Posted by Z3 Media Staff on 03/23/2014

Story and photos by Matt Pangrac

Palatka, FL – Chris Lane didn’t leave much room for drama on championship Sunday at the Elite Series tournament on the St. Johns River.  Entering the day with a commanding lead of 12 pounds, 8 ounces over his closest pursuer, Lane just needed to box a decent limit on the final day to all but secure the second Elite Series victory of his career.  

He did just that, putting together a respectable limit weighing 15-pounds to take the title by 14-pounds, 4 ounces with a total weight of 90-13.  

Over the four competition days, Lane turned in efforts of 18-11, 37-9, 19-9, and 15-0.  He only broke the 20-pound mark on one day of the tournament, but his staggering 37-9 on Friday gave him quite the cushion.  As 3rd place finisher Mark Davis stated after the final weigh-in: “When a guy brings in a 37-pound limit, it’s safe to say that he deserves to win.”   

Finishing in 2nd place behind Lane was Dean Rojas with a total weight of 76-9.  The Arizona pro took the slow and steady approach to the top of the leader board.  Over the first three days of competition, Rojas never broke the 20-pound mark or finished the day above 9th place in the tournament standings.   

That all changed for Rojas on Sunday, as he was the only angler in the Top 12 to break the 20-pound mark on the final day, rolling up the scales with a limit of largemouth weighing 21-10.  While many of the top finishers battled it out in the crowded eelgrass beds on Lake George, Rojas opted to key on less pressured water, mining several grass patches that were off the beaten path.  

After finishing in 3rd place last week on Lake Seminole, Mark Davis turned in a repeat performance on the St. Johns River, finishing in 3rd with 75-4.  The back-to-back top five finishes vaulted the Arkansas veteran to the top of the Elite Series Angler Of the Year point standings after the first two regular season tournaments.   

Alton Jones, the 2012 Elite Series champion on the St. Johns River, finished in 4th place with 74-7. Jones fished in the same general area and used the same bait this week that he did during his victory two years ago.  
Davy Hite rounded out the Top 5 with a total weight of 73-3 after crossing the stage with a limit weighing just 9-14 on Sunday.  

In the Rookie Of the Year race, Justin Lucas finished the first two Elite Series tournaments with 183 points overall and a 16 point lead over Chad Morgenthaler.   Currently, the top five “rookies” in the ROY race are all FLW Tour veterans.  

1st Place: Chris Lane (18-11, 37-9, 19-9, 15-0: 90-13)
Lane on his decision to fish in Dexter during the tournament:
“I’ve fished down there in past tournaments, but on the first day of practice, it looked like everything was right to me and everything looked good.  The water was up and the water temperature was down.   It was about 68 degrees in practice and it went up to 74 degrees during the tournament."  

Lane on why he targeted lily pads while the majority of the field fished eelgrass:
“My winning pattern was casting to lily pads and fishing for fish that were coming up to spawn, going out after spawning, and all in between.  I really had to buckle down today because I knew that my area was getting thin.  Once you took two or three fish off of a patch of pads, it was hard to go back and catch another one.  

“It was just a pattern that I’ve learned from fishing in Florida.  It’s hard to explain, because it’s just something that you know when you see it.  In practice, I tried to locate the pads that had a group of fish and not just single fish.  

“I chose to fish lily pads and not eelgrass because I just wanted to fish the way that I enjoy fishing, and I like to fish lily pads in Florida. I know that eelgrass is great for spawning and sight fishing, but I’m not a sight fisherman.  When I saw the fish that I did during the first day of practice, I knew that it was going to be a good event.”  

Lane reflects on each day of the tournament:  
“The fact that I only weighed in 18-11 on the first day of the tournament was my fault.  There was a fog delay that morning, and I was anticipating catching these giant bass because that’s just what I was expecting based on my practice.  When I started fishing, I kept culling and culling but I didn’t get any big bites.  I was fishing fast, I wasn’t fishing clean, and I didn’t fish the way that I needed to be fishing to get those big bites.  I just wasn’t relaxed on Thursday.  

“On Friday, I was dialed in.  It (the area) felt good, I felt good, and I wasn’t anxious at all.  That was one of those days when everything just went right for me. It was a day that you dream about.”

