Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 02/26/2012

Story by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush - Photos by Mark Jeffreys

Shreveport, LA – When Alabama’s Chris Lane launched his boat Sunday morning on the Red River, he was well aware of the fact that he was embarking on a nerve-wracking and career defining day on the water. 

With his closest competitor, Greg Vinson, lurking just a single pound behind, Lane also had the task of holding off a hard-charging past Classic champion, Alton Jones, and Bobby Lane, who sat in 4th place less than five-pounds out of the tournament lead.    

Chris LaneWhile sunny skies and calm backwater areas presented the 25 remaining competitors with the cleanest water and most visibility that they had experienced for the duration of Classic week, the outcome of the tournament was anything but clear. 

On the strength of a midday kicker bite, Lane’s Sunday limit of 15-14 allowed him to cruise to a Classic victory by 3-pounds, 7-ounces over his closest competitor.  Bringing in limits weighing 16-4 and 19-4 on the first two day of competition, the Alabama pro claimed the title with a total weight of 51-6. 

Opening the tournament in 2nd place on Friday, Alabama’s Greg Vinson was the only angler in the field to consistently remain perched near the top of leader board for all three days of tournament competition.  On Saturday, Vinson again landed in 2nd, falling 1-pound behind eventual winner Chris Lane.

Although his limit of Red River largemouth weighing 13-7 on Sunday was his lightest effort of the week, Vinson maintained the number two position, finishing with a three day total weight of 47-15.

Keith Poche’s first Classic experience was a serious roller-coaster ride.  After leading bass fishing’s biggest tournament on Day One, Poche fell to 10th Place on Saturday after weighing a limit for 11-8.  On Sunday, the young Alabama pro rebounded, crossing the stage with a 16-10 limit.  With a three day total weight of 45-15, Poche finished in 3rd Place. 

4th Place belonged to Texan Alton Jones, who rebounded from a 13-13 effort on Friday with an impressive 17-14 limit on Saturday to vault into Classic contention.  While his Sunday limit weighed a respectable 14-3, Jones was unable to locate the kicker bites that he needed to make a final day charge.

Ott DeFoe, fishing in his first Classic, rounded out the Top 5 with a total weight of 44-14.  Entering Sunday’s finale in 15th Place, the Tennessee pro saved his best for last, toting the day’s heaviest limit to the scales weighing 17-7.  

1st Place: Chris Lane (51-6)
“I haven’t had the chance to think about that,” said Lane, when asked how the Classic victory would change his life.  “It is a goal that I have set out for, and probably in the last year, it became a reality that I might have a shot to win this thing.  Three years ago, it was just a goal.  It became a reality when I started to really be confident in myself and do what I needed to do.”

Chris LaneWith an early take-off number on the first day of Classic competition, Lane made the decision to take advantage of the opportunity.  Rather than run to the lock and lose the advantage of being one of the first boats out of the gates, Lane opted to start close on Friday, accessing a small backwater pond less than a quarter mile from the launch ramp.

Sharing the area with two fellow competitors, Lane secured an early limit within the first two hours of competition before abandoning the area for the remainder of the tournament.  “There were six boats trying to get in there the first day, so I knew darn well that there wasn’t the fish in there to win the thing.” 

On Saturday, he opted to run down river and began putting together the winning strategy after boating a six-pounder at 2:30.  On Sunday, Lane fished several key shallow water areas that he described as, “a combination of plan “B” and plan “C.”

Chris Lane“I believed that I was on a pattern and a game plan to win this tournament.  After I saw what happened the first day, I knew that my game plan was going to fall in place.  If it was going to work out, I had a shot,” Lane explained.  

Throughout the tournament, Lane relied primarily on two different baits – a Luck “E” Strike G4 Tube and a Gambler Ugly Otter.  “Those were my two key baits this whole event,” he explained. “When I got into the dirty water, I’d throw 50-pound Stren Sonic Braid on a 7’4” All-Star rod.  When I got into the clearer water, when I needed to slow down, I’d throw Stren Brute Strength with a Gambler Ugly Otter and 3/16-ounce Gambler tungsten weight.”

