Reeling in His Dreams
By Maria Iannucci
Polk County is known for many things – agriculture, phosphate – and bass fishing. With over 500 lakes stretching across the county, Polk is bound to have tons of people casting from docks and boats. Many have been fishing bass since childhood. One man, former Lakeland resident and professional bass fisherman, Chris Lane, has been able to make more than a successful career out of his favorite pastime.
Chris Lane grew up in South Lakeland near the Mulberry area. He and older brothers, Arnie and Bobby, and younger sister, Kellie, spent the majority of their childhood enjoying the outdoors. “Growing up there was just a fantastic adventure,” said Chris recently during a phone interview from his current home in Alabama. “There were lots of orange groves to run through to find a pond just to go fishing in. We were probably in every lake and pond close enough to hike to back then. We called ourselves ‘The Adventure Boys’ back then,” said Chris.
Family has always been an extremely important factor for Chris, so he and his siblings were forever exploring local lakes and challenging each other. “We never went alone,” said Chris. “We’d go together and it was always a little competitive and tons of fun. We’d catch turtles in Scott Lake and bring them home and fill up my sister’s kiddie pool; or see who could catch the biggest bass and trade off chores with the winner.”
In high school at Lakeland Christian, Chris found that while sports were keeping him busy, the passion for becoming a professional fisherman still burned. “We’d fish tournaments at Camp Mack, Chain of Lakes, or Lake Parker in our teens and loved every moment,” said Chris. “The next thing you know, it became a professional thing. We (Chris and his brother Bobby) would do very well in local tournaments, and ventured to North Florida and Georgia, getting out of our comfort zone. I started thinking that I may even have a shot of making this work on a national level, and that was the tail of the tape for me.” Chris is married with four children; in order to minimize his travel time, he relocated to Alabama in 2009.
Chris continued doing so well in tournaments that he started venturing further to California, New York and Texas, and has been traveling to be a part of the national circuit of bass fishermen. “Bobby now fishes on the Bass Master League Series (Bassmaster Elite Series) with me,” said Chris, confirmation that fishing is a core part of his family life. “Bobby and I still compete and take side bets against each other in tournaments. The stakes are a little higher now than when we were kids; we made a bet going into the 2012 classic that the winner has to give the loser 10% of the prize. The winner gets bragging rights. Either way, we’re taking care of family.”
Much of Chris’ family still resides in South Lakeland, including his parents and extended family. Many of the Lanes regularly attend the local tournaments in which Chris is involved, such as the Bassmaster Classic in Feb. 2012 in Shreveport, LA, where Chris won a $500,000 first prize. Chris also won the Bassmaster Southern Open on the Harris Chain of Lakes in January of 2012. Chris’ passion for bass fishing has paid off financially as well as personally; he’s secured several sponsors, including Power- Pole, and has several wins in a variety of tournaments. Perhaps more importantly, though, the thrill of fishing has never grown stale. “A two pounder still feels like an elephant,” said Chris. “I want to make sure that I never lose that experience and excitement. Fishing is enjoyable whether by myself or with friends and family; but one of the best things about the sport of bass fishing is that everyone can enjoy the outdoors… and it all goes back to the thrill of the pull. Catching the fish is exciting, but sharing the story later in the evening after a good day – nothing beats it.”