KISSIMMEE, Fla. —
Mobility and versatility were the keys ingredients for Lakeland, Fla., pro Bobby Lane who completed the wire-to-wire win at the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open at Big Lake Toho Marina with a three-day total weight of 60 pounds.
After buoying his performance with a massive Thursday limit of 31 pounds, 7 ounces, Lane entered Friday with a 10 1/2-pound lead. Adding 10-9 pushed him to 42 even, with a 12-pound lead going into the final round. Saturday saw Lane slam the door shut by nabbing his third limit catch, this one totaling 18 pounds and leaving him with a 12-pound, 5-ounce winning margin.
“From start to finish, this has been amazing,” said Lane, who notched his first win since winning a 2009 Elite Series event on Kentucky Lake. “It was my time to catch a big sack. I’ve been so close before.
“To have grown up on Lake Kissimmee and Cypress, Hatchineha and Toho and to have my family here, it means the world to me. Man, this has been a long time coming.”
Thursday and Friday saw Lane locking down to Lake Kissimmee, where his first-round catch included a 9-pounder and an 8-7. Both of these fish qualified for Florida’s TrophyCatch program, which recognizes photo release largemouth bass of 8 pounds or more.
Lane said he would have preferred another shot at this chain’s southernmost lake, but the shorter Day 3 schedule, plus windier conditions, made him adjust his game plan.
“I couldn’t get down to Kissimmee because you run out of time on Day 3,” he said. “I didn’t want to take any chances, especially with the weather.
“I fished Lake Hatchineha, caught a few decent ones early and then the bite just quit on me. I ran into Toho at noon and ended up catching three quality fish.”
With the Kissimmee Chain unsettled by fluctuating temperatures before the tournament, plus a cold front arriving the afternoon on Friday, Lane mostly targeted hydrilla in 2 to 4 feet. The dense habitat allowed fish to move in and out with changing weather, while remaining in the same general area.
Lane caught his Day 3 fish on a 3/4-ounce Duel Hardcore lipless crankbait, a Texas-rigged Berkley Powerbait Max Scent The General stickworm and a Berkley Powerbait Max Scent Creature Hawk. With all of his presentations, Lane said his SpiderWire braid played a critical role in getting his fish out of the thick vegetation.
“I got nine keeper bites today, as opposed to 20 yesterday and 30 the day before,” he said. “I fished clean today and that’s what it takes to win one of these.”
Lane also won the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash Award of $500 for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible and uses a client-approved product on his boat.
Brandon Lester or Fayetteville, Tenn., finished second with 47-11. The Elite Series pro said the key to his success was making a key adjustment from fishing a popper around lily pads, to punching into the cover.
“What I’ve learned is that when you’re catching them around the edges of those pads and they stop biting, a lot of times, they’ve moved up under those pads,” Lester said. “That’s when you can punch in there and catch them.”
Drew Cook of Midway, Fla., finished third with 43-3.
Garrett Rocamora of Lithia, Fla., won the $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award for the 9-pound, 3-ounce fish he caught on Thursday.
In the co-angler division, Steve Robbins of Piketon, Ohio, made the most of his first Florida fishing experience by claiming his own wire-to-wire win with a three-day total of 26-8.
“I came down here with a buddy of mine who talked me into fishing this with him, and it’s been a great experience,” Robbins said. “I caught an 8-pound, 1-ounce bass — the biggest bass I’ve caught in my life — on Thursday and that was awesome.”
Robbins caught his fish on Senkos, a Keitech Mag Wag swimming worm and a bladed swim jig.
Tony Sears of Dahlonega, Ga., earned the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award for his 9-pound, 4-ounce bass.
The Kissimmee Sports Commission hosted the event.