2014 Classic: We made it!

What a week! I qualified for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on my home lake. That’s a big deal. I sure didn’t want to sit that one out if I could help it.

Before we talk about that, however, I want to congratulate Aaron Martens on winning the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year and to Hank Cherry on winning Rookie of the Year. Well done, guys.

This fishing business is funny, you know. The week before last I wrote about being frustrated in New York because things were not going my way. It seemed like if something could go wrong it did. This week was just the opposite. It seemed like whatever I did turned out right.

The hook set situation is particularly interesting. I’ve always had something around a 95 percent success with a drop shot rig. I get them hooked and to the boat. In New York I couldn’t buy a good hook set. Then, in Detroit, everything was back to normal. I only remember losing a couple of good fish all week.

Why that is, I don’t know. I’d like to think it was just bad luck in New York. But there could be a mental side to it as well.

I was ready to fish last week. In a strange way, the fact that I had to win or finish up near the top to qualify for the Classic through the Elite Series took a lot of pressure off of me. I didn’t have to make any decisions about strategy. They had already been made for me.

There was no reason to get fancy about weight. I didn’t need to try to calculate how much I needed to keep my standing in the Toyota Angler of the Year race or to improve it. I wasn’t worried about making a cut. It was perform at the top of my game or go down trying. A “good” event wasn’t going to help me one bit.

Bad weather or mechanical breakdowns weren’t a big part of my thinking, either. If that happened, I’d be out. But I was out anyway so there was really no gamble involved if I made a long run. It was a matter of doing what I had to do to get on better fish.

Last week, I said I needed 20 pounds a day. That turned out to be pretty darn close. I weighed 82 pounds, 4 ounces when it was over. Mark Davis and Alton Jones were right behind me with 76 pounds. When you stop to think about it, that’s a lot of smallmouth bass.

There are only a few places where a catch like that is possible. We were fishing one of them. I’ll tell you what, the explosion of smallmouth bass fishing in the Great Lakes and the waters around them is something. I’m going to encourage everyone out there to take advantage of it, and I mean now. You never know about fishing. Things can change quickly.

I also want to say thanks to my family, my fans and my sponsors. I kept everybody on the edge of their seats this year. Without your love and support, I wouldn’t have had what it takes to get the job done. You’re the greatest.

I’ll see everyone in Guntersville next February.

Chris Lane’s column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on www.twitter.com/ChrisLaneFish and www.facebook.com/chrislanefishing or visit his website, www.chrislanefishing.com.