By Phil Wolf:
Leading the tournament wire-to-wire, Lakeland, Florida’s Bobby Lane won the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in early February.
The Lane family is well known for catching winning sacks. Bobby’s brothers Chris and Arnie are also impressive anglers, and the family grew up fishing the Kissimmee Chain.
Bobby, known as “Big Fish Bobby” on the Bassmaster Elite Series, showed the crowd why he’s earned that name at the day-one weigh-in. Bringing a 9-pounder as well as an 8-pound, 7-ounce fish to the scales, he tallied a massive five-fish sack of more than 31 pounds.
He was the very first angler to weigh fish in front of a huge cheering group of attendees. Both of his big fish qualify for FWC’s TrophyCatch Program.
Lane held a commanding lead of more than 10 pounds headed into day two, which proved to be a lot tougher than day one. Leaving Big Lake Toho Marina in the latest flight of boats of the morning, Bobby was at the back of the pack to enter the lock leading to Lake Kissimmee. It was about 10 a.m. before he arrived at his best area… and his fish were not cooperating. Bobby made the decision to head back up the chain. He caught his final few keepers on Lake Toho and weighed in 10 pounds, 9 ounces on day two.
Day two was tough on the whole field. Even with what appeared to be a light bag of fish, Bobby expanded his lead to 12 pounds headed into the final day of the event, when he chose not to run all the way down to Kissimmee. Early on, Bobby caught a few quality fish on Lake Hatchineha before locking back into Lake Toho to finish out his five-fish limit.
On stage at the final-day weigh-ins, Bobby pulled out two more big girls to anchor an 18-pound sack, which brought his three-day total to 60 pounds. He held the winning margin by more than 12 pounds.
Bobby Lane’s win qualifies him for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic and relieves the stress of qualifying by points through the Bassmaster Elite Tournaments against 107 of the best anglers in the country. Only 38 anglers will qualify for next year’s classic.
Mud Hole Custom Tackle Pro Brandon Lester ended up in second place, finishing with almost 48 pounds. Lester caught his fish on topwater baits and punching heavy cover. Brandon credits his finish to the custom MHX Rods he built for the event during the evenings on his practice days. The flipping sticks he had were not heavy enough to muscle the big girls out of the cover, so he made a few new “broom sticks” that did the trick.
The Orlando area’s Bobby Blakewell finished in second place on the Co-Angler side. Blakewell graduated high school last summer and was very successful on the high school circuit, fishing with the Seminole Jr. Anglers Club based in Oviedo in Seminole County.
Phil Wolf is co-publisher of the Greater Orlando edition of The Angler Magazine.