Alabama pro Chris Lane made his first ever Bass Pro Tour Championship Round appearance during the 2023 season opener on the Kissimmee Chain in Florida. Not only did he crack his first BPT Top 10, Lane took home the win on waters he’s extremely familiar with.
Though the Mercury Pro Team angler lives in Guntersville, Alabama, Lane is a native Floridian who’s spent countless hours fishing almost every inch of the Kissimmee Chain. Unlike many anglers over the decades who’ve fallen to the “home lake curse,” Lane’s encyclopedic knowledge of Lake Kissimmee and his understanding of Florida bass and the nuances of coaxing bites from this heavily pressured fishery gave him the juice to take home the big red trophy and $100,000 payday.
“Honestly, my win was just textbook old-school fishing,” Lane admitted. “I used my knowledge of these waters to focus on areas I knew in the past held larger bass. Of course, things can change in a fishery over the years, but fishing areas that I knew had the potential to produce 8-pound plus bass were my focus – although never did catch a really big bass like that.”
The first two days of the event left Lane scratching his head, thanks to handful of stumbles and no truly giant bass to show for his efforts.
“Day 1 was a tough bite,” Lane admitted. “Catching a 6-pounder was a big deal, and I stayed where I thought I’d get a better bite, in a place where I shook one off in practice. Never happened. On Day 2, I changed up and fished new water, but I missed opportunities for bigger bass due to my own mistakes, wrong casts, bad positioning. But on that day, I switched to 20-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS Fluorocarbon and that helped a lot with getting bass out of the heavy cover. They’re really strong this time of the year.”
Focusing on big fish influenced the areas that Lane fished throughout the tournament. He explored the mouth of Kissimmee Lake, but found it to be cold, rough and windy – not what he was looking for in his pursuit of bigger largemouth.
“I knew where to go with the wind,” Lane said. “This probably sounds cliché, but I was not concerned about catching 3-pounders, I was looking for big giants. I put myself in position to catch bigger fish. I’m shocked I didn’t catch a big fish like an 8- or 9-pounder with all the 4- and 5-pounders I did catch.”
Lane’s approach was as classic as it gets for Florida bass fishing in February. He pitched a Bass Pro Shops Stik-O Worm to various kinds isolated vegetation (though he did catch a few on a River2Sea Lane Changer topwater). His approach was old school but effective; knowing where to go on Kissimmee – especially since the final day was on Saturday and the recreational anglers were out in force – was the key that allowed Lane to surmount the 12-pound cushion that Knockout Round leader Mark Davis had over Lane heading into the Championship Round.
“I think these fish feel a lot of pressure,” Lane said. “There are so many fish on the bank, and people are out there catching them. A lot of them. I focused on areas and targets that were a little further off the bank and isolated. I knew quality bites would mainly be further away from shore. It wasn’t deep water, never really over 3 feet, but staying away from the crowds and other anglers was very important. And I was fishing some history, from the years of being on the water there.”
Lane’s ability to read the cover and be super stealthy were also key components to his success.
“I fished fast – if I didn’t get a bite, I’d move on,” Land said. “I fished with the wind so I could make accurate casts and pitches. I made longer casts in calmer conditions and shorter pitches in windier locations. I definitely tried to use stealth to my advantage (so the fish) didn’t know I was coming. Having Power-Poles and the Power-Pole Move trolling motor made that possible.”