Being from the Sunshine State of Florida, you’d think that Major League Fishing angler Bobby Lane would be comfortable with warm, early autumn conditions.
After all, similar weather is what Lane enjoyed last year en route to beating the field and capturing the 2016 MLF Challenge Cup championship when it was staged in Lake County, Florida.
But while the veteran pro feels comfortable in the flip flops and shorts weather that October can bring to the southeastern U.S., Lane did admit that he feels different when talking about the fishing conditions of the same time period.
“Well, when you get a tough fishing situation like we’re dealt in the middle of October, and it doesn’t matter where you’re at, you’re never comfortable,” said Lane, a one time winner on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
And those conditions are, generally speaking, what most of this week’s MLF pros are expecting as the 2017 MLF Challenge Cup is contested on Lake Eufaula lying on the Alabama/Georgia line.
“If it’s going to be a grind (here), then yeah, I’m ready for it,” said Lane. “I was talking about this in a (TV) interview yesterday that when it’s tough, some guys might (almost) give up in the second period. But if you stay after it, you might get onto something that can explode in the third period.”
Sitting in his boat prepping tackle before the day began, Lane was planning on staying zoned in until the final buzzer sounds at the end of the third period.
“It’s chilly this morning, and while it will heat up later today, this is really the first cool weather that has come this way (this fall),” said Lane. “So who knows what will happen today?”
One thing that Lane is certain about is that on 45,181-acre Lake Eufaula – one of the more famous big bass lakes in the southeastern U.S. – there is no shortage of good looking spots to fish.
“Just sitting right here at the ramp, I see a lot of good stuff to fish already,” laughed Lane. “But it probably looks like that everywhere (here). So I think you’ve got to keep the trolling motor turned on and try to get keyed into something fairly early.”
While that’s important in many MLF derbies, it might be especially true here.
“You know that you’ve got to put some fish in the boat (early) because there is always a morning bite no matter where you’re at in the month of October,” said Lane. “It’s key to catch a couple first thing and then get something dialed in (as the day progresses).”
But as Lane has discovered on his journey to becoming a MLF champion, you don’t have to be up near the top of the leader all day, only at the end. Because very often, the third period is the difference maker in a day of MLF competition.
“You just don’t want to fall too far back where you can’t catch up,” he said. “It’s October and every bite is going to count.”
While Lane won last year when the 2016 MLF Challenge Cup was contested in the same month of October, he said that’s pretty much where any similarities end between his Florida MLF win a year ago and this week’s contest in east-central Alabama.
“The big difference (between central Florida and central Alabama) is the big depth change,” said Lane. “There’s 30, 40 foot of water out here I’m assuming.
“In Florida, the deepest water is often 10 feet,” he added. “Down there, you know where they are going to be, either inside the grass, somewhere around the edge of the grass, or around docks, stuff like that.
“That might be the case here today (once we get out there), but I haven’t been here in 10 years and I’ve never been here at this time of the year. But there’s (no question) that these two bodies of water from Florida to here in Alabama are completely different.”
That being said, Lane’s mission is unchanged from a year ago.
Find some fish, establish a pattern, climb up the SCORETRACKER LIVE! leaderboard and be standing on top when all is said and done.
“I hope I can figure a pattern out (pretty quickly) and stay with it all day,” said Lane.
The biggest question for Lane and the others to answer today might be where the fish are in their transition from summertime to fall patterns.
“There are going to be some deep fish (here), there are going to be some shallow fish,” he said. “It’s that time of the year when the fish are transitioning from summer to fall as the bait starts moving into the creeks.
“But it’s been very hot (until this morning) and the lake is low, you can tell that just by looking here behind us. That’s why I think it’s going to be key to catch a couple of fish early and get an idea of what’s going on with the conditions we’re dealt.”
If Lane has a worry today, it’s that somebody will gamble a bit, venture offshore and find a deep-water bass bite to capitalize on.
“That’s scary to me because I’m not a deep fisherman,” said Lane. “And just looking at the graph, this lake does have a lot of deep stuff to offer.”
As long as that scenario doesn’t play out, Lane expects to be in the mix by fishing a variety docks, rip-rap rocks and any vegetation that he discovers.
As he searches, his mind will be racing, trying to decipher what the fish want on this particular day.
“Major League Fishing has changed the way I fish completely,” said Lane. “It’s forced me to become a better fisherman when it comes to thinking.
“And you have to fish completely different (than we do on the Bassmaster Elite Series) since you aren’t just looking for the five biggest. But then again, you never know, because of where we’re fishing today, it’s possible that five good ones will outweigh 10 dinks.”
Especially when you’re nickname on the professional bass fishing circuits is Big Fish Bobby Lane.
But big fish or not, shallow water or deep and tough fishing or a slugfest, one thing remains true for Lane as he hits the water this week in Alabama.
And that’s his desire to retain that championship gleam in his eyes.
“Being here as the defending Challenge Cup champion, I’d love to win it again and take another trophy back home to Florida,” said Lane. “But there’s a lot of work to do and this is the first day of many (more) I hope.”