to concentrate on their on-the-water performance all week. Might this week's tournament produce a legendary recipe along the lines of Sherry VanDam's famous cookies? Swindle says the key to his success hasn't been anything fancy. He credits his success to LeAnn's "lucky peanut butter and jelly sandwiches." But they haven't helped Myers a bit, because that's one trick the G-Man won't share.
"I love him, but I don't love him that much," he said with a smile.