2008 Southern Open #3 Lake Guntersville - Guntersville, AL, Oct 16 - 18, 2008

Clunn going to Shreveport Classic

Herren, Lane, and Pugh lock up Classic berths

Bobby Lane

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Bobby Lane had a cell phone pressed to his ear, listening intently and nodding his head slightly a couple of times.

When one of the greatest anglers is on the line offering thanks, you listen more than talk.

Rick Clunn of Missouri was passing along his appreciation for Lane finishing third in the Bassmaster Southern Open points standings. That feat gave Lane a double-qualification for the Classic through the Elite Series and Southern Opens, meaning his berth came through the latter and allowed Clunn to move into the Classic through the Elite Series.

"He said he's mailing me a check to pay for my entry fee here," Lane said, laughing with a few folks standing around him.

It was a day for laughter and smiles, and some disappointment, as the Southern Open season came to an end. With the final day on Guntersville Lake ended, Lane joined points champion Matt Herren and second-place finisher Greg Pugh, both of Alabama, in the Classic to be held Feb. 20-22 on the Red River in Shreveport, La.

"I'm just numb at everything going on," said Herren, who also qualified for the 2009 Elite Series and finished third in the tournament after a tough final day. "I'm tickled to be in the Classic and Elite Series. I'm disappointed at not winning the tournament, but at least I accomplished two of my goals."

Joining him with Elite Series invitations were the top 10 in the final points standings: Pugh, Lane, Preston Clark of Florida, Greg Vinson of Alabama, Terry Scroggins of Florida, Peter Thliveros of Florida, Aaron Martens of Alabama, Casey Ashley of South Carolina and Luke Gritter of Michigan.

Pugh and Herren are longtime pros who fished the Southern Open circuit to try to make the Classic. With that goal accomplished now they have a new set of decisions to make.

"I'm excited, especially since my motor blew up first thing this morning," Pugh said. "I wasn't too far from the ramp when it blew, but I was able to get a backup boat. It's been a long day."

Vinson was among those whose primary goal this year was earning his Elite Series invitation. After eight years of fishing tournaments, the last two as a full time pro, he's ready to make the jump.

"My wife and I have prayed a lot about it and believe everything happens for a reason," he said. "You work as hard as you can and let God take care of things. I really believe all this happened for a reason, and we'll go from here.

"My whole goal has been to qualify for the Elite Series and fish against the best anglers in the world, and everything has worked out perfectly so far. This opportunity doesn't come along often. I see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I believe I can compete on that level."

Lane was the only Elite Series pro to double qualify for the Classic, meaning with Clunn in his 32nd championship the next "bubble" guy is Rick Morris of Virginia. He'll be watching the final Central Open tournament in two weeks pretty closely, because Clunn is seventh in the points standings. A top three finish by Clunn could put Morris in the Classic.

Until then, it's only a matter of waiting and, as Lane said, getting ready to see Clunn — a four-time Classic champion — try to work his Classic magic once again.

"I'm looking forward to seeing you in Louisiana," Lane told Clunn, "on the inside, instead of the outside."