ORLANDO, Fla. -- Chris Lane of Guntersville, Ala., made it look easy on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes in the kickoff event of the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Southern Open series.
Lane was the only angler to weigh in 20 or more pounds of bass each day on the way to his third B.A.S.S. win, totaling 72 pounds, 11 ounces over the three-day tournament. Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz., finished second with 58-1.
All of Lane’s Bassmaster victories have come in Southern Opens. His first two, in 2006 and 2010, came on Lake Okeechobee.
“I got tell you, I had an emotional ride over here,” Lane said. “My dad had a little episode about 3 weeks ago. I’m just glad he’s here to see it.”
Citing the need to slow down and fish his areas thoroughly, Lane used a variety of baits to claim the title and a provisional berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, Feb. 22-24. If Lane fishes the remaining two events in the Southern Open season, he’ll cement the spot in bass fishing’s greatest championship.
“I caught fish on several soft plastics, including 7-inch Gambler Sweebo worms, Gambler Cane Toads and the Gambler Big Easy, but I found my bass with a chartreuse Luck "E" Strike RC2 crankbait,” Lane said. “I used it as a search bait. When I found bass with it, I’d pick up the soft plastics and really work the area over.”
Despite having a five-pound lead going into the final round, Lane had a scare on Saturday morning. After catching a couple of small keepers, his co-angler caught bass totaling more than 10 pounds on two consecutive casts.
“I was rattled,” Lane admitted, “but I knew what I had to do. I was making mistakes, and I needed to slow down.”
And he did. Lane’s next bass was his best of the day, a lunker that inhaled a Sweebo worm. When the day was over, his best five weighed 28-5, good enough for the Luck "E" Strike heavyweight of the tournament.
Day Three’s big bass belonged Keith Carson of Debary, Fla., and weighed 9-13.
Avery McCormick of Mobile, Ala., had the lead on the co-angler side the first two days despite not catching a limit (3 bass for co-anglers). Missing his limit caught up with him in the final round. Needing only 1-3 to tie, he weighed just one 14-ounce fish to fall five ounces short of victory.
Michael Bradford of Scottsboro, Ala., saw McCormick’s stumble as an opportunity. His three-day total of 27-9 earned him $35,000 in cash and merchandise, including a Triton-Mercury boat and motor package.