The tide’s the limit

Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla. won his second Stren Series tournament on the Potomac River Saturday when he prevailed in the Northern Division season opener. Lane credits his ability to read the tide for his winning weight of 57 pounds, 6 ounces.

LA PLATA, Md. - Bobby Lane has a simple strategy when fishing a tournament on the Potomac River. "When you figure the tides out," said the Lakeland, Fla, pro, "you can catch some of the biggest fish in the area. The one thing I do every time I come here is work the tide to the best of my ability." Lane's ability to work the tide over the past three days was good for 57 pounds, 6 ounces of bass and a victory in the Stren Series Northern Division season opener on the Potomac River. While most of the final 10-man field struggled today to match their weights of the past two days, Lane landed the heaviest limit of the tournament Saturday at 22 pounds, 3 ounces and a first-place check for $21,202. Lane was the only pro to break the 20-pound mark today. He started the day in sixth place. When he walked on stage in La Plata this afternoon, he needed 16 pounds, 3 ounces to overcome Terry Olinger, who to that point had weighed the day's heaviest bag at 17-12 and had a three-day limit of 53-13. But as Lane placed his fish in the tank one by one in the Walmart parking lot, the crowd knew this was the bag to beat. Nobody would do it, not even Dave Lefebre, who started the day in first place and ended it in third, or Chris Dillow, who begain in second and finished in fourth. Lane figured out early in the tournament that the incoming tide was best. At 9 a.m. the waters began rising. At 10 a.m. the bite came on. Lane landed a 6-pounder, turned to his co-angler, Mike Branham, and said, "If these big ones bite, I can win this thing." For the rest of the day, he estimates he caught three limits that would have weighed 15 pounds each in an area that measured 50 yards square. "This time of year you look for that," Lane said. "It isn't one fish here and one fish there like when they're spawning. This time of year they're grouped up and ready to feed. You need to find those groups to win." Even as the tide crested at 11:15 a.m., the fish kept biting. "I thought they would turn off when it was high tide, 'cause they had the first two days," Lane said. "But everything went my way. I was in the right place at the right time and had the right baits, line, rods, reels, all that." But a winning formula for the Potomac can't be reduced to simply fishing during the incoming tide, for when Lane won his first Stren Series tournament here in 2007, the best bite occurred during the last hour of the outgoing tide.But this year he said he fished the outgoing tide in several good areas and caught nothing but little fish. "When you figure out which (tide) is best," Lane said, "you have from an hour to two hours to go ahead and blast 'em. I've been fortunate to figure that out the last two times I've been here." Lane caught his fish in Mattawoman Creek, which he had to himself today. Better yet, the wind was enough so he could drift without using his trolling motor, which he said spooks fish. In thick cover Lane used a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver with a 1 3/8-ounce weight on 55-pound-test Berkley Spidercast line. In thinner cover he switched to a Chigger Craw with a 5/8-ounce weight. Mattawoman Creek is about a half-mile from the launch site in Smallwood State Park. Lane said he put 20 gallons of gas in his boat on the first day of practice and hasn't been back to the pump since. "I must apologize to my co-anglers," he said. "They gave me money for gas, and I didn't deserve it." Now Lane said he must split his check with his brother Arnie. "It's supposed to be down the middle," Lane said, "but I'm going to work on him a little bit." Two weeks ago Lane won a Bassmaster Elite tournament on Kentucky Lake, so count him among the nation's hottest fishermen. To learn more about Lane's winning techniques, go to fishermanstoybox.com. Best of the rest 2. Terry Olinger, The Plains, Va., 57-6 3. Dave Lefebre, Union City, Pa., 53-10 4. Chris DIllow, Waynesboro, Va., 51-6 5. Bryan Schmitt, Deale, Md., 51-5 6. Chad Hicks, Rockville, Va., 50-10 7. Chris Baumgardner, Gastonia, N.C., 50-0 8. Mike Hicks, Goochland, Va., 49-11 9. Nick Gainey, Charleston, S.C., 43-15 10. Sean Stepp, Stafford, Va., 41-10

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