By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Bobby Lane was one of several MLF Bass Pro Tour anglers who excelled on both that trail and the MLF Pro Circuit in 2021. Switching back and forth between the BPT's catch-all-you-can structure and the Pro Circuit's traditional five-fish limit format proved to be no problem.
"I really enjoyed fishing both sides," the veteran from Florida said. "I like the diversity – it's the best of both worlds."
He posted three 2nd-place finishes – two on the BPT (Lake Travis and the Harris Chain) and another on the Pro Circuit (the TITLE Championship at the Mississippi River) – and added a 4th-place showing in the Pro Circuit event at Lake Eufaula. He ended up 10th on the final BPT points list and 16th on the Pro Circuit side.
"The only thing that's totally different is I take my Frabill net and my scales and culling tags out of the boat (for BPT tournaments)," he said. "Maybe I might explore up shallow a little bit more than I would with a five-fish limit when the fish get up there and start biting. If I catch four on a (Berkley Frittside crankbait) going down a bank, I'll turn around and go back through skipping a wacky rig trying to get two or three more, whereas in a five-fish I'd just keep going because I'm already one from a limit.
"Fishing both, I learned so much more about all my rods and reels and tackle because I have to have confidence in everything I pick up. When the ScoreTracker is lighting up (on the BPT), it makes me fish more methodically because 2-pounders are pretty important all of a sudden. If you catch one 5-pounder, that's good, but if it takes you an hour to catch another one you've lost all your ground.
"The guys who catch the best five in an all-you-can-catch aren't going to end up far from where they would be otherwise," he added.
Big Ones Still Critical
The presence of the Heavy Hitters event on the BPT schedule causes anglers to seek out at least one oversized bite in each tournament. An angler's heaviest single fish from each event is tabulated into a season-long total and the Top 30 out of the 80 competitors qualify for the next year's Heavy Hitters, which this year will be held in April at Lake Palestine in Texas.
Lane was the last angler to get into this year's version with a 31-01 total across seven tournaments, beating out John Cox and Kevin VanDam by 5 ounces. His qualification was the result of a calculated decision in the final event at Lake St. Clair.
"I knew I wasn't going to make the Top 10 fishing up the river, but I knew there was a good chance to get a 5-plus (pound) fish up there and I caught a 5.5 smallmouth on a (Berkley) 4.25 Flat Worm," he said. "Practicing on the lake, I hadn't caught anything over 4 pounds and I knew that wouldn't get me in.
"One big fish does so much for you, as it has for years in so many tournaments. When you look at the payout for that thing (Heavy Hitters offers prizes up to $100,000 for individual fish in addition to the tournament purse), it's something you want to be in."
Educational Opportunity Awaits
Fishing both trails this year will be a bit more hectic than it was in 2021 due to some longer trips, but Lane said that will be offset by his family's ability to come along more often. The youngest of his three children is now 12.
"The Texas-Oklahoma area is loaded with big bass and we'll go there this month (for this week's Pro Circuit opener at Sam Rayburn Reservoir) and next month (the BPT kicks off at Lake Fork in mid-February), and then back again in April. I'll get to learn some of the Midwest waters from mid-winter all the way through the spawn and postspawn, which is a good thing. I'm excited to learn that part of it.
"I'm 47 years old and I absolutely love bass fishing. My family will get to travel with me a little bit this year and it'll be a lot better. When you're gone for a month, then you come home for a week, then you're gone for another month, it's tough.
"I just want to put myself in position to win the most money that I can," he concluded.