Sweet Home Florabama for Chris Lane, 2012 Bassmaster Champ

Chris Lane celebrates with Holly and the kids at the 2012 Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport-Bossier City, LA. Photo by Seigo Saito for B.A.S.S.

This week Florida Sportsman caught up with Chris Lane, winner of the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. Chris, 36, is the younger brother of five-time Bassmaster qualifier Bobby Lane. A third brother, Arnie, is also a tournament force.

FS: Chris, there’s a rumor going around that an “Alabama native” won the Bassmaster this year. . . we know that’s not true. You’re from Lakeland–a Florida boy! When did you move to ‘Bama?

CL: We moved to Guntersville, Alabama, about three years ago.

FS: What on earth did you do that for?

CL: Well, my wife and I had talked about it—I’d fished tournaments on Lake Guntersville for 8 or 10 years, and every time I was there, the people were fantastic; the lake is awesome. I said, if we ever had a choice, let’s move there. When we had another baby [number four], we said “Let’s do it.”

FS: So when are you coming back home?

CL: I can’t wait to get back down to Florida. My brothers and I, all of us, are going to get together and head down to the fish camp to let it all sink in. We’ve had the camp on the Kissimmee in our family ever since I was born. You can’t drink the water, there’s never been a TV in it, but it means the world to us!

FS: So tell us, now that you’re on top of the bass fishing world, and living in a different state, what are three things Florida bass fishing taught you?

CL: Number one, I’d say, is that growing up fishing in Florida made me learn how to fish in the grass. Number two, I learned not be scared to run through grass, find those little backwater ponds. Because ultimately that’s where we look in Florida—on Okeechobee, Kissimmee, find the little ponds people aren’t going into, and you can hammer ‘em. And number three, I guess, is about presentation. When you’re fishing in grass, no matter where you are in the country, you have to figure out what bait to use, and what presentation you need. Fast? Slow? Medium? We have those kinds of tools in our arsenal, from fishing in Florida.

Day three (Feb. 26) of the 2012 Classic, Chris Lane shouldered the weight of the bass fishing world. He held onto a second-day lead, and a 6-pound, 10-ounce fish this day helped cement victory on Chris' second appearance at the Classic. Photo by Seigo Saito for B.A.S.S.

FS: The other side of the equation: As a Florida basser, what three elements do you think you need to focus on, to be effective in lakes around the U.S.? Think of it as advice for a Florida basser looking to follow in your path.

CL: Well, learn how to fish open water. I’m always grinding away in the grass, but there’ve been a lot of tournaments won in open water. That’s one thing I know I’d need to work on down there. Another thing, is having confidence knowing the fish still bite in cold weather.

JW: How about reading new lakes?

CL: Yes—finding new spots with a chartplotter, that can make a difference. I use Lowrance electronics.

JW: So what’s next for you?

CL: My oldest son—he’s 10–I gave him an old boat, told him he can only use the trolling motor, fishing in a cove on Guntersville. The other day he caught a fish that was 24 inches, 19 inches girth—it’ll be entered in the Lunker Club at bassmaster.com. He was by himself in the boat, and I was watching. I was so excited. He caught it on a lipless crankbait. He netted it and everything! That’s my boy.

JW: Sounds like you’re going to continue the family tradition!

CL: When he gets on tour, I may retire!

JW: Your next events, in the Bassmaster Elite tour, are St. Johns River [Mar. 15-18] and Lake Okeechobee [Mar. 22-25]. Given the warm winter, what do you expect, fishing-wise?

CL: I expect we’re gonna smash ‘em! I think you’ll be able to catch ‘em any way you want, prespawn, spawn, postspawn. And I think guys will be able to catch them everywhere they want, too.