Published: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 7:10 p.m.
Bobby Lane of Lakeland is riding a wave of confidence heading into the Bassmaster Classic on Friday in Louisiana.
Lane is coming off a third-place finish in the Bassmaster Southern Open Series on the Harris Chain two weeks ago.
“Little things like that keep you rolling,” Lane said.
And he was the surprise of the 2008 Classic on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, contending for the title before finishing fourth in his first appearance.
“My confidence is sky-high,” Lane said.
The 34-year-old is one of the favorites for the three-day championship that opens the Elite Series season, according to a couple of insiders at Bassmaster.com.
James Overstreet, an ESPN Outdoors photographer, said, “Lane is fearless and has never been intimidated by the field since joining the Elite Series.”
Alan Clemons, an editor for ESPN Outdoors, said, “This old river rat may not be on anyone’s radar, but he’ll be confident in these conditions, most likely with a jig in his hands.”
Lane said he put together a solid pattern during the three-day practice on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City last weekend.
“I had a decent practice. It wasn’t phenomenal. But it wasn’t horrible,” Lane said. “I feel good that at least I have a game plan for a tournament this size.”
Bass are preparing for the spawn in the bays, pockets and oxbows off the river channel, and that plays to Lane’s advantage after growing up on Lake Kissimmee.
“It doesn’t have all the knick-knacks that Florida has, but it’s definitely a shallow-water fishery, so that helps my chances of doing well for sure,” said Lane, describing the area as chock-full of tree stumps.
“You don’t have to figure out where to catch them. You just have to figure out how to catch them,” he said.
The wild-card factor in this year’s Classic is the weather, which is expected to be around 30 degrees at take-off each morning and only reach the low 50s.
“These river fish are used to this cold weather, so I don’t think it’s going to hurt the fishing tremendously,” Lane said.
BOYD, TROTT WINNERSIN BFL EVENT AT HARRIS
Wyatt Boyd of Winter Haven won the Gator Division tournament on the Harris Chain Saturday going away, with a five-fish limit totaling 27 pounds, 9 ounces.
And Adam Trott of Lakeland posted a 20-pound, 10-ounce stringer to take top honors in the co-angler division. Trott, the only Polk co-angler in the top 25, claimed big-bass honors with an 8-pound, 7-ounce fish.
Boyd won by almost 6 pounds over Lee McCracken of Ocala, who weighed in 21 pounds, 10 ounces including a 9 3/4-pounder, the top bass in the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League tournament.
Boyd earned $4,163 and ranks eighth in the point standings, putting him in good position to advance to the regional Oct. 15-17 at Clarks Hill Lake in Georgia.
Will Evans of Polk City finished 12th with 17 pounds, 14 ounces, while Darrell Cranor of Lakeland had 14 pounds, 11 ounces to finish 19th and move up to fourth in points.
HULS TALKS FLIPPING
John Huls will be the featured speaker at a Lakeland Bassmasters seminar on Feb. 27 at Cleveland Heights.
Huls will hold the free seminar, open to the public, on “Flipping and Pitching Techniques” at 7:30 p.m.
Check the club’s Web site at www.lakelandbassmasters.org, or call Robert Chencinski at 863-640-3249.
FRITTS EARNS FLW WIN
David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., won the FLW Tour season-opener on Lake Guntersville in northeast Alabama on Sunday.
With 38 pounds, 1 ounce over the final two days, Fritts edged Sam Newby of Oklahoma by 1 pound, 1 ounce.
Fritts, a crankbait expert, was casting a Rapala DT-10 in the Hot Mustard and Shad patterns with VMC Sure Set treble hooks in the North Sauty Creek area.
Judy Israel of Wimauma was the top co-angler, the second time she has won on the FLW Tour level.
Israel, 63, won with 17 pounds, 11 ounces.
She also won the co-angler title on the Atchafalaya Basin in 2004.
JUNIOR CLUB CHAMPS
William Murphy was named angler of the year for the Lakeland Junior Bassmasters in the 11-14 age group, while Dustin Bozeman was the top co-angler.
In the 15-18 division, Tyler Crowell was angler of the year, while Corey Llewellyn was the co-angler.
Zack Howlett was named sportsman of the year.
Matt Sparrowhawk’s Team Basshawks produced two bass over 10 pounds and won the Good Ol’ Boys tournament on the south Winter Haven chain with 32 3/4 pounds. Sparrowhawk and his partner boated a 10-pound, 11-ounce bass and a 10-pound, 5-ounce lunker.
Bruce Vann and Larry Payne compiled a 31 1/4-pound stringer to win the benefit bass tournament for Jacob Ellis on the Kissimmee Chain Sunday. Larry anchored their bag with a 9.90-pounder. Ricky Helms and Jackie Fisher took second with 17.05 pounds.
James and Rita Pearson dominated the West Coast Couples tournament on Crooked Lake Saturday with 23.35 pounds, including James’ 6.89-pounder for big-fish honors. Bedford and Holly Wortham finished second with 12.61 pounds, followed by Barry and Wendy Norton (12.57), Tracy and Evelyn Parker (12.37) and Tom and Tracy Spicola (11.55).
Lee Sisson needed only 12 pounds to win the Lakeland Bassmasters tournament on Lake Okeechobee Sunday. Jason Bayes placed second with 11.63 pounds, while John Hendry had 11.61 pounds for third. Mark Craig took fourth with 10.33 pounds, and fifth went to David Glenn with 10.15 pounds. Steve Crowley and Mark Eschliman tied for big-fish honors at 4.68 pounds.
Steve Coleman won the Lakeland Hawg Hunters tournament on the Harris Chain Sunday with 10 1/4 pounds, including the biggest bass at 5 pounds, 15 ounces. Barry Edie finished second with 10 pounds, while Bill Reus was third with 9 1/4 pounds.
Doc Swango and Ron Dunham teamed up to win the Camp Lester tournament series for January and February with a two-day total of 14.92 pounds to earn $400. John and Wendy Taylor netted the biggest bass, 4.15 pounds.
Ron Dunham netted the biggest bass of 5.49 pounds and won the Polk County Bass and Snook Club tournament on Lake Kissimmee Saturday with 9.44 pounds. George Brown placed second with 6.93 pounds. Joe Markovitz had 5.51 pounds for third.
Steve Crowley won the Central Florida Bassmasters tournament on Lake Toho with 18.60 pounds. Terry Boils was second (9.20).
[ Del Milligan’s freshwater fishing column appears Thursdays in The Ledger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7555. Milligan’s blog, Central Florida Fishology, can be found at theledger.com home page.]
Till next time tight lines and good fishing….