CELEBRATION, Fla. Considering that no angler has ever won a Bassmaster Classic held in their homestate, some might find Russ Lane's position as the homestate favorite in the upcoming 37th Bassmaster Classic to be uncomfortable.
Along with fellow Alabama Elite Series pro Boyd Duckett, Lane is considered a pre-tournament favorite for the 2007 Classic Feb. 23-25 in Birmingham, Ala. But Lane is just fine with the label as he has had considerable tournament success in late winter/early spring tournaments on Lay Lake - the 2007 Classic waters- and other Coosa River impoundments.
"I've definitely been hearing that from everybody," said Lane of the pre-Classic favorite label. "I know Lay Lake pretty well. I've had a lot of success on that lake, especially that time of year.
"If I had to pick a place and time of year to fish the Bassmaster Classic, that's where and when it would be."
With the favorite position comes a boatload of pressure to perform up to expectations. Just ask past pre-Classic heavy favorites like South Carolina angler Jason Quinn, who battled heavy boat traffic on his way to a sixth-place finish on his home waters of Lake Wylie at the 2004 Classic. But Lane doesn't sound at all troubled by such hype.
"I'm having a ball with all of it right now," he said. "There's really nothing to deal with.
"To me it's just another tournament. Anglers like Kevin Van Dam, [Mike] Iaconelli, [Terry] Scroggins, and all the big-name guys are going to come here and it's not going to be anything they haven't seen before. I really don't think that there's that much advantage to knowing the lake that much better than anybody else.
"I just hope things go right and I can have a good showing."
If Lane does buck the trend and become the first homestate pro to win the world-championship event, it would be a giant step in a career that has progressed steadily in just over two years.
Since giving up a career as a minor-league baseball player with big-league dreams, Lane qualified for the 2004 Classic through the BASS Federation Nation (finishing 21st in the Wylie Classic). He then qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2006 and made the 2007 Classic by finishing in a respectable 15th place in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
During the 2006 Bassmaster Elite Series season, visiting media members and those who cover the circuit regularly have been able to work in style, thanks to the finest and most technologically advanced media center in the fishing tournament business.
The new media center is a self-contained 18-foot trailer that traveled to the majority of the 11 Elite Series events and all three Bassmaster Majors. With its expandable slide-out, it is 14 feet in width and capable of giving up to 18 working media members a comfortable and high-tech place to work. The 18,000-pound unit features high-speed Internet connections at each workspace, along with a satellite system, flat screen television, refrigerator and more.
"We've come a long way from the days of the old Bluebird bus to this," said James (Pooley) Dawson, a winner of the 2005 BASS Lifetime Achievement Award who came out of retirement to tow the media center all over the country in 2006 and 2007. "All the writers had to cram into one little end of the bus. Now they've got access to office space. Everybody's got their own cubicles and their own phone and Internet connection.
"It's amazing to think how far we've come. This sport has become so big that this type of media center was really needed."
Pointing The Way
In addition to being talented anglers, Bassmaster Elite Series pros are true road warriors. Those that fished the Elite Series and Majors in 2006 put in countless hours and some logged as much as 40,000 to 50,000 miles on the road.
Many, like Florida Elite Series pro Shaw Grigsby, say they would be lost without a quality navigational unit that uses GPS to point the way, as well as providing a wide variety of information. His unit of choice is a Lowrance iWAY 600c.
When BASS sponsor Lowrance, a world-leader in marine electronics since 1957 and GPS navigational systems since 1992, introduced the iWAY 600c portable navigator, it took a whole new direction in utility and value. It is the first portable navigation device to offer dual routing capability, which allows users to navigate both highways and waterways.
The iWAY 600c is an intuitive GPS navigation device featuring a 5-inch diagonal, high-resolution color touch-screen display, plus multimedia extras that include a built-in MP3 player, full-spectrum FM transmitter and JPEG picture viewer. The waterproof iWAY 600c, with its spacious 30GB internal hard drive, comes preloaded with comprehensive NAVTEQ digital map data of the USA and Canada, plus electronic charts with depth contours for U.S. inland lakes, Great Lakes and coastal waters. Plus, users have access to the enormous NAVTEQ Points-of-Interest database, which includes over 5.5 million high-interest destinations such as restaurants, hotels, leisure facilities and gas stations.
For more information, log onto www.lowrance.com
Bassmaster Elite Series angler James Kennedy has high hopes for the 2007 season and they go beyond his passion for fishing.
The Louisiana pro is hoping to qualify for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic through his performance on the 2007 Elite Series, and will compete next year with a boat wrap that will pay homage to the city of New Orleans.
His boat will be decorated with a logo that reads, "Bring back New Orleans", as well as paintings of the Creole Queen, a famous paddleboat based in New Orleans, and the Louisiana Superdome. Both are cultural icons in the Big Easy.
"My mother-in-law lost her whole house to Hurricane Katrina and I had a few friends lose their houses as well," Kennedy said. "If the wrap makes an impression on just five people, it's worth it."
Did you know?
Considering the number of homestate anglers in the upcoming Classic, Alabama stands a good chance of having one of its anglers win the championship event. There are now nine Alabama pros in this Classic since Derek Remitz, a qualifier from the Bassmaster Northern Tour, moved from Texas to Madison, Ala., recently.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro
James Niggemeyer, a Classic rookie, would have all sorts of options. First, he has a college degree in art. In recent years, he has worked as a guide on Texas' Lake Fork.
"I also worked for my dad," the transplanted California pro said. "He's in retail shoes. He's got a couple of stores and has been in the shoe business for 30-something years. He gave me the freedom to get out and fish tournaments, and chase the dream. At the same time, it was still limited, and I still worked quite a bit."
They said it
"When I first came up, I tried to fit in. I really tried to look at what was the norm in fishing, everything from the way the pros dressed to how they presented themselves. I tried the humble, 'aw, shucks' routine. But after a while, I just figured I had to be myself. I still have a lot of Philly in me, and that's nothing I'm ashamed of. What's exciting about bass fishing today is that people from all backgrounds are getting together to make the sport grow." Reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year Michael Iaconelli recalled the evolution of his controversial style for the Kansas City Star.