Heading into this week, Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala., just wanted to win a few boats. He didn’t see any plausible scenario where he could overtake Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. So, he fished void of worries and the laissez faire attitude helped him win the Ramada Trophy Chase on Lake Jordan, virtually Lane’s home waters.
But now the stakes have just been raised and Lane is within striking distance – just 5 points behind Reese in the AOY standings – of the most coveted award in bass fishing. He will again be working a fishery that he is ultra-comfortable with next week as the competition moves to the Alabama River for the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph.
“I just realized that winning the Angler of the Year is now a possibility,” said Lane, 37. “I have to keep my head right and have fun and block out all the distractions. I can’t control what anyone else does and I can’t get wrapped up in thinking about what winning the Angler of the Year would mean.”
Lane had a “crazy day” that included losing his rod-and-reel outfit to an aggressive spotted bass and nearly losing his grip on another fish right at the boat. But good fortune and a hometown crowd – an armada of nearly 40 spectator boats stayed connected to Lane – carried Lane through, earning him his first BASS victory and a Triton/Mercury boat package valued at $60,000.
Lane, who tallied a two-day total of 32-3, had a distinct plan each day of competition that included searching for big bites early in the day and then moving to area, after the current generation began at 11 a.m., where he was confident he could fill out his five-fish limit.
The four-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier worked several deep-running crankbaits in addition to a Big Bite worm, which enticed quality-sized spotted bass. As it was, Lane had a much more difficult time Sunday morning landing quality bites in the morning. By 9:30, he had zero fish in the boat.
“I could have panicked early,” said Lane. “”But I stayed calm all day long. That was the key to the victory. Keeping calm.”
The door was opened for Lane – and a host of others – because Reese had a disastrous day. He wasn’t able to register a limit and lost three fish that would have helped him considerably. Reese’s timing is unfortunate as his regular-season was one for the ages – it included six top-five finishes and two victories.
And while it’s a shame for Reese if he falters again next week – this would mark the second consecutive season that Reese would cough up the trophy – each angler is measured by the same scoring format.
“I’m pretty heated right now,” said Reese, the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion. “That was my toughest day of the season without a doubt. It is so frustrating and now I’m not in the best position. But in the end, it comes down to this and I just have to take care of business next week.”
Almost equally as disappointed as Reese was Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala. Martens finished second to Lane by 3 ounces in the event but had the opportunity to win. He had fish care issues all day, which resulted in him absorbing a 24-ounce penalty to decrease his total 32-0.
Beyond that, Martens made several blunders during the tournament day, tossing back quality, expiring fish which he was never able to match. The implications are endless for Martens. If he had won, he would be in second in the AOY standings instead of fourth. As is, Martens is still within striking distance just 10 points back.
Perhaps lost in the shuffle was Kevin VanDam moving up to third in the AOY standings and is just seven points behind Lane. VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., already owns five AOY titles and a sixth would probably seal his fate as the best angler ever. VanDam has a magical way of performing in the biggest events and the Postseason is tailor-made for his aggressive style.
“I like the Postseason format,” said VanDam, a three-time Bassmaster Classic champion. “It’s very similar to other sports with playoffs and you have to be performing at the end of the year to be the champion. It’s the most intense events I have ever fishing and it’s exciting as heck.”
Rounding out the top five in the AOY was Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla. The full points can be found below. Evers was Reese’s closest challenger heading into this week but the leaderboard has been turned upside down with the stellar performances of Lane and Martens.
The final Postseason leg, the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph, will play out on the Alabama River on July 30 and 31. The Postseason format – introduced in 2009 – features two two-day events. Angler’s scoring from the regular season was readjusted and then each tournament is scored on a 50-point sliding scale found below.
2010 TOYOTA TRUCKS CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK (Standings heading into Trophy Triumph))
Field and Standings
No.: Angler: Points:
1. Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif. 232
2. Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala. 227
3. Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. 225
4. Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala. 222
5. Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla. 222
6. Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La. 213
7. Cliff Pace, Petal, Ms. 212
7. Terry Butcher, Talala, Okla. 212
9. Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas 209
10. John Crews, Salem, Va. 203
11. Derek Remitz, Grant, Ala. 198
12. Tommy Biffle, Wagoner, Okla. 192
RAMADA TROPHY CHASE STANDINGS- FINAL
2010 Ramada Trophy Chase PRO 07/24-07/25 Lake Jordan, Wetumpka Ala.
(PRO Division) Standings Day 2
Angler Hometown No./lbs-oz Pts Total $$$
1. Russ Lane Prattville, Ala. 10 32-03 310 $60,000.00
Day 1: 5 17-00 Day 2: 5 15-03
2. Aaron Martens Leeds, Ala. 10 32-00 295 $1,000.00
Day 1: 5 14-00 Day 2: 5 18-00
3. Kevin VanDam Kalamazoo, Mich. 10 30-02 290
Day 1: 5 15-04 Day 2: 5 14-14
4. Greg Hackney Gonzales, La. 10 29-04 285
Day 1: 5 16-09 Day 2: 5 12-11
5. Gary Klein Weatherford, Texas 10 23-00 280
Day 1: 5 13-06 Day 2: 5 9-10
6. Terry Butcher Talala, Okla. 10 21-14 276
Day 1: 5 8-12 Day 2: 5 13-02
7. Cliff Pace Petal, Miss. 10 21-14 272
Day 1: 5 9-02 Day 2: 5 12-12
8. John Crews Salem, Va. 10 21-12 268
Day 1: 5 12-04 Day 2: 5 9-08
9. Edwin Evers Talala, Okla. 10 21-06 264
Day 1: 5 11-10 Day 2: 5 9-12
10. Skeet Reese Auburn, Calif. 9 21-04 260
Day 1: 5 12-04 Day 2: 4 9-00
11. Derek Remitz Grant, Ala. 10 20-06 257
Day 1: 5 6-10 Day 2: 5 13-12
12. Tommy Biffle Wagoner, Okla. 7 13-04 254
Day 1: 5 10-06 Day 2: 2 2-14