By BassFan Staff
When you're hot, you're hot.
The 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series season hasn't event started yet, but Chris Lane is already a double-qualifier for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. His first qualification came via his victory at the Harris Chain Southern Open last month, and he picked up his second today by winning the 42nd edition of the sport's premier event at the Red River in Louisiana.
This is an absolute dream come true, said Lane, a native Floridian who now resides in Guntersville, Ala.
He carried a 1-pound lead over fellow Alabamian Greg Vinson into the final day and won by nearly 3 1/2 pounds after catching a 15-14 sack. Vinson, who established himself last year as an Elite Series standout but has yet to win an event at either the tour or triple-A levels, held onto 2nd with a 13-07 bag today for a 47-15 total.
Louisiana native son Keith Poche, the day-1 leader who'd plummeted to 10th on day 2, rallied back to finish 3rd with 45-15 after catching a stout 16-10 today. Alton Jones, the 2008 Classic winner, dropped one spot to finish 4th with a 14-03 bag today and a 45-14 aggregate.
Ott DeFoe rounded out the Top 5 with a day-best 17-07 sack that gave him a 44-14 total.
Here's how the bottom half of the Top 10 ended up:
6. Tim Horton: 44-13
7. Dustin Wilks: 44-12
8. Edwin Evers: 43-08
9. Todd Faircloth: 40-15
10. Bill Lowen: 40-15
Bobby Lane, who until the past year had enjoyed significantly more professional success than his younger brother, had hoped to make his own run at the crown after starting the day in 4th place. He managed just two keepers for a paltry 5-14, however, and was a non-factor at the end.
Chris' win will pay dividends for Bobby as well, though, as Chris vowed to make good on their pact that if one of them won the Classic, he'd pay the other's 2012 Elite entry fees (which amounts to more than $40,000) out of the $500,000 champion's share.
This marks the first time since early 2010 that Kevin VanDam, winner of the previous two Classics and the last four Angler of the Year (AOY) races, is not the simultaneous holder of both of B.A.S.S.' major titles. He ended up 11th after weighing a 15-11 stringer today.
"It's definitely a little bit of a letdown," VanDam said. "I wanted to have a good week and I would've loved to have been in contention going into the final day, but it didn't start out very well for me. I made a bold decision the first day about where I wanted to go and I'd hoped to make it work, but it just didn't.
Runner-up Greg Vinson was pleased that he'd put himself in contention to win.
"The few opportunities that I had for big fish, I lost them that first day. That set me back."
This year's Elite Series season gets under way March 15 at the St. Johns River in Florida. The 2013 Classic will take place next February at Grand Lake near Tulsa, Okla.
Lane Had Confidence
> Day 3: 5, 15-14 (15, 51-06)
The 36-year-old Lane became the first Florida-born angler to win the Classic. It was his first tour-level triumph following four triple-A wins (three Southern Opens in his native state and an FLW Southeastern EverStart at Guntersville, where he now resides).
He'd gone through some rough times after competing in his initial Classic in 2008 he didn't come close to qualifying for the event over the ensuing 3 seasons.
"My first year (2006) on the Elite Series was okay and the second year was pretty good, but those next few I was down in the dumps," he said. "Terry Segraves, a good friend from Florida who fished the Elites back then, told me I was going to hit a point in my life where I wouldn't know if I was (going to be able) to stay out here. I didn't believe it at the time, but eventually I did hit that hard road.
"Then there was a group of guys who came on as a sponsor, Power-Pole they came into the industry and me and Bobby started running them, and then they stormed the industry and changed bass fishing. Without their support through those 3 tough years I had, I wouldn't be standing here today."
Other than the accompanying financial windfall, the down-to-earth Lane, whose final-day sack was headed up by a 6-10 brute that took big-fish honors for the day, said he's unsure of how the accomplishment might change his life.
"I haven't had a chance to think about that yet. It's a goal that I've had for awhile, but probably in the last year was when I started to believe that I had a shot to win this thing. That's when I got the confidence in myself that I could do what I needed to do.
