“Believe in yourself.”
No matter your vocation or passion, that’s undoubtedly the most important thing you can learn from renowned bass angler and Mercury Pro Team member Chris Lane. Because if you give in to self-doubt and second-guessing, you’ll never find yourself among the best at anything, let alone have a chance to reach the pinnacle.
And it’s no empty mantra: Lane, 46, of Guntersville, Alabama, has been one of the top bass anglers in the world for nearly two decades, and he’s got the hardware to prove it. Eight times in his career he has won major bass tournaments, including the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River near Shreveport, Louisiana, and three Bassmaster Elite Series titles.
Today, Lane fishes the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour, but the foundation for his success was formed when he was quite young, competing in family competitions against his grandfather, father and older brothers, Arnie and Bobby. Bobby fishes alongside Chris in MLF competition, while Arnie is a formidable regional competitor as well. Chris climbed the ranks of the Lakeland and Tampa Bay Bassmaster clubs in his native state of Florida while working as a sales representative for a phosphate company before his breakthrough win at the Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Okeechobee in 2006. Soon after, he started tournament fishing full time, and he’s been a recognized threat ever since. Now, $2.25 million in career earnings later, he’s just as driven, hungry and resourceful as ever.
Though his career has overlapped with some of the greatest bass fishermen to ever wet a line, Chris has never stopped betting on himself or doing the work necessary to stay on top.
“I think the most important thing to be able to have success against Kevin VanDam, Bobby Lane or Skeet Reese – once you’ve hit that level – is to remember that you know what it took to get there,” Chris said. “You know what you did to have that type of success, so now the question is, how do you maintain it? What do you need to do to stay in the game? And a lot of it is in the preparation before you even hit the water, and learning from your mistakes.
“There’s a learning process I think every professional angler goes through after they’ve had some success. It’s hard to stay on top after you’ve hit all those plateaus along the way. And when you do have a rough year, you have to think back to what got you there and get back to that.”
At the recreational level, better outcomes often depend on remembering the fundamentals.
“Frayed line is a great example,” Chris said. “If you have a frayed line and you’re like, ‘I’m too tired. I don’t want to re-tie it right now.’ And then you get a 5- or 6-pounder – a game-changing fish – to bite, and it breaks your line, that really ticks you off pretty good. And it should because it’s your own fault. I promise you the next time you have a frayed line you’ll take the time to re-tie. That’s learning from your mistakes, which is how you get better.”
Chris makes his home on the shores of the bass-rich Lake Guntersville. He and his wife, Holly, have been married for 21 years and have four children: daughters Hunter, 18, and Hannah, 15, and sons Cal, 20, and Coleman, 10. Following the family tradition, Cal is a budding pro angler and has already notched a pair of top-10 finishes in the triple-A MLF Toyota Series.
For those of us who will never fish professionally, Chris has some more advice that’s direct callback to his days as parttime angler, capping off a workday with a little time on the water.
“Being able to get out for an hour or two to relieve the stress of the day or whatever is healthy,” he said. “You can focus solely on fishing and kind of forget about the day of work. You can kind of get distracted from that a little bit when you become a professional and have the stress of worrying about doing well or not doing well, but whenever you’re out on the water just fishing (recreationally), you have to find the happy medium, to find what it is in fishing that relieves that stress and gives you the peace of mind you need to enjoy God’s creation.
“I think that’s probably the hardest thing to do: to learn that fishing is not always just about catching fish. Of course, you want to be able to give yourself the opportunity to catch fish, because it’s not going to be something you love if you’re never successful at it. But sometimes it’s more about spending time with your kids or with your wife or someone else you enjoy spending time with.”
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