By Todd Ceisner
Bobby Lane struggled so badly during the first period of the Shotgun Round of the Bass Pro Tour Redcrest that he and Jordan Lee made a friendly bet over whose camera man would be reassigned to another boat quicker that day.
Turns out, Lane’s camera man was pulled after the first period with Lee’s heading to another competitor’s boat midway through the second.
“That how bad it was here,” Lane said, recounting his disappointing 30th-place finish in the inaugural championship event that he expected to be a factor in.
Coming off a season that saw him finish ninth in points and collect two top-10 finishes, Lane was upbeat about heading to La Crosse, Wis., where he’d posted three top-25 finishes in four previous Elite Series tournaments there. He had a ton of experience on Pool 8, where the Shotgun, Elimination and Knockout rounds were held, so it’s easy to understand Lane’s optimism coming in.
Instead, it was a stunningly difficult grind for the Floridian. In two days of competition, he didn’t catch more than three bass in any one period and finished with 24-13 (13 bass). Over the same two days, there were seven instances of other anglers catching more than 24-13 in a single period.
Lane wasn’t the only big name to struggle. Lee wound up 25th, Ott DeFoe was 26th and Aaron Martens finished 27th.
“When a guy like Aaron calls me and says, ‘Bro, I can’t believe it,’ you know it was bad,” Lane said. “We weren’t the favorites, but I’d say we were in the top 10 as far as favorites go because of our styles, which are different when fishing here.”
Not a Good Start
Lane said his two-day practice session was only so-so, partly because he got caught up trying to see many of the areas he’d fished in the past and “spent too much time running around and checking too many things too fast,” he said.
His best-case scenario was likely catching 10 to 15 fish for 20 to 30 pounds per day, which still would have left him shy of the top-20 cut, which wound up being 70-11.
“When practice was over, I feel like I’d found some fish and if they bit, I’d be able to survive,” Lane said. “The way the weights were, even if those fish would’ve bit, I still don’t think I would’ve made the top 20. At best, I’d have been 10 pounds short.”
Reality started to set in right away in the Shotgun Round.
“When I rolled into my first spot on day 1 and made a pass down my best stretch, I caught one smallmouth for 1-3,” he said. “I said, ‘Oh man.” It was no big deal because my second spot was a frog spot and I figured I would catch five or six fish. I spent two hours there and caught two fish. That’s when I knew I was in serious trouble.”
The third area he went to was a big mat where he got numerous bites on a frog and flipping in practice. He figured he could use it as a fallback option.
“I went in there during the third period and it almost became amusing that I never caught one,” he said. “It was like the joke was on me. I frogged the mat to the point that I threw every three inches of that mat for two hours and never caught a bass. I knew there were that many in there (from practice). I was convinced one would bite and it would light up.”
Chance to Bounce Back
Lane did what most anglers do after struggling for an entire day: He visited new areas the next day, hoping for different results. It was more of the same, though.
“I still never ran into them,” he said. “I caught the same amount of fish and weight. I knew from experience that I could go back and catch ‘em and catch ‘em because there’s that many fish up here. It seemed like the more I stayed in an area, the worse it got.”
Even after being eliminated and watching how the first group of competitors in the Knockout Round were attacking certain areas, Lane was even more confused.
“I’m watching guys on Live frogging and swim jigging like I was,” he said. “I don’t think I would’ve done anything different. I didn’t feel like I missed anything, especially after watching guys now. I was throwing a white swim jig and had bites on it in practice. I had bites on a frog. I’m not kicking myself, but I’m laughing because this is unbelievable to watch. I fished the same areas with the same grass. I just was not catching fish.”
His poor showing at Redcrest didn’t sour an otherwise dynamic season for Lane. He qualified for three of the four MLF Cups, including the two to be filmed this fall and he has a positive outlook on the future of the Bass Pro Tour.
“This tournament is over for me and it was great to be here,” he said. “I didn’t catch ‘em. That’s obvious, but it has nothing to do with my season.
“I honestly believe we are very close to putting some pages into this era of fishing and I truly believe with a few things tweaked that we have something super great in front of us. I’m a guy who loves to fish. I didn’t get into pro bass fishing because I love to run my mouth into a mic or get up in front of people to tell them how things work. I love to catch bass and there is never a better feeling than when you get on a good bite and can catch as many as you want to.”