"But as far as who I am and who my family is, we'll absolutely stay true to who we are."
He spent time in two pools (4 and 5) and relied on two baits (a Luck "E" Strike G4 tube and a Gambler Ugly Otter). Full details of his winning pattern, along with those of the other top finishers, will be published soon.
2nd: VInson Content
> Day 3: 5, 13-07 (15, 47-15)
Judging by Vinson's demeanor at the final-day press conference, you'd never guess he'd just notched a 2nd-place finish in the biggest tournament of his career. The unassuming Alabamian seemed pleased with his finish and gave credit to Lane for the winner's execution throughout the event.
"All you can ask for is to be in contention and feel like you picked a spot that was good enough to win I did that this week," he said. "I've never won a tournament and it would've been special to win the Classic, but it just wasn't my time.
"The caliber of anglers (in the Classic) is so high that you have to fish perfect all 3 days to win. I really believe that. Chris did that this week. He executed and got the better bites."
Day-1 leader Keith Poche rallied back after a tough second day.
Vinson's honey hole was a "little spot" in the back of the Little Jungle area in Pool 4. He said it was "neat" to watch the fish's behavior change as their instinct to move shallow and spawn kicked in over the course of the event. He caught his best limit on day 1 when the fish were roaming, but his action waned as more fish moved to the bank.
"In practice I got five or six bites out of one little (hyacinth) mat in my area," he noted. "That's a lot of bites for one mat, and that's really what clued me in that the spawn was coming. I've experienced a similar bite in Florida and when they move in, they come by the hundreds. (Those mat bites) gave me an indicator of the potential this area had."
He said he needed "a lot of baits to get through the week" and relied on a spinnerbait when the fish were roaming on day 1. He slowed down and "dead-sticked" soft-plastics as the fish transitioned onto beds during day 2. He also caught a key fish in the last 15 minutes of day 2 on a Bandit 100 crankbait.
3rd: Poche Rallied
> Day 3: 5, 16-10 (15, 45-15)
A mediocre 11-pound bag on day 2 kept Poche from making a serious run at the top spot. Nonetheless, he's satisfied with the way his first Classic appearance wrapped up.
"You have to be happy," he said. "To be here in Louisiana with all my friends and family it's just an awesome time."
His 16-plus-pound limit vaulted him to the No. 1 spot with several anglers left to weigh in. He dodged bullets from Alton Jones, Edwin Evers, Dustin Wilks and Bobby Lane before Vinson's limit finally ousted him from the stage.
About sweating it out on the hot seat, he said: "I didn't realize I had that big of a bag, but I didn't really expect (his lead) to last that long. It was nerve-wracking."
Poche roomed with Vinson prior to the Classic and said they shared some information, but nothing too detailed.
"We talked about water clarity and temperature, but we didn't get into baits or anything like that. It mainly just helps to have someone to talk to. It helps you figure things out a little bit."
Bedding fish were a big part of Poche's gameplan. He used a Senko as a search bait to entice the more active males in the Sullivan's Lake area of Pool 4, and the buck bites led him to the larger females.
"Once I got a male to eat (the Senko) I'd go looking for the female nearby and catch her on a (Netbait) Paca Craw."
4th: Jones Anticipated Bedders
> Day 3: 5, 14-03 (15, 45-14)
Angler after angler lamented at not being better prepared for the onslaught of spawning fish that eventually became the dominant theme of this year's Classic. Springtime guru Alton Jones, on the other hand, was more than ready for the seasonal shift to kick off.
"I fished this tournament from day 1 as if it was going to develop into a spawn-fest," he said. "I'm always watching the extended forecast in practice and when I saw that warm-up coming, I knew it was close. I'm actually surprised that it didn't happen quicker. Had we not had those cold nights, it would've progressed further."
Alton Jones was convinced from the start that the tournament would become a spawn-fest.
He equated the warm-up in the Red River backwaters to "being in a car with the windows rolled up on a cold, sunny day.
"Even though it's cold outside, if the sun shines, it gets pretty warm inside that car. Those backwaters are the same way. All it takes is a little bit of sun and they warm up really fast.
