By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Anybody who follows professional bass fishing closely knows that there's probably no angler in the sport who rides momentum harder than Chris Lane. When "Big Mo" is on his side, he's a threat to win every time out. When it's not, he's a fixture on the bottom portion of standings sheets.
At the moment, Big Mo is treating him quite rudely. In three Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments this year, the 2012 Classic winner has yet to record even a double-digit finish and sits second from the bottom in the Angler of the Year race.
An extreme optimist might point out that at least his placements are getting progressively better – he went from 105th at Cherokee to 103rd at Okeechobee to 100th at Toledo Bend. That, of course, would be silly when discussing a guy who recorded wins in three successive seasons and several other near-misses after his Classic triumph at the Red River.
He's been down before – he briefly considered quitting the sport after a miserable 2010 campaign – and scrambled his way back up. Now he'll have to do it again and, although he'd like it to happen right away, he'd be content with gradual improvement.
"In your mind, you want to say it's going to take a win or at least a top 12 to get it turned around, but I have to keep things in perspective," he said. "Just fishing on a Saturday (which would result from being among the top 50 after the first two days of an Elite event) would be a good start.
"Being back in contention to win would put more fuel on the fire, but I have to start the fire first. I'm ready, but I can't force the issue."
Lane wasn't overly concerned about his Cherokee showing, as it was an unfamiliar venue with a lot of variables in play. Okeechobee, in his native Florida, and Toledo Bend were other matters entirely, however. He's enjoyed a great deal of success at both of those places.
He was the runner-up to Kevin VanDam at Toledo Bend just last year, when he averaged more than 22 pounds per day. His daily average this time was about 8 pounds.
"I was fired up to go back there and in practice I got some stuff dialed in to get some bigger bites," he said. "I got those bites , but I lost three or four good fish the first day, including one 4 1/2-pounder that threw my jerkbait back at my boat and one giant that I couldn't turn. Then I lost a 7-plus on a topwater the second day.
"If I'd landed those fish, we wouldn't be having this discussion, but you can't blame missed fish because they happen to everybody. What I need to do right now is be around more of them or figure them out better."
He said that today's Elite Series field doesn't allow anglers to get away with missteps in either decision-making or execution.
"Back seven or eight years ago, you could maybe hope that guys didn't catch them good that day, but now you can't think that because you know somebody's going to catch them good every day. If you don't rip them either day, you're going to be down at the bottom."
Doesn't Dwell on It
Lane insists that it's not terribly difficult to avoid negative thoughts about his slump when he's competing – at least until the end of a tournament day gets near and he confronts the prospect of having to carry another underweight sack to the weigh-in stage.
"When you're doing well, you don't think about (momentum) at all, you just go out and do your job," he said. "To be dead honest, I don't think about it now until maybe the last 30 minutes (prior to check-in) when I'm like, 'Man, this is not good.'
"I know I'm going to have to do an interview about why I suck so bad and I'm going to have to try to answer that question. I think that part of it is probably the hardest to deal with."
He gives a lot of credit to brother-in-law Rick Mottern, whom he refers to as his coach, for helping him maintain a decent attitude through this ordeal. Lane said that Mottern, who runs a couple of insurance agencies in Atlanta and frequently conducts large-scale meetings for agents from around the country, is "a great motivational guy and a big part of my support team."
Last week, Mottern challenged Lane to go out on Lake Guntersville, where he resides, and catch 20 keepers (fish measuring 15 inches or greater). If he couldn't do it, he'd owe Mottern $500. There were no stipulations on the timeframe, so he fished for a total of about 8 hours over a couple of days while juggling family responsibilities.
"If I didn't go out and do my job, I'd lose money, which is the same thing that happens at a tournament," he said. "I wanted to reach that goal, and I did – it felt good to rip 3- and 4-pounders and catch a lot of quality fish.
"I felt like that might've gotten the fire started."