By Joel Shangle - July 12, 2018
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Florida – In the weeks heading into the 2018 General Tire World Championship, it would’ve been difficult to bet against Bobby Lane. Besides being the defending World Champion, Lane was born, raised, and learned how to fish in the bass lakes around his hometown of Lakeland, Florida.
That’s roughly 100 miles away from Stick Marsh and Farm 13, the hallowed Florida fishery that will host the final Elimination Round of the year.
Lane, though, says that viewers will see an even match among himself, Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli, Aaron Martens and Mike McClelland when the round premiers on CBS-TV this Saturday (2 p.m. EDT).
“I don’t have any advantage,” Lane insists. “The last time I fished Stick Marsh was years ago, and that was crappie fishing with my wife and kids. I’ve never really had reason to get familiar with Stick Marsh – I just fish the lakes around (Lakeland).”
The official line on Lane
At least one local veteran – MLF Select angler J.T. Kenney, who lives in nearly Palm Bay and fishes Stick Marsh and Farm 13 regularly – says that Lane’s “advantage” is in his familiarity with the fish, not the fishery.
“It’ll be pretty hard for me to bet against Bobby, not just on Stick Marsh, but anywhere in Florida,” says Kenney. “That whole group of anglers is pretty stout – I could see any of them winning, really – but Bobby just knows Florida bass. Even if he’s never fished Stick Marsh before, he understands better than anybody how a weather change will affect fish, and where they position throughout a day. He’ll just be tough to beat.”
Can Iaconelli finally defeat Florida?
Of the five anglers in this Elimination Round, Iaconelli has been the most vocal about his goal of “beating Florida.”
Only four of Iaconelli’s 108 Top 20s in his 26-year B.A.S.S. career have come in the Sunshine State (two in 2002, one in 2004 and one in 2011), and two of his worst finishes (124th and 131st in Eastern Invitationals) have occurred in Florida tournaments.
“Florida has been tough on me, man” Iaconelli admitted. “It’s one of the areas of the country that I legitimately struggle with, and I’d really, really like to ‘beat’ Florida. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to compete for the World Championship, but one of my main goals in this competition has been to get a little revenge on Florida.”
Overcoming the Carryover Cushion
Iaconelli and Martens enter Elimination with significant head starts, thanks to the weights they carry over from their individual Shotgun Rounds. Iaconelli scaled 58 pounds, 13 ounces, while Martens caught 55-12. Those are significant leads over Lane (46-12), McClelland (40-14) and VanDam (27-15) for the two remaining spots in Sudden Death.
Will Stick Marsh show out?
While several good largemouth were recorded on SCORETRACKER in Elimination Round 1 on Stick Marsh – Takahiro Omori caught a 6-10, Greg Hackney a 6-7 – we have yet to see a true Florida giant at the World Championship.
“We’re in Florida in February,” says VanDam, spreading his hands apart to approximate a huge fish. “Bobby has the current MLF record with, what, 8-5? I’ll be shocked if we leave here and that record hasn’t been broken.”