Russ Lane has quietly amassed nearly $400,000 in winnings over the past seven years in the BASS events he's fished. The Alabama pro is aching for his first Elite Series win and made a case for himself at this year's Classic. Here's how he answered our 20 Questions:
1. Where are you from, originally?
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
I've always fished. My grandparents and stepdad used to take me when I was a kid. After I got out of baseball, I needed something to keep the competitive fires burning; I loved fishing, so I started fishing local tournaments then I got into BASS Federation Nation tournaments. I actually won the first Federation event I fished, and it was on Lay Lake. That resulted in me qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic, and here I am now. It's a dream come true.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Denny Brauer was the first person I idolized, mostly because of the way he fished. I always wanted to flip, throw a spinnerbait and power fish like he did.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
I don't think you ever realize that you've made it, like in any other professional sport. If you buy into that, you start slacking and don't perform well or get lazy. If you do poorly for a while, you won't be around long. That's what pushes all of us in tournaments. As long as I don't think I've made it, that will keep me competitive.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
The biggest bass I've ever caught was an 11-15 I caught with Don Wirth while doing "A Day on the Lake" for Bassmaster Magazine. I think that's the largest bass ever doing that article. I weighed in two fish that day for a total weight of 19 pounds. It was 8 degrees outside when we launched; I had to break ice away to be able to launch the boat. Those were the worst conditions I've ever fished in.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
The bite. That's where I get my rush. No matter what I'm doing — cranking, flipping, anything — that's when I get the big rush.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
As far as techniques go, my strengths are deep cranking and flipping shallow vegetation. Over the last few years, I've become a little more mentally tough on the water, meaning I can sort out the conditions and realize what I need to do to keep me in a position to do well.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
Definitely finesse fishing. We only have a few tournaments a year when you have to use a spinning rod, and I've actually won a few locally with a spinning rod, but I hate using them. I kind of refuse to do it now, though.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
Okeechobee. I love Lake Okeechobee. To me, you're always one bite away from being on the leaderboard. You're a couple bites away from blowing the field away. It's just an awesome place, and I've had some of the most ferocious bites I've ever had down there over the years.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
I get a lot of questions about how to become a pro. What I usually tell them is when you can win more than half of your local tournaments that you fish, then you may be ready. The next thing is don't even worry about sponsors. If you worry about sponsors, you'll get consumed by it and not be able to focus on your fishing. You've got to go out and put everything on the line and catch 'em strong for two or three years, then the sponsors will come to you if you're doing that part well.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
The biggest thing I see is that they don't pay enough attention to what's going on around them. They may not notice things like a little extra ripple on the water or shad flicking around or maybe a fish boiling behind the boat. Most folks don't notice the little things that may get you a few extra bites a day.
12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
(Laughs) I can't think of any. I think the main thing I do is have a cup of coffee in the morning. I cannot function without it. If I don't get that, it's going to be a really bad day.
13. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
I think luck is a combination of being prepared and good fortune coming together. If you want to call that luck, so be it. Sometimes you may hook a fish in an odd way and he comes off, and there's nothing you can do about that. Overall, I think it is a very small percentage.
14. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
Surviving. Being able to make a living with my fishing rod and representing my sponsors. I value those things — and am most proud of them — over fish catches or tournament finishes.
15. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
I want to win my first Elite Series event more than anything, and I plan on doing that this year. That's the first thing I want to do. Once I get that done, then I'll start looking for something else.
16. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
Wanting to provide for my family because they make so many sacrifices. I want them to experience the good side of what I do. I want them to see what a win can do.
17. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
I don't think I have any regrets.
18. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
Hanging out with the wife and kids. Go to movies, cheerlead for them at baseball games and kind of forget about fishing for a while.
19. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
I would've liked to have been a Major League baseball pitching coach. Most everyone knows I love baseball; I was a student of the game but didn't have the ability to do it professionally. I really would've liked to have passed that on to other guys.
20. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?
As a good guy who gave it all he had and never turned his back on anyone.