The tournament had its origin in 2010 when Derek Boswell from Barstow High School asked Lane to be the MC at an informal kid’s fishing tournament at Camp Mack, a Guy Harvey® Lodge, Marina & RV Park in the middle of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Central Florida. After the event, Lane approached Boswell and asked, “Derek, do you mind if I take the helm of this thing and see what we can do?”
Lane fondly recalled summers spent at a camp at Lake Eufaula in Alabama. “When I was a kid,” said Lane, “bass fishing legend Tom Mann, who started Mann’s Bait Company®, put on an event there, and my brothers Arnie and Chris, along with my sister Kelly and I, were all in. In addition to fishing, it included BB gun shooting and a casting contest, and I remember how much fun it was and the effect it had on all the kids. I wanted to give other kids the chance to experience what we felt.”
“That first event had 18 kids, and they received Yamaha hats and wristbands just for participating,” said Lane. “The second year was the first official Bobby Lane Cup (BLC), and we had 36 kids enter and awarded a $1,000 check to a family that needed some help. After that, I started moving forward with it, and with everyone showing more interest, we decided to turn it into a scholarship program, and the tournament has been steadily growing ever since.”
Some kids who enter don’t have a boat or a boat captain, but thanks to the 20-30 boat captains who volunteer, no kid has ever been left on the bank. Every year, another 30 or 40 volunteers help run the BLC. Lane’s wife, Madeline, and oldest daughter, Lexi, who is 19, are part of the staff, and Bobby III, who competes in the tournament, is 16, and Amberly, 14, help stage the event.
In 2023, 126 two-angler junior and senior teams competed at the event held on December 2. The High School Division winners, Hayden Starnes and Isaiah Farmer, hoisted a 10.73-pound bass that helped give them a five-fish limit that weighed 26.77 pounds. They received gift cards worth $1,500 each and a prize pack worth $5,000. Levi Lehman and Jackson Caudill won the Junior Division, which had 54 two-angler teams, and collected $250 apiece. An impressive stat is that of the approximately 400 fish caught that day, only four didn’t survive to make the weigh-in.
While the fishing competition was an essential element of the tournament, contestants also had to participate in 25 hours of community service and write an essay detailing their service to the community to be eligible to win a scholarship. “In 12 years, we’ve given away close to $300,000,” said Lane. “This year, we awarded 34 scholarships, totaling $62,000.”
In addition to fishing at the Bobby Lane Cup, there were other activities for kids of all ages. “This year, we did trash art,” said Lane, “where the kids picked up trash around the facility and then with the help of Cory Crider Redwine, a self-styled ‘trash picker-upper and mangrove momma’ who is well known for her trash art, helped the kids put all the pieces together to create a wonderful bass collage.” Her husband, Derek Redwine, created a painting of a bass that earned $2,500 for the tournament at auction.
According to Lane, one of the main hurdles for youngsters nowadays is getting them to want to do something outside. “With all the distractions like electronic devices and activities like organized sports, it’s difficult for them to commit to something new. Kids always want to look and act cool; if the older kids are fishing, they will be drawn to it. The opportunity for me to sign an autograph or watch a kid catch his first fish is among my many rewards for hosting this tournament. Kids will come up and tell me that they didn’t catch any fish last year, but this year, they caught three, and to watch them stand in the bag line and see that excitement is infectious.”
Another goal of the BLC tournament is to let kids know there are many opportunities in the fishing world. “When dealing with young kids,” explained Lane, “I understand anything we say can make an impression on their lives forever. There are many bad influences out there, and this is a chance for us to show them another avenue that will help them make good decisions in life.
“Another benefit of the tournament is the ability to expose kids to the great outdoors and teach them about the environment,” said Lane. “I have been a Yamaha pro since day one, and programs like Yamaha Rightwaters™ let me know I am affiliated with the right company because they’re pushing the needle to make the world a better place, just like I’m trying to do with this tournament.”
One of the best things about fishing is the camaraderie it creates, which is magnified in a tournament setting. And it’s not just with friends. “When I’m not fishing on tour,” said Lane, “my family and I love to head down to places like Englewood or the Keys and go saltwater fishing together. I’ve never known any sport that can bring people together like fishing and I’ve been blessed to have been surrounded with family my entire life who share this special bond.”
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