"You could see the fish come to life mid-morning," he added. "If you went in there first thing in the morning you'd swear there wasn't a bass in there. It was absolutely dead. But by about 10:30 everything came alive and it seemed like every little pad stem had a fish on it."
He said he was fortunate not to have to share his area with too many of his competitors this week, but added that learning how to better manage crowds is something he'll have at the forefront of his mind as the 2012 Elite Series season unfolds.
"(Fishing in a crowd) is a part of my gameplan that I'm deliberately working on this year. In the past I've made the mistake of avoiding fish because I've avoided the crowds. (In the Elite Series) it's difficult to find a place and have it all to yourself. I'll definitely mix it up this year if I have to."
5th: DeFoe Mixed it Up
> Day 3: 5, 17-07 (15, 44-14)
DeFoe revealed today that he's been alternating between the community hole in McDade and one other area in Pool 5. When asked if he wanted to share the name of the second spot, he smiled and said: "Absolutely not."
He started in McDade first thing this morning before bailing for the second spot around 10:30. Two of his five keepers today came from McDade a 3-pounder and the smallest fish of his creel he picked up the other three at his second stop.
The jerkbait bite he tapped into yesterday never materialized for him on day 3. He boated one bed-fish and caught everything else flipping.
"In McDade I was catching staging fish," he noted. "They were relating to the stumps and the edges of the coontail. At the other spot it was all flipping. I did catch one on a spinnerbait and one on a ChatterBait. But the fish I weighed came flipping."
6th: Horton Relied on Blade
> Day 3: 5, 16-04 (15, 44-13)
Tim Horton averaged more than 17 pounds over the final 2 days. If he'd caught that on the first day as well, he'd have been right there with Chris Lane.
"I threw a spinnerbait just about all the time," he said. "I really wish I'd landed a 4-pounder I had on the first day that was such a big deal because I only weighed 10 pounds."
He caught about half as many keepers today as on day 2 15 to 20 as opposed to 30 to 40.
"That wind this afternoon hurt me. They were so shallow that they couldn't tolerate it, and where they moved to was so muddy that I couldn't catch them."
7th: Wilks Satisfied
> Day 3: 5, 14-09 (15, 44-12)
Wilks, who achieved his career-best finish in a Classic, felt like he maximized his potential after spending the entire tournament in crowded McDade.
"I did about the best I could've imagined, because it was just insane in there," he said. "Ott finished a little bit ahead of me, but he left every day and caught bigger fish in other places.
"I stayed in McDade the whole time, and it was nice today. I had free range and I was able to get a decent weight."
He caught about nine keepers today and his best specimens weighed a little over 4 pounds. He caught one of those on a floating worm and one on a crankbait.
The crankbait fish came early in the morning. He was surprised that bait wasn't more productive in the afternoon.
"I thought it would be awesome because the key to that was the wind. I was hoping to get a real big one maybe a 6- or 7-pounder at the end of the day. I fished the same stretch about a million times, but it didn't happen."
8th: History Helped Evers
> Day 3: 5, 13-01 (15, 43-08)
The Little Jungle area where Edwin Evers spent most of the tournament didn't figure into the Oklahoman's original strategy. He knew the spot would be crowded and he tried his best to avoid it, but after failing to get things clicking in other areas early on day 1, he eventually relented.
"I realized there's a lot more fish in those areas than you really think," he said. "I went in there about noon the first day and everybody was already on the way out and I still managed to catch 16 pounds."
He reported seeing fish "flirting with the idea of spawning" during practice. That observation, combined with his experience on this body of water at the 2009 Classic, tipped him off to the impending spawn bite.
"Last time I was here I caught them sight-fishing, so I knew (a sight-fishing bite) was a possibility," he said. "The water's really close (to the ideal spawning temperature). We just need a few more days (until the spawn's in full swing)."
He used a swimjig to imitate bream around bedding fish. When sight-fishing, he Texas-rigged a Yum Wooly Hawg Tail and mixed in a dropshot for the more finicky spawners.
