March 22, 2023
During a recent outing on Lake Kissimmee, the word “lane” came up a lot. Not surprising, as my host was none other than Bassmaster standout Bobby Lane.
However, this was not so much about his family heritage; although stories of Bobby, his brothers Arnie and Chris, along with their father, Bob, Sr., certainly did come up, in relevance to their collective mastery of Central Florida’s Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. Rather, you might say Lane (capital L) thinks a lot about lanes (lowercase l) and how they help guide bass movement.
Laying it all out with examples found on this shallow, weedy Florida powerhouse, Lane’s logic holds true anywhere you find open water with outer vegetation lines flanking the shallow inner spawning zones. It’s all about maximizing your time efficiency by learning to recognize the paths that bass use for seasonal travel and the paths through which to bring specific baits.
Here’s how he breaks it down.
While your traditional reservoir scenario finds bass tracing “the ditch” into and out of creek arms and spawning pockets, shallow to relatively shallow southern lakes lacking such definitive routes typically find bass moving from whatever “offshore” scenario they favor, past the outer grass lines and into protected bays.
“You’ll see where there’s a clear break in the (vegetation) and that’s where the fish will come in,” Lane said. “From there, they move to the first big patch of pads or buggy whips or reeds where they can feed up for the spawn.”
When the fish are ready to go, they just move up to the shoreline, isolated reed clumps, cattails, or shallow pads to do their thing. Once they’ve spawned, they’ll retrace the same lane back to the outer waters where they’ll transition into summer patterns.
“When you pay attention to the lanes, you’ll see where the fish are coming from and where they’re going,” he said. “You have this great big area and, rather than wasting a lot of time fishing through it all, you can target the most productive spots.”
Prespawn fish typically set up on hard structure or vegetated cover a short jog from where they’ll spawn. As water temperature and moon phase approach favorable alignment, they’ll nudge progressively closer to the bedding areas, while they feed on whatever the cover offers.
For fish staging in vegetation, he prefers a Texas-rigged 10-inch Berkley Power Worm or a Berkley MaxScent The General (stick worm) on a 4/0 Berkley Fusion19 Offset Worm Hook with a 1/8-ounce weight. A streamlined package that casts well, this deal allows Lane to target distinct pathways—lanes—within pad fields.
“This works best with the isolated pad clumps because the great big pad fields are too dense and there’s too much to cover,” he said.
The money scenario, Lane said, is a lane leading to an inner pocket. Even if you have to deftly negotiate your worm across a couple of pad stems, dropping into these little holding areas is nearly a guaranteed bite.
A couple things to consider here: First, casting past the pads allows you to line up the presentation, but you have to account for the wind. As soon as the bait hits the water, lower the rod tip to keep the wind from blowing a bow in your line.
Also, be patient with that 1/8-ounce weight; this is not a flipping/punching technique.
“You have to give that bait time to reach the bottom before you start moving it,” Lane advised. “If you don’t, it will (pendulum swing) through the cover without ever reaching the bottom.”
Lane’s very intentional with the way he pulls his bait through the pads. It’s rod tip low and a body turning sweep. Only reel down to take up slack and position for the next sweep. Similar to a Carolina-rig presentation, this style creates a more thorough, intentional presentation.
And don’t overlook the pad perimeters. Prominent points are classic prespawn staging spots, so a well-placed cast that allows you to work that outside lane often rewards the effort.
The Bedding Zone
Similar to the opening concept of utilizing lanes in outer vegetation, Lane concludes by pointing out a particular scenario he commonly exploits. When lake levels create secluded, semi-hidden lagoons behind flooded wood (think Google Earth), savvy bass will sniff out a lane that allows them access to a secure bedding zone.
“You’ll have a shoreline that’s solid wood, with a shallow spawning area behind it, but those fish will look for the lanes that pass through there to reach that inside pocket,” he said. “You could go along that outside wood and maybe you’ll find one here and there, but when you find the lanes, you’ll find the areas where a lot of fish are spawning.”
His ideal set up is a narrow lane with sparse vegetation at the mouth. He’s particularly fond of cattails because they tend to grow on cleaner bottom—always a good sign of promising spawning areas.
After the fish are finished bedding, reverse course, and work those lanes in the opposite direction. From Florida’s weedy bowls, to South Carolina’s Santee-Cooper Lakes, to the James River backwaters, this effective strategy cuts minimizes the looking and maximizes the catching.
So next time someone asks you for advice on breaking down broad spawning areas, tell them to stay in their lane.