DETROIT, Mich. Make no mistake, Chris Lane is driven.
The 2012 Bassmaster Classic champ wants to qualify for the 2014 Classic because its on his adopted home water, Alabamas Lake Guntersville. Winning the Aug. 22-25 Plano Championship Chase and the Classic berth that comes with the event title is his best chance to get on the list for Guntersville.
The Florida native, who now lives in Guntersville, Ala., made the most of that chance by landing the first-day lead in the Chase on Thursday. His weight of 22 pounds, 9 ounces led Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., by 8 ounces. Davis took second place with 22-1.
In third place with 21-14 was Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala. In the No. 4 spot with 21-2 was Michael Simonton of Fremont, Ohio. Fifth place was a tie at 20-7 between Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Ala., and Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho.
The competition is north of Detroit, Mich., on Lake St. Clair, the fishery thats No. 1 on Bassmaster Magazines 2013 list of 100 Best Bass Lakes. Adjoining rivers and Great Lakes are also fair playing grounds.
Lane began to boat smallmouth bass as soon as he settled onto his first spot of the day, far out into Lake St. Clair.
I caught two of the big fish I thought were there probably 5 1/2, 6 pounds each then laid off of them, Lane said. Then I ran to the other side and caught two or three 3-pounders.
Lane said he switched from drop shotting in deeper water to a shallow water spot, where he caught a 4 1/2-pounder.
Lanes heaviest smallmouth weighed in at 5-12. It became the the top contender for the Chases Carhartt Big Bass award of $1,000 plus another $500 for wearing Carhartt apparel. Like Lane, Davis is motivated by the carrot of a Classic berth.
Davis made the call to spend valuable time running to Lake Eries smallmouth.
Thursday he ran to Lake Erie a two-hour run against 4-foot waves. On one of his spots, known by him as the home of 3-pounders, he discovered larger smallmouth bass.
I said, Oh, my God, theyre bigger now, he said.
After Day 1 of the Chase, a flip-flop occurred on the leaderboard for the most coveted award of the Elite season the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year crown. Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., dropped behind Alabama pro Martens. If the Elite season had ended Thursday, Evers would have lost the lead hes held tightly after five consecutive events.
The upset happened when Martens posted in third place Thursday to Evers 79th place.