9th: Lower Water Hurt Faircloth
> Day 3: 5, 12-10 (15, 40-15)
Todd Faircloth made a big move with a near-19-pound stringer on day 2, but couldn't duplicate that on the final day.
"After I caught that big sack yesterday, it was hard not to go back to the same place," he said of the spot he shared with Evers and Keith Combs. "I was hoping more fish would've moved in overnight or maybe later today. I caught the same number of fish I did yesterday, but they were smaller. The big females didn't come in.
"I did notice one key element the water had risen about 2 inches yesterday when those big females came up. Today when I was idling in I noticed that it had dropped about 2 inches."
He caught weigh-in fish on a Yamamoto Flappin' Hawg, an All-Terrain Tackle swimjig and a Sebile Pro Shad Finesse spinnerbait.
10th: Heat Hurt Lowen
> Day 3: 5, 11-05 (15, 40-15)
Lowen never looked at a single fish all week, but that wasn't for lack of trying.
"The water's simply too dirty where I am to see a bedding fish," he said. "I'm pretty sure I caught some fish that were either spawning or close to spawning, because anytime I saw a clean spot and threw in there I could get one to bite. I'm really not 100 percent sure (if the fish were spawning in his area)."
Vertical banks littered with scattered stumps and laydowns were the cornerstone of his pattern. Had the water not warmed up so dramatically, he'd likely have weighed more from his relatively deep areas.
"I spent most of my time with my boat in 8 or 9 feet of water," he noted. "The banks I was fishing were really steep one hop off the bank and my bait would be in 3 feet of water. The warmer water pulled all the fish out of my areas and into the shallows."
A tube bait was his top choice for flipping to the scattered wood. He noted that he elected to stick with the tube over a creature bait because the tube "creates more reaction bites."
11th: VanDam Grateful
> Day 3: 5, 15-11 (15, 40-10)
VanDam graciously accepted the reality that he'd have to wait at least one more year to claim his fifth Classic title.
"I know that what I've experienced the last couple of years is really special," he said. "Last year was one of those dream weeks that you couldn't script any better. On the final day (at the Louisiana Delta) I knew what was going down and I really enjoyed it.
"I don't even take qualifying for granted," he added. "Believe me, it's a big accomplishment to be here any way that you can. Today was disappointing in the sense that you always want to be in contention on the final day and I don't feel like I put myself in that position. What I really enjoyed today was getting another chance to figure this fishery out."
He pointed out that the challenge of the Red River "isn't in the fishery itself," but more so in the logistics and planning of trying to maximize fishing time, avoid crowds and stay on the winning-quality fish.
"When the fish are gathered in the backwaters here this is a very difficult place to plan for," he said. "You've got the locks to deal with and this whole place is full of stumps, so you have to do a lot of idling. It's time consuming. But that's why this is a great place to have a Classic, because you have all those other pressures you have to deal with."
KVD is always a spectator favorite, and he couldn't say enough about the courtesy he was shown by the locals this week.
"The fans in Louisiana are the best I've seen in my career. I promise you, if we were at Lake Guntersville it wouldn't be like this. I've been seeing 15 or 20 guys a day and I haven't seen a single one with a rod on the deck. These people are well-educated on what the Classic is and they're excited to have us here. I can't imagine (the Classic) won't be back. Every aspect of this place makes for a great venue."
> Day 3 stats 25 anglers, 22 limits, 1 four, 1 three, 1 two.