After consecutive Classic victories in 2010 and 2011, reigning Classic champion Kevin VanDam was on hand to pass the iconic trophy off to Lane. “I really think he said that he was proud of me,” recalled Lane at the post-tournament press conference.  “To win a Bassmaster Classic, whether it was now or 10 years from now, there was one person out of the whole entire world that I wanted to hand that trophy to me.  That was Kevin VanDam, because he’s the best in the world.”

2nd Place: Greg Vinson (47-15)
Coming up just short of hoisting the Bassmaster Classic trophy was not the ideal ending to Greg Vinson’s week in Shreveport.  The Alabama pro known as “The Rooster” on Tour, made a hard charge at the win but was unable to seal the deal on the final day on the red river. 

Although Vinson wasn’t crowned the champion at the end of the day, he proved that he is a consistent force to be reckoned with on the Bassmaster Elite Series.  Using his experience from other trails to prepare him for the possible crowded conditions at the river allowed Greg to focus on the task at hand and block out the variables he couldn’t control.

Greg Vinson

“Fishing some of the FLW tournaments early in my career prepared me for fishing in crowded conditions, but this week I was fortunate to have my area mostly to myself. The crowded conditions that hurt a lot of the other anglers luckily weren’t a factor for me this week,” said Vinson.

Betting on the come, Vinson was depending on his primary area to get better as the week progressed and conditions stabilized on the fickle red river.  Changing conditions throughout the tournament made it imperative that the anglers adjust accordingly, and Vinson was able to stay one step ahead of the fish all week long.

Greg Vinson“It was kind of neat to watch the transition from practice to the competition.  The fish were actually moving in to spawn as the event went on and as they set up were getting really aggressive.  If we wouldn’t have had that cool night, I feel like I could have done a little better but overall I am happy at how I fished this week,” Vinson said.

Relying on one key area on the sprawling fishery was Vinson’s game plan, and it paid off handsomely almost giving him his first classic victory and catapulting him to the upper echelon of bass fishing’s elite.   Using several different baits was key to Vinson’s finish this week, and allowed him to adjust to the finicky red river bass.

“One of the key baits for me this week was a spinnerbait.  I used a little 5/16 oz War Eagle that I modified by putting a larger blade on the back in order to be able to reel it a little slower.  I also used a net baits salt lick, which I was fishing weightless along with a Netbait Baby Paca Craw and a little Bandit 100 square billed crankbait to catch my fish this week.  I keyed on a very small spot in the Little Jungle all three days of the event,” Vinson concluded.

3rd Place: Keith Poche (45-15)
Keith Poche’s homecoming was almost an epic event in the young pro’s career, as he put up a valiant effort, and came ever so close to claiming the illustrious title of Bassmaster Classic champion.  Poche, who grew up in the Shreveport-Bossier area was an obvious hometown favorite, and received a huge amount of support from the local fans this week.

“Overall, I am happy with what I was able to accomplish this week.  To lead your first Bassmaster Classic on the first day was a really special feeling.  Especially to be able to do it here in Shreveport-Bossier City where I grew up made it even that more meaningful,” said Poche.

Using that experience on the Red River to his advantage, Poche mined a small area in the Sullivan’s area to post a solid 3rd place finish at the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.  Had it not been for the changing weather conditions that hampered most of the field, Keith may have been able to hoist the trophy in front of the home town crowd.

Keith Poche

“The spot I fished was really kind of interesting.  I really didn’t have many bites in practice and was surprised how good the fishing was when I got there on day one.  Actually, what happened was that some fish had moved up on the beds but that cold night kind of knocked them back off a little.  Once the water would warm up some later in the day they would move back up, but it could have been much better if the weather had stayed warm,” Poche said.

Making the most of his area by making subtle adjustments and modifications to his presentations and lures, Poche was able to sack 45-15 over three days from his prime location.  “I used three baits this week to catch my all of my fish.  One was a Netbait Salt Lick, the other was a Gary Yamamoto Senko, and also a Netbait Baby Paca Craw in the black neon color.  I was modifying the stick worms  a little bit by inserting a little screw in spinner in the back of the bait which just gave it a little different look, and helped me get a few more bites that otherwise I don’t think I would have gotten.  I also was able to catch a few fish off the beds by fishing that Baby Paca Craw once I located the beds by using the Salt Lick and the Senko as a search bait.  All my fish this week came from a spot that I found in the back of Sullivan’s,” Poche concluded.