“Thank goodness for the 9-10 fish that I caught on the third day, because that was another day where I didn’t fish clean.  I fished too fast and I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before.  I was anticipating all these giant bass because I had just caught 37-pounds in there.  I was just way too anxious and wasn’t fishing right.

“Today, I just prayed that I would be able to go out there, stay focused and calm, and concentrate on what I needed to do.”   

Lane’s primary baits and equipment:
- Luck-E-Strike Ribbontail worm (Black/Blue) with 1/8-ounce Reins Tungsten
- Luck-E-Strike prototype soft plastic stickbait (Black/Blue) with 1/8-ounce Reins Tungsten
- ¾-ounce homemade jig n’ pig (Black/Blue)
- 15 lb. test Stren Brute Strength monofilament (fished with soft plastics)  
- 65 lb. test Stren Sonic Braid (fished with jig)
- All Star Rods (new model) 7’6” Heavy
- All Star Rods (new model) 7’ Worm Rod
- Abu Garcia Revo Rocket 9.0:1 (when fishing soft plastics)
- Abu Garcia Revo SX 6.4:1 (When flipping jig)   

Lane on his equipment:
“I used the Revo Rocket when I was fishing with the worm because I was making long casts to sets of lily pads.  With the Rocket, I was able to get the bait back to the boat a lot faster and make another cast. I also used my Power-Poles a lot when I was really dialed in on an area.  When I put my Power-Poles down, I would usually catch like two fish out of each set of pads.  Then I’d pick up the Poles, drift down to the next set of pads, and go back to work.”   

Lane on the success over the last several years of his career:  
“I really think that you have to go back to 2010 when I won the Bassmaster Open on Okeechobee.  It started building then, and I realized that I really needed to work hard because this is my job and this is how I make my living.  I have a family of five that I have to take care of, so I just realized that I needed to work harder.  There’s a lot more to it than just going out there and going fishing, and I’ve had to put my time in and work hard to become a better fisherman.”  

2nd Place: Dean Rojas (17-15, 19-7, 17-9, 21-10: 76-9)
Rojas on his consistency this week on the St. Johns River:
“After practice, I thought that the potential was there to catch a 20-pound sack.  The key for me was finding some stuff that was away from the conglomerate of boats down in Lake George.  I was fishing in Lake George, but I just wasn’t fishing in (the crowded) areas.  I probably had a half dozen spots that I alternated between throughout the whole week.”

Rojas on his primary pattern:
“My primary pattern was just pitching a Fighting Frog in and around eelgrass, tulles, lily pads, and anywhere else I thought I fish could be bedding or holding waiting to spawn.  I just covered a lot of water.  Most of my water was dirty, so I rarely saw a fish.  I caught a lot of fish that were in little holes in the eelgrass or next to clumps of grass.   At times, the wind would bunch up the grass and I would just fish whatever was in front of me.”  

Rojas on fishing new water this year on the St. Johns River after making the Top 12 cut in both 2011 and 2012:
“When we came here for the first time, I got in the mess (in Lake George) and made the Top 12.  Last time we were here, I had to move around and fish the river a little bit more.  I knew that the guys were going to catch big bags, but I also knew that I didn’t want to mess with the crowds. I knew that if I could find some water to myself, the consistency would pay off and I’d be at the top by the end.”

Rojas’ primary baits and equipment:
- Big Bite Baits 3 ½” Fighting Frog (Hematoma) with 3/16 ounce tungsten weight
- Big Bite Baits Warmouth with 3/16 ounce tungsten weight
- Duckett Fishing Micro Magic Series 7’6” Heavy action rod
- 22 lb. test Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line
- 20 lb. test Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line
- 4/0 Gamakatsu SuperLine Offset EWG hook (when fishing Warmouth)
- 3/0 Gamakatsu SuperLine Offset EWG hook (when fishing Fighting Frog)

Rojas' overall thoughts about this week:
“Finishing in 2nd was a pleasant surprise.  I caught most of my fish early today, so I kind of forgot about how quality my fish were.  I didn’t think that I’d stay in 2nd for very long today, because there was a lot of good fisherman on the water today.  I would say that this is the best 2nd place finish that I’ve had in my career.  I did the best that I could do under the circumstances that were placed in front of me.”  

