After leading the first day, then falling into Mark Davis’ wake on the second and third days, Chris Lane kicked it into high gear Sunday to win the Bassmaster Elite Series Plano Championship Chase.
Through the win, Lane, the 2012 Bassmaster Classic champ, got his 2014 Bassmaster Classic ticket punched — what he came into the Chase to achieve. From Guntersville, Ala., he was set
on qualifying for the 2014 world championship on his home water of Lake Guntersville.
The win was also his first in the Bassmaster Elite Series and a $100,000 payday.
Lane landed the Chase title by weighing 82 pounds 4 ounces of smallmouth bass in four days of competition. His margin of victory was 5-7 over Davis of Mount Ida, Ark.
Davis, the 1995 Classic winner who also owns three Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year trophies, led on Days 2 and 3. On Day 4, one bass shy of a five-fish limit, Davis’ weight was 13-3. He finished at 76-13 in the runner-up spot.
The Classic champ of 2008, Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas, jumped from 12th place to take third with 76-6. Jones weighed the day’s largest bag of 22-3.
Ending in fourth place was the 2004 Classic winner, Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, with 76-0, including the day’s biggest of 5-11. Rounding out the Top 5 at 75-11 was Michigan native Nate Wellman of Newaygo.
Newly-crowned 2013 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., qualified for the final round, but didn’t weigh in. Reportedly a broken jackplate bolt left him unable to travel back to the check-in point.
He reported to tournament officials that he released the five fish in his livewell, which weighed about 20 pounds. He was able to make it to shore, and trailered over land back to the starting point on Lake St. Clair.
If Martens had brought in 20 pounds Sunday, he might have given Lane a scare. But Sunday, Lane was after the Chase win; he was determined to not drive away from Michigan satisfied with achieving his first goal of a Classic qualification.
It happened for Lane at about noon.
“I got that killer instinct,” he said. “I got focused in. I said, ‘I need to catch some big ones, I need to catch a good one.’ And that’s when I caught my biggest fish of the day.”
It weighed about 4 1/2 pounds, he estimated. With 17 to 18 pounds already in the livewell, he was on his way to building his day’s total to 19-11.
“Mark’s been catching 20-plus pounds a day, and I was a pound behind,” Lane said. “I figured he was going to come in with another 20, and I would need more. I knew I had to gear up and not be content.”
Lane’s winning pattern was drifting a drop shot rig with a 1/4-ounce weight in current at the Lake Huron mouth of the St. Clair River. The current held baitfish, and smallmouth bass were feeding on them.
Although Lane did not make a run through the infamous Miracle Mile of the Detroit River, nor ride the swells of Lake Erie, he still had a trip to get to his area from the Harrison Township takeoff point on Lake St. Clair.
Sunday, the trip was heaven and hell for him.
Heaven was his peaceful glide upriver in the early morning, watching the sun rise over the water. The hell was the return trip, dealing with huge commercial ships and very large pleasure boats, which produce wakes that make a bass boat seem to disappear as it rides over them.
Davis did make the Lake Erie trek each day. He headed to one area that held big smallmouth bass, but not many of them. To catch them, he drop shotted a Strike King Dream Shot or a 6-inch Roboworm.
Sunday, unlike the other three days, he could not boat a fifth keeper.
“That fifth fish got off twice today,” Davis said. “I about cried. A 4 1/2 was right at the boat; I fought it forever. The other one was a 3 1/2-pounder. Those two fish would have won for me.”
But Davis pinned his failure to take the trophy on four other lost smallmouth bass. They came unbuttoned on the first day, when Lane led the full field of 99 pros. Davis said they were two 4-pounders, a 5 and one more than 6.
“You just cannot do that and win an event like this,” he said.
With the regular Elite Series season coming to a close, 38 Bassmaster Classic qualifiers were set in stone. The first cut was at place No. 29 on the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points standings. Double-qualifiers through wins in previous events or unclaimed Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens qualifications extended the cut to 38.
Elite pros earned awards at the Showdown:
* 2013 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year, $100,000: Martens for amassing the highest number of points over the eight events of the regular Elite season.
*2013 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year: Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C.
* Carhartt Big Bass of the 2013 season, $2,000 and a Carhartt Green Jacket: Matt Greenblatt of Port St. Lucie, Fla., for his 10-13 on March 22, the second day of the Rigid Industries Falcon Slam on Falcon Lake out of Zapata, Texas.
* Second-place Carhartt Big Bass of the season, $1,250: Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., for his 6-12 on Day 1 of the West Point, Ga., event.
* Third-place Carhartt Big Bass of the season, $1,000: Kelly Jordon of Palestine, Texas, for his 6-4 on Day 1 of the Montgomery, Ala., event.
* Fourth-place Carhartt Big Bass of the season, $750: Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., for his 6-1 on Day 2 of the Orange, Texas event.
* Fifth-place Carhartt Big Bass of the season: A tie at 5-13 between Steve Kennedy of Auburn Ala., Day 3 of the Waddington, N.Y. event, and Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas, Day 3 in this week’s Detroit event; $250 each.
* Carhartt Big Bass of the Plano Championship Chase, worth $1,000 plus another $500 for wearing Carhartt apparel: Jones for his 5-13 on Day 3.
* Berkley Heavyweight Award of $500 for the best five-fish limit: Lane for his 22-15 bag of Day 3.
* Luck-E-Strike Comeback Award of $500: Lane, who moved up 19 places in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points standings, from 53rd place into 34th place.
* Power-Pole Captain’s Cash award of $1,000 to the highest finisher equipped with Power-Poles: Lane
* Livingston Lures Leader Award of $500 for heading up the leaderboard on the second day: Davis