4th Place: Alton Jones ( 45-14)
Former classic champ Alton Jones had a hunch that this Bassmaster Classic would turn into a spawning tournament, and the veteran Texas pro’s instincts were right on the money.  Using past experience on the Red to his advantage, Alton put together a solid pattern that allowed him to finish in 4th place with a total of 45-14.

“I really came into this tournament thinking that it was going to be a spawn fest, but that cold front stopped that from happening.  The key was later in the day the backwater areas would warm up and those fish would get very active and catchable,” said Jones.

Alton Jones

Waiting for his key area to warm up later in the afternoon was a primary factor in Alton’s success this week in Shreveport.  Opting not too attempt to get away from the crowds, Jones stayed close all three days of the event and made the most of what he had found in practice.

“The backwater I was in felt really dead first thing in the mornings.  You would swear that there wasn’t a bass in the entire area because you could see the bottom around the entire place.  Once the water would warm up to about 58 degrees you could go around and it seemed like every lily pad stem had one on it.  One of the things I have really been working on is being able to manage fishing in a crowd a lot better.  Earlier in my career that was really a problem area for me, and I still would much rather fish off myself but the reality is sometimes you just have to get in there and get the job done.  I was really pleased with my performance this week fishing in a crowd,” Jones said.

Fishing his strengths, Alton relied on some familiar tools in his arsenal to get the job done this week at the Red River.  “Most of my fish this week came of a 6” YUM Dinger, and a YUM Vibra King tube.  I was using the tube to catch any bedding fish I came across and the Dinger was responsible for all of my other fish.  I figured out a really neat deal using the YUM Dinger.  I would rig it weightless and just reel it along on the top of the water and the male bedding fish would come up and show themselves, giving up their location.  If I didn’t catch them on the Dinger, I would then back off and fish the area with the tube.  I spent my entire tournament in the back of the Port Lake, and never got more than a half-mile from where we launched,” Jones concluded.

5th Place: Ott DeFoe (44-14)
Tennessee pro Ott DeFoe had been dreaming of fishing in the Bassmaster Classic since he was 10 years old, and made the most of his opportunity this week in Shreveport.  DeFoe, who was competing in his first Classic, continued to show that he has what it takes to excel at the highest level, amassing a total of 44-14 over three days and landing in 5th place.

DeFoe spent most of his tournament in the McDade area of the Red River in a difficult to access backwater area, but also relied on another spot to boost his weight each day.  “I fished most of the tournament in McDade, but would leave there each day a try to cull up in another little backwater I had.  The problem with fishing here on the Red River is that the backwaters are so difficult to access, so you really can’t run around a lot and be real efficient,” said DeFoe.

Ott DeFoe

Relying on a variety of baits this week was the key to DeFoe being able to consistently catch solid limits of Red River bass each day.  “The first day when it was really windy I was throwing a #5 Shad Rap.  It was custom painted in a root beer color, and I think it was really matching the size of the bait that was in the area.  The problem with that Shad Rap is that it gets hung up a lot in those stumps, but when I could get it through there it would really catch them.  When it got slick on day two I switched up to a small Rapala X-Rap jerkbait in the Tennessee shad color, and that’s what I caught them on today also.  Some of my bigger fish came from my other little spot where I was punching hyacinth mats with a ¼ oz Reins Tungsten weight and a Berkley Pit Boss, paired with a 5/0 VMC hook,” DeFoe concluded.

 6th Place: Timmy Horton (44-13)
“I caught pretty much everything on a ½-ounce BOOYAH black and brown spinnerbait, and keyed on stumps and lily pad stems in shallow water.

Timmy Horton

“There weren’t many surprises for me this week other than that the water was a lot more stained and muddied than it usually is.  With that exception, the Red River fished about the way that I thought it would. 

“I just needed a good bite or two the first day.  If I would have had that, I would have been right there.  My 10-pounds on the first day really hurt me in the long run.” 

Dustin Wilks7th Place: Dustin Wilks (44-12)
“I had a really bad practice.  I kind of thought, just by looking at my area, that it was capable of producing some good fish.  Once I saw all the boats in there, I was like, ‘this is going to be a disaster.’ I decided to stick it out in there because it was so windy on Friday.

