PARIS, Tenn. — Inching closer to the biggest win of his career, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bobby Lane was so excited he fell asleep on the water Friday. Twice.
For the third consecutive day, the Lakeland, Fla., pro relied on a unique approach at the SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph on Kentucky Lake, capitalizing on a productive morning bite and then spending the majority of his competition day defending his spot.
It's an interesting scenario indeed, and one that has played out perfectly for the 35-year-old pro to the tune of 80 pounds, 10 ounces, good enough for a near 9-pound advantage over 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., heading into the final day of competition.
"I took two naps for about an hour total. I was so bored playing the waiting game I couldn't stay awake," said Lane, who has been preserving the spot in hopes of making it a factor throughout the competition. "If I heard another engine coming close by I figured that would serve as my alarm clock."
Finally, Lane will have the opportunity to fully exploit his special spot Saturday. For the past three days, he fished his area for just more than an hour each morning and left more than 20 hours of competition time on the table. He has known all along that he is running the risk of other anglers finding the area and cashing in on it. But there will be no need to manage his fish Saturday, the final day of the event.
Friday played out much like the previous two days. Lane accumulated all of his weight — a 26-pound, 3-ounce limit — before 8 a.m. He spent the rest of the day protecting the location. He said he was so anxious at 1 p.m. that he went against his better judgment and threw three casts, landing three fish: a 2-, 3- and 5-pounder.
"Everything has been going my way this week," said Lane, who was an accomplished soccer player in high school. "As long as I can make a clean shot to my area Saturday, I should be able to catch what I need. I just can't wait to get out there tomorrow."
For Lane, a two-time Classic qualifier, it would be validation for a career that has produced a lot of top-notch finishes but few victories.
Furthermore, the win would be the result of a fishing style that isn't one of Lane's strengths: targeting ledges. A shallow-water specialist, Lane would score his first BASS victory and put himself in prime position to qualify for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.
Heading into Kentucky Lake, Lane was 31st in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. A top finish here should propel him into the top 15, a position that would put him in serious contention for the Bassmaster Elite Series inaugural postseason, the Toyota Trucks Championship Week, which will play out Sept. 10-18 on Alabama's Lake Jordan and Alabama River featuring the top 12 anglers in the AOY standings.
Although Lane is feeling a certain degree of comfort, he knows that closing the victory will be tough, especially considering Reese and four-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., are his closest competitors.
Reese, who jumped over VanDam into second place Friday, continued his impressive run with a three-day total of 71-14. He's looking at a similar situation to what occurred at the last Elite event, on Lake Guntersville. There, Reese was trailing by a wide margin going into the final day and was able to make a charge, but eventual champion Aaron Martens managed to narrowly escape with victory.
With little to lose, Reese is hoping to again put some pressure on a heavy favorite.
"I'm certainly not optimistic," said Reese, the 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. "But I will be happy if I can make Bobby sweat."
The 39-year-old Reese has been running and gunning around Kentucky this week, visiting nearly 20 spots. He is primarily throwing a crankbait and mixing in a new Berkley bait, a 12-inch power worm, to considerable success.
With Reese and VanDam again neck and neck in this week's tournament standings, the two will stretch their lead on the rest of the field in the 2009 Toyota Tundra Basssmaster Angler of the Year standings. And, if they hold their places through Saturday, they will be tied in the AOY standings with just two regular-season events remaining.