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OKEECHOBEE, Fla. Fish a tournament in Florida, and there are three names to watch, no matter the lake, season or weather: Chris Lane, Bobby Lane and Terry Scroggins. True to form, they finished 1-2-3 at the Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Okeechobee this week.
Chris Lane picked up his second BASS tournament victory and second at the Big O with 41 pounds, 2 ounces over three days. He also won the Southern Open here four years ago. Not so ironically, Scroggins finished second. Bobby did not fish that one.
But Chris' day didn't start so well. He and brother Bobby were staying at the same place and had parked side by side. When Bobby left for launch, a few minutes before Chris, he accidentally hit the driver-side door of Chris' truck with his boat trailer.
"My boat wasn't going anywhere," Bobby said, "so I stepped on the gas. Then I heard a terrible cracking sound."
It was the sound of a truck door being nearly ripped from the frame. It had to seem a very bad omen to Chris. Fortunately, he didn't let it get him down. Once on the water, things settled in, and he found a strong bite on a Gambler Cane Toad.
"I was making long casts with the Toad and my Double Trouble Toad hook," Chris said. "A steady, medium retrieve seemed to get the most bites."
In cool weather such as dominated this part of Florida for the past couple of weeks, topwater strikes on baits like the Cane Toad can result in lots of missed fish. Even a topwater guru like Chris Lane will miss some bass, and the final round was no exception.
"I missed an 8 pounder, a 6 pounder and two 5-pound fish," Chris said, "but I didn't let it get me down. You have to have mental toughness to be a tournament angler and to fish baits like these. Luckily, the right hook made a big difference, and I was able to land most of my strikes."
Another key, according to Chris, is to have patterned enough bass that missing one or two doesn't cost you the tournament.
The winner was also quick to credit his sponsors and the products that helped him to the win. He noted that his Power Poles helped him to stay in the best areas without risking spooking the fish with an electric motor. His Legend boat, Mercury outboard and Atlas jackplate got him in and out of heavy vegetation without incident, where he found his bass.
Chris cast the Cane Toad on an All Star rod and Abu Garcia Revo baitcasting reel spooled with 50-pound-test Stren SuperBraid.
When his brother, Bobby, wasn't tearing truck doors off the frame, the Elite Series pro was busy catching Okeechobee bass by flipping a black and blue Berkley Crazy Legs Chigger Craw or swimming a 3-inch Berkley Ripple Shad swimbait. He fished them on SpiderWire braid and SpiderWire Ultracast lines, respectively, spooled onto Abu Garcia Revos. Bobby finished with 38-1, three pounds and an ounce behind his brother.
Terry "Big Show" Scroggins used two patterns for his third-place finish (37-9). He flipped a Yum Big Show Craw in black and blue or cooter brown on 65-pound test Hi-Seas braid and a 7 1/2-foot Duckett Fishing Micro Magic flipping stick. He also caught bass on the outside edge of eelgrass and hydrilla by Carolina rigging a junebug Yum Houdini Worm behind a 3/4-ounce Excalibur sinker rigged on 20-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon line and a 7-foot Duckett Fishing Micro Magic rod.
Randall Tharp, who led the tournament going into the final round, fell to fourth with 32-8 after mechanical problems cost him part of his fishing day. Tharp won the two previous Bassmaster Opens he fished.
Elite Series pro Russ Lane had the big bass of Day 3 with a 6-0 lunker.
On the co-angler side, Blake Stewart brought three fish weighing 4-9 to the scales in the final round to give him a total of 16-10. It was enough to beat second-round leader Aaron Gengler by six ounces.