3rd Place: Mark Davis (18-3, 26-7, 16-13, 13-13: 75-4)
Davis on Sunday on the St. Johns River:
“It was just a struggle today and I just couldn’t get anything going. A lot of the other guys seemed to have the same problem, though. The conditions got bad for what we were doing. There's a lot of other ways to catch fish, but when you’ve been catching them the same way for four days and don’t know what else to do, it gets tough.

Davis on trying to erase the big lead that Chris Lane had going into the day:
“When a guy catches 37-pounds in one day, he is supposed to win.  The only way that you’re going to beat that is if you catch a huge stringer, and I wasn’t able to do that.  When you catch a stringer like (Chris Lane) did, it’s just his time to win.”  

Davis’ primary pattern:
“I was mixing it up between sight fishing for spawning fish and casting to holes in the eelgrass in Lake George. I think that fishing slow really paid off for me this week.  It works if you’re around the fish, but if you’re not around them and you’re fishing that way, then you’re in trouble.  Up until today, my slow approach really paid off.  My deal ended when the wind got up today.”  

Davis’ primary baits:
Strike King KVD Perfect Plastics Shim E Stick (Watermelon/Red)
Strike King Rage Bug (Green Pumpkin)
Strike King Game Hawg (Bama Bug)

Davis on leading the Angler Of the Year after two tournaments:
“It’s no doubt the best start to a season during my career.  I hope that I can keep it going, and I know that it’s going to be a challenge.  The St. Johns River is not my favorite place in the world to fish, so I was just looking to get out of here with some points and a check.   Even though I was in survival mode things turned out a lot better than I expected.”  

4th Place: Alton Jones (18-1, 21-11, 19-8, 15-3: 74-7)
Jones on Sunday at the St. Johns River:
“I think that I only caught eight or nine keepers today. They were biting funny early and I missed four or five.  I had one chance to make a good cull during the day that was probably a 4- to 5-pound fish; I didn’t have it on for very long, but I guess the fish just didn’t get the bait in its mouth very well.   Overall, I fished pretty clean, but there’s one bite each day that I would like to have another chance at.  If you end up catching each of those bites, it’s a game changer.”  

Jones on the biggest difference in Lake George between 2012 when he won and this week:
“The big difference this year on the St. Johns River was the cold weather this year leading up to the tournament. There wasn’t as much thick eelgrass to create the clear water pockets.  The water was also a lot higher because of the full moon and the east wind that we had the first couple of days leading into the event – it just wouldn’t let the tide go out.  

“It was harder to find areas to sight fish in, and there was one major area where you could see them.  The water was cleaner there because there was heavier grass and it filtered the water.  The boats really bunched up in that area.”  

Jones’ primary baits:
6” YUM Dinger (Junebug) with 1/8-ounce or ¼ ounce weight depending on the wind
4/0 straight shank hook
50 lb. test braid with 25 lb. test fluorocarbon leader


PlacePro Angler
Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Total FishTotal Weight
1 Chris Lane 5 18-11 5 37- 9 5 19- 9 5 15- 0 20 90-13
2 Dean Rojas 5 17-15 5 19- 7 5 17- 9 5 21-10 20 76- 9
3 Mark Davis 5 18- 3 5 26- 7 5 16-13 5 13-13 20 75- 4
4 Alton Jones 5 18- 1 5 21-11 5 19- 8 5 15- 3 20 74- 7
5 Davy Hite 5 24- 1 5 14- 7 5 24-13 5 9-14 20 73- 3
6 David Walker 5 14- 7 5 20- 1 5 19-11 5 17-10 20 71-13
7 Randy Howell 5 27- 3 5 20- 2 5 11- 9 5 12-14 20 71-12
8 Keith Combs 5 14-12 5 28- 2 5 17-11 5 9-10 20 70- 3
9 Justin Lucas 5 19-12 5 24-15 5 13- 4 5 11-11 20 69-10
10 Todd Faircloth 5 12-11 5 21- 2 5 21- 0 5 13-12 20 68- 9
11 Jason Williamson 5 17-14 5 16-11 5 19-14 4 10- 9 19 65- 0
12 Paul Elias 5 19- 5 5 24-14 5 13- 4 5 6- 6 20 63-13