Florida Angler’s Win Launches His Full-Time Fishing Career

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – Less than two weeks ago, Chris Lane quit his job as a salesman so he could concentrate on fishing. The decision is starting to look like a good one: On Saturday, Lane won the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour on Lake Okeechobee.

Lane, of Winter Haven , Fla., dominated the final day of competition to put together the winning weight of 54 pounds, 12 ounces. He bested fellow Floridian Terry Scroggins by more than 6 pounds.

Lane said his decision to quit his job will allow him to fish the prestigious CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series next year. A BASS fishing career for Lane builds on a family tradition: His father, Robert, and two brothers, Arnie and Bobby, also fish BASS tournaments.

“This win means a whole lot to me,” the 30-year-old pro said. “For the past three months, I have been working non-stop to make my dream happen, and the money has been tight. But this win makes things easier on my family and me. It’s just a total blessing.”

Lane said he threw a Gambler cane toad to bring in most of his final-day weight of 21 pounds, 10 ounces. The prize bass of his bag, a 7-9 lunker, fell for a Gambler otter flipped into thick cover.

Although he lost a bass he estimated to be about 8 pounds, he was able to boat all the fish needed to win the $26,100 cash prize and a fully rigged Triton boat valued at $45,000.

Scroggins, whose total weight was 48 pounds, lamented that he couldn’t duplicate his first-day lead. The Palatka, Fla., native has made a name for himself on Florida fisheries, including a 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Tour win on Okeechobee, but Friday and Saturday, his spots didn’t produce.

“I should have listened to Chris (Lane) today because he told me what to do,” a frustrated Scroggins said. “But I fished all new water and couldn’t get them to bite.”

Still, Scroggins is considered a favorite in next month’s $1.2 million 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic. And there are 500,000 reasons for Scroggins to refocus and forget about his tough loss on the Big “O.”

“I hope it’s going to turn on to a flipping bite because, if so, I will be hard to beat,” the Elite Series pro said.

Behind Lane and Scroggins were Shawn Johnson of Jacksonville, Fla. (46-4), second-day leader James Niggemeyer of Lindale, Texas (45-6); and Mark Lamb of West Palm Beach, Fla. (44-11).

The Florida domination continued on the co-angler side. Bruce Kane of Sunny Isles, Fla., won a Triton boat prize valued at $30,000 with his 26 pounds, 14 ounces of bass. Following Kane was Georgian Heath Pack (24-15), Louisiana’s Mark Richard (24-1), and Floridians Robert Dice (23-0) and Phillip Lee (22-10).

Texan Brian Penso kicked the day off on an interesting note. The Houston, Texas, angler launched his boat mistakenly with another local tournament that was in close proximity. According to BASS tournament manager Chris Bowes, Penso sacrificed Saturday’s catch, but was still eligible for the prize money for his 39th place finish.

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

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