“What was really surprising was that I still managed to catch 13-pounds on Saturday when the conditions were slick.  Today, it was great.  There was nobody in there with the exception of Ott (DeFoe).  It was still tough from the pressure, but it was nice to be able to move around.

“I really didn’t feel like I had a shot at winning the Classic.  I was hoping that the leaders would stumble and that I’d get lucky, but I really didn’t think that would happen.  I was fishing hoping other guys would stumble.  I just wasn’t ever in a position to win because the biggest bag out of that area the entire time was my 16-9 limit on the first day.”

Todd Faircloth9th Place: Todd Faircloth (40-15)
“I caught my fish on the first day on an All-Terrain Tackle swim jig and little Sebile spinnerbait.  The last two days, I primarily caught them on a small Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog.  I was pitching it around lily pad stems.

“They were spawning and some of them were pre-spawn.  I was pretty much trying to visualize where a spawning bass would be, and that’s where I was making my casts.  I had to fish really slowly.  Yesterday, caught some big females, and I guess there weren’t any more that came into my area today.

“The main thing for me during pre-practice was water clarity.  This time of the year, you try to find the cleanest water you can find because that’s where they pull up first.  There weren’t any surprises this week.  The River fished pretty much the way that I expected it would fish.  I feel like I lost the tournament on the first day when I made a bad decision to leave an area.”

11th Place: Kevin VanDam (40-10)
“I had the opportunities the first day and just didn’t get them in the boat.  When you have things go your way, it really shows.  The last few years at the Classic, I’ve made good decisions.  I’ve had a lot of fun here this week and the fish changed a lot.  I pride myself in being able to keep up with what they’re doing and being able to move with the fish.

Kevin VanDam

“Today I had a pretty good day, but I expected to have a monster day.  I really wanted to push it and I just couldn’t get the last two big bites today.  All three days, I fished three different ways with different baits. You’ve got to take the good with the bad, and the biggest thing is that you learn from an event like this. 

“When they drop the water six inches, and the fish are in a foot of water, they leave.  These fish get really shallow here, and they just move when the water drops.  The water temperature wasn’t near as big a deal as the water fluctuation.

“My best bait this week was a Strike King Rodent.  I also threw a Pure Poison and a KVD Spinnerbait and a KVD black/blue jig with a Rage Craw.  I was mixing it up depending on the area.  I had 12 rods up and I was just mixing it up with shallow power fishing.” 

Kevin Wirth14th Place: Kevin Wirth (40-8)
“To live through yesterday was tough, so it was a lot easier today.  I was emotional a few times when I was running down the River.  We competed well, so that’s all that you can ask for.

“I caught my biggest fish early again, right next to the ramp where I shook one off on Wednesday in practice.  I made my run and caught another one as soon as I pulled in, but the water had dropped so I manipulated around and picked up on a pattern around 10:30. 

“I lost one great big one, and then I caught a four-pounder.  The water dropped and the fish moved out a little farther.  I was catching them on a Strike King 1.5 and I was keying on 45-degree angle logs in about two-feet of water.  The water was clearing up every day, which really helped.  It had that good stained look to it.

15th Place: Takahiro Omori (39-3)
“My water temperature rose to over 60-degrees today.  The calmer wind and the sunshine helped out a bunch.   You never know until you try something, and I tried what I thought was the best thing for me.  It just didn’t happen.

“I spent the majority of my tournament shallow cranking and pitching.  Where I was fishing, it was so muddy that you couldn’t see the bedding fish.  It’s just like fishing Lake Fork, Toledo Bend, or Sam Rayburn.  This time of the year, stuff like that is going to happen.”

17th Place: Davy Hite (38-8)
“When you get here, you want to win. I talked to my wife and my youngest son this morning, and you just can’t beat yourself up to bad when you’re here in front of a big crowd fishing on the final day.

“It was just a matter of making those decisions on where you need to be.  I fished two places in the tournament.  I caught 11-pounds out of the first spot on Day One and then went to my second area and Keith Poche was the only boat in there.  Then, Edwin Evers went into my first place not knowing that I had even been there earlier in the day and he caught a big bag.

“It just came down to those little decisions that you have to make.  You either stay or go, and that’s the difference between winning and losing.”  

