Something very rare is happening at the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. No, it's not the fact that Kevin VanDam is going for a three-peat. And it's not that the first College Bass qualifier will be fishing. And no, it's not that two Federation Nation anglers who last fished the Classic — together — in 2002 are back — together — to fish it 10 years later.
OK, admittedly, there are lots of rare things that will be happening at the 2012 Classic, but the one I'm interested in here is the fact that the Lane brothers — Bobby and Chris — are back at the big dance. This marks the first time brothers have appeared in a Classic together more than once and just the fourth time that brothers have qualified for the same championship.
Bobby and Chris last made it to the same Classic in 2008, and no one doubted they'd be back, but it's taken a few years. In 2008 on Lake Hartwell, S.C., they watched Alton Jones claim the title while Bobby finished fourth and Chris was a disappointing 49th. This year they'll both be looking to move up.
Siblings in the same Classic aren't new. It started in 1975 when Alabama tackle manufacturing legend Tom Mann (Mann's Bait Company, Humminbird, etc.) and his brother Don fished against each other at Currituck Sound, N.C. That year Tom was fifth and Don was 22nd, and a new entry in the record books was created. And though both would qualify for other Classics, they'd never both make it in the same year again.
It took five years before another set of siblings would face off in the Classic. That's when David and Kevin Johnson of Kansas City, Kan., made it. The Johnson brothers looked like the future of competitive bass fishing for a short while, but turned into one of the sport's great disappearing acts.
David was just 22 years old when he fished the 1980 Classic on the St. Lawrence River out of Alexandria Bay, N.Y. Kevin was two years younger (and still the fifth youngest angler ever to qualify for the Classic). Both made it to the championship through the Western Division of the B.A.S.S. Invitationals. David squeaked in with some 11th hour tournament heroics, but Kevin won the Western points title outright, besting talents like Larry Nixon, Jimmy Houston, Hank Parker, Roland Martin and Guido Hibdon. He looked like a force to be reckoned with.
When the Classic rolled around, the Johnson brothers — who still lived at home with their parents — were excited to be there, excited to be the youngest brothers ever to qualify and looking forward to bright futures as professional anglers. David, an auto mechanic by trade, and Kevin, an electrician, seemed poised to ditch their day jobs and start casting for cash on a full-time basis.
Their Classic performances were nothing to write home about. Kevin finished 20th and David was 37th out of 41 anglers, but the future was theirs ... for six more tournaments. That's how many B.A.S.S. events they fished after the 1980 Classic. They fished them all together, and it must have been a very rude awakening.
In those six events, David's best finish was 17th at the 1981 Arkansas Invitational on Lake Ouachita. He earned $655. Kevin's best was a dismal 53rd at the same event; he didn't make a dime. After the 1982 Missouri Invitational on Lake of the Ozarks where they were 69th and 233rd, respectively, the Johnson brothers disappeared from the professional fishing scene. The promise they showed in 1980 was gone like a flash in a pan.
Where are they now?