1. Chris Lane -- Guntersville, AL -- 15, 51-06 -- 0 $500,000
Day 1: 5, 16-04 -- Day 2: 5, 19-04 -- Day 3: 5, 15-14
2. Greg Vinson -- Wetumpka, AL -- 15, 47-15 -- 0 -- $45,000
Day 1: 5, 17-12 -- Day 2: 5, 16-12 -- Day 3: 5, 13-07
3. Keith Poche -- Pike Road, AL -- 15, 45-15 -- 0 -- $42,500
Day 1: 5, 17-13 -- Day 2: 5, 11-08 -- Day 3: 5, 16-10
4. Alton Jones -- Woodway, TX -- 15, 45-14 -- 0 -- $30,000
Day 1: 5, 13-13 -- Day 2: 5, 17-14 -- Day 3: 5, 14-03
5. Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, TN -- 15, 44-14 -- 0 -- $25,000
Day 1: 5, 16-06 -- Day 2: 5, 11-01 -- Day 3: 5, 17-07
6. Timmy Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 15, 44-13 -- 0 -- $22,000
Day 1: 5, 10-11 -- Day 2: 5, 17-14 -- Day 3: 5, 16-04
7. Dustin Wilks -- Rocky Mount, NC -- 15, 44-12 -- 0 -- $21,500
Day 1: 5, 16-09 -- Day 2: 5, 13-10 -- Day 3: 5, 14-09
8. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 15, 43-08 -- 0 -- $21,000
Day 1: 5, 16-03 -- Day 2: 5, 14-04 -- Day 3: 5, 13-01
9. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 15, 40-15 -- 0 -- $20,500
Day 1: 5, 09-09 -- Day 2: 5, 18-12 -- Day 3: 5, 12-10
10. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 15, 40-15 -- 0 -- $20,000
Day 1: 5, 14-13 -- Day 2: 5, 14-13 -- Day 3: 5, 11-05
11. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 15, 40-10 -- 0 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 11-00 -- Day 2: 5, 13-15 -- Day 3: 5, 15-11
12. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 15, 40-10 -- 0 -- $14,500
Day 1: 5, 13-14 -- Day 2: 5, 15-11 -- Day 3: 5, 11-01
13. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 15, 40-08 -- 0 -- $14,250
Day 1: 5, 16-08 -- Day 2: 5, 12-14 -- Day 3: 5, 11-02
14. Kevin Wirth -- Crestwood, KY -- 14, 40-08 -- 0 -- $14,000
Day 1: 4, 08-15 -- Day 2: 5, 15-05 -- Day 3: 5, 16-04
15. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 15, 39-03 -- 0 -- $13,750
Day 1: 5, 13-14 -- Day 2: 5, 09-14 -- Day 3: 5, 15-07
16. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 15, 38-14 -- 0 -- $13,000
Day 1: 5, 13-09 -- Day 2: 5, 15-01 -- Day 3: 5, 10-04
17. Davy Hite -- Ninety Six, SC -- 15, 38-08 -- 0 -- $12,900
Day 1: 5, 13-08 -- Day 2: 5, 12-14 -- Day 3: 5, 12-02
18. Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, KS -- 15, 38-05 -- 0 -- $12,800
Day 1: 5, 11-14 -- Day 2: 5, 15-10 -- Day 3: 5, 10-13
19. Matt Reed -- Madisonville, TX -- 15, 37-13 -- 0 -- $12,700
Day 1: 5, 14-08 -- Day 2: 5, 12-12 -- Day 3: 5, 10-09
20. Bobby Lane -- Lakeland, FL -- 12, 36-10 -- 0 -- $12,600
Day 1: 5, 16-04 -- Day 2: 5, 14-08 -- Day 3: 2, 05-14
21. Jamie Horton -- Centerville, AL -- 13, 34-15 -- 0 -- $12,400
Day 1: 5, 14-15 -- Day 2: 3, 09-00 -- Day 3: 5, 11-00
22. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 15, 34-08 -- 0 -- $12,300
Day 1: 5, 13-15 -- Day 2: 5, 09-14 -- Day 3: 5, 10-11
23. Chris Price -- Church Hill, MD -- 15, 34-00 -- 0 -- $12,200
Day 1: 5, 10-07 -- Day 2: 5, 13-10 -- Day 3: 5, 09-15
24. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, AR -- 14, 33-15 -- 0 -- $12,100
Day 1: 5, 11-03 -- Day 2: 5, 12-12 -- Day 3: 4, 10-00
25. Josh Polfer -- Nampa, ID -- 13, 29-05 -- 0 -- $12,000
Day 1: 5, 11-03 -- Day 2: 5, 13-01 -- Day 3: 3, 05-01