18th Place: Brent Chapman (38-5)
“It definitely didn’t end the way that I wanted it to end, but anytime that you get to fish on the third day, it’s a good event.  For the most part, I put all the fish in the boat and only lost two the entire week. I just really didn’t get the big bites that I needed.

“The first day, I caught all the fish on a 3” Tightlines UV Beaver.  The second day, I caught them on the Beaver and a ½-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait, and all my fish came on a spinnerbait today.  I was keying mostly on stumps with lily pad stems.  The key was that every fish was in less than three-feet.” 

20th Place: Bobby Lane (36-10)
“This week I was using the new Havoc tube in a black and red color and also a green pumpkin and chartreuse color.  I was also using a Humdinger spinnerbait to catch some of my fish as well. Keying on lily pad stems in the little jungle area of the red river was my primary pattern this week, and it ended up being a really productive deal.”

“You know, Chris had a really tough time a few years back and wasn’t qualifying for the Classic.  He learned from those experiences and used them to get better and not let it get the best of him.  I am as proud as I can be for him, and am not envious at all of him winning.  It is a great victory for our family, and I hope we both continue to have great success out here doing what we both love.”

22nd Place: Greg Hackney (34-8)
“I spent most of my time fishing visible cover and looking for bedding fish.  Every fish that I caught this week was on the bed.  I had seen a lot of nice fish on the beds before the tournament and today, I saw 50 bedding bucks and never saw a single female.

“The females pulled off and started doing something else, and I just couldn’t relocate them.  I wouldn’t change anything.  I only fished about an hour-and-a-half today because of a barge but I over compensated a little bit thinking they’d catch them a little bit better.

“The lower parts of the other two pools are a little bit more stable.  Down there, you have a little bit more fluctuation.  I fished what I thought was the best, so I wouldn’t change a thing.  I fished well this week.

“The first day, I caught them on a jig.  The second day, I caught them on a Strike King Zero and a Rodent.  Today, it was about the same.”

Check back shortly for a complete story.


Place Pro Angler
Day 1Day 2Day 3 Total Fish Total Weight
1 Chris Lane 5 16- 4 5 19- 4 5 15-14 15 51- 6
2 Greg Vinson 5 17-12 5 16-12 5 13- 7 15 47-15
3 Keith Poche 5 17-13 5 11- 8 5 16-10 15 45-15
4 Alton Jones 5 13-13 5 17-14 5 14- 3 15 45-14
5 Ott DeFoe 5 16- 6 5 11- 1 5 17- 7 15 44-14
6 Timmy Horton 5 10-11 5 17-14 5 16- 4 15 44-13
7 Dustin Wilks 5 16- 9 5 13-10 5 14- 9 15 44-12
8 Edwin Evers 5 16- 3 5 14- 4 5 13- 1 15 43- 8
9 Todd Faircloth 5 9- 9 5 18-12 5 12-10 15 40-15
10 Bill Lowen 5 14-13 5 14-13 5 11- 5 15 40-15
11 Kevin VanDam 5 11- 0 5 13-15 5 15-11 15 40-10
12 Aaron Martens 5 13-14 5 15-11 5 11- 1 15 40-10
13 David Walker 5 16- 8 5 12-14 5 11- 2 15 40- 8
14 Kevin Wirth 4 8-15 5 15- 5 5 16- 4 14 40- 8
15 Takahiro Omori 5 13-14 5 9-14 5 15- 7 15 39- 3
16 Keith Combs 5 13- 9 5 15- 1 5 10- 4 15 38-14
17 Davy Hite 5 13- 8 5 12-14 5 12- 2 15 38- 8
18 Brent Chapman 5 11-14 5 15-10 5 10-13 15 38- 5
19 Matt Reed 5 14- 8 5 12-12 5 10- 9 15 37-13
20 Bobby Lane 5 16- 4 5 14- 8 2 5-14 12 36-10
21 Jamie Horton 5 14-15 3 9- 0 5 11- 0 13 34-15
22 Greg Hackney 5 13-15 5 9-14 5 10-11 15 34- 8
23 Chris Price 5 10- 7 5 13-10 5 9-15 15 34- 0
24 Stephen Browning 5 11- 3 5 12-12 4 10- 0 14 33-15
25 Josh Polfer 5 11- 3 5 13- 1 3 5- 1 13 29- 5