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Prattville's Lane Gets Shot at Bassmaster Postseason

By DAVID RAINER

After making a run at the Bassmaster Classic title on Lay Lake in February before finishing fourth, Prattville’s Russ Lane continued his success throughout the Bassmaster Elite season and is among the 12 anglers who will compete in the postseason’s two-tournament Toyota Trucks Championship Week.

The Ramada Trophy Chase starts the championship series July 24-25 on the Coosa River’s Lake Jordan with weigh-ins starting at 5 p.m. each day at the Wetumpka Civic Center. The finale – the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph – is set for July 30-31out of Montgomery’s Riverwalk on the Alabama River, where the Bassmaster Angler of the Year will be crowned. Weigh-ins for the finale start at 6 p.m. each day on the amphitheater stage.

For Lane, holding a postseason tournament on Lake Jordan is like tossing Br’er Rabbit into the briar patch.

“I used to live there for a few years, but I’ve always fished there,” Lane said, “ever since I was a kid. It’s got those great big spotted bass and a good population of largemouths. It’s a small lake and there are lots of ways to catch them any time of year. It’s a fun lake to fish.

“We haven’t had much rain and there’s a big heat wave going on, so the water is probably going to be clear. There probably won’t be much current, but maybe there’ll be a little when they generate electricity. The fish are going to be scattered because of that. Later in the year when the water gets really hot the fish will scatter out. A lot of people think when it gets this hot the fish are going to be really deep, but that’s not necessarily so. In some of that deep water the oxygen levels get depleted. Some of the fish will stay deep, some of the fish will suspend and some of the fish will go to the bank.

“There’s going to be a lot of different ways to catch them. I think all 12 guys will be scattered out and I think there will be probably five or six patterns that will be working.”

The Coosa chain of lakes – Weiss, Neely Henry, Logan Martin, Lay, Mitchell and Jordan – provides Lane with on his favorite fishing patterns – deep cranking.

“Most of the fish I catch on the Coosa lakes in the summer will be on a big crankbait,” he said. “I catch most of my fish on a crankbait, but I will throw a football head jig or a 10- or 11-inch Texas-rigged worm.

“The Coosa lakes have a lot more humps with deep water all the way around instead of creek channels and river ledges. A rock or stump or just a hard place on one side of those humps is what will make a place good, where the fish will come up and feed.”

Lane’s prediction is that it will take a 17-pound-per day average to win the competition on Lake Jordan.

“I think it will be half and half spots and largemouths,” said Lane, who took fifth-place money on Lake Guntersville at the Synergy Southern Challenge in May and ended the regular season with an eighth-place finish on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma. “As always on the Coosa lakes, a big largemouth kicker is always the key to winning, except in wintertime when you can catch a 20-pound bag of spots. It’s hard to catch a 4-pound average in spots except in the dead of winter.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to see 20- to 21-pound bag with some 4-pound spots and a 6-pound largemouth. I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all.”

When the competition moves to the Alabama River, Lane forecasts tough fishing unless the weather pattern changes.

“It’s the same deal,” he said. “There hasn’t been a lot of rain, but that can change. If we get rain and it forces Alabama Power to generate a lot of water, it could really make the fishing good. It could force them all to the banks and everybody will know where the fish will be.

“If not and it stays the way it is, it’s going to hot and the water will be clear and the fish will really be scattered. It will be really tough. I’d say probably no more than 15 pounds a day will win, possibly not even that much.”

Last year’s championship series was held in central Alabama in September, but BASS officials realized it wasn’t wise to butt heads with college football in Alabama, prompting the move to July. It might help the crowds, but it likely won’t help the fishing, according to Lane.

“To me the fishing would have been better in September than July,” he said. “Water temperatures would have dropped by five degrees or so because days are getting shorter. It’d still be hot during the day, but it would only get so much sunshine.”

Lane, who finished in a tie for ninth in the final regular-season standings, thinks this championship series is going to be typical of the dog days of summer in the Deep South.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “The Alabama River takes slow, methodical fishing – picking your Russ Lane, a fishing pro from Prattville, Alabamaplaces apart and catching one fish at a time off of your spots. There won’t be a whole lot of patterns working down there. Catching five keepers is the key.”

Lane, who finished the regular season with 177 points, hopes his good fortune and good fishing that were apparent to a national television audience during the Classic will continue through the postseason, although he is not in a position to overtake points leader Skeet Reese of California, who has 216 pounds and a 15-point lead over runner-up Edwin Evers of Oklahoma.

“The Classic was an awesome tournament,” Lane said. “It seems I’ve been making good decisions this year. Every time I need to catch a 3-pounder, I’ve been catching a 5-pounder. I’m not doing anything different. I think I’m figuring the game out a little more.

“I fished local tournaments so long, I got into the game of competing in one-day tournaments.

It takes a lot to learn what to look for, how to adjust and how to dissect a body of water for four days of competition. It’s a whole different game. I thought I had it figured out a couple of years ago and I probably got a little too aggressive in my approach. Then the next year I kind of panicked because the previous year wasn’t that good. This last year, I got the mindset that I know how to win tournaments. I’ve done it many times. There’s no reason I can’t do it out here. I slowed down and fished with a lot more confidence – making good decisions and recognizing the patterns that were going to last for four days.”

After the tournament at Jordan, the pros will team up with Hope for the Warriors to take 12 wounded military veterans for an outing on The Waters, a private fishery.

The final weigh-ins at the Riverwalk, which are free and open to the public, will be followed by free concerts. On July 30, country artist and songwriter Jason Michael Carroll will perform, while the group Lifehouse will perform on July 31 after the new Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year is crowned.

PHOTOS: (Courtesy of ESPN Outdoors) Russ Lane of Prattville garnered a great deal of media coverage when he made a run at the Bassmaster Classic title on Lay Lake in February. Lane finished in fourth place behind eventual winner Kevin VanDam. Lane will complete against VanDam and 10 other pros in the Bassmaster postseason tournaments on Lake Jordan and the Alabama River.

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