By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Brent Chapman was a triple-qualifier for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, having won the Elite Series Angler of the Year (AOY) title, the Elite event at Toledo Bend Reservoir and the Lake Lewisville Central Open the previous year. He would've benefited greatly had he been able to bank those two berths he earned, but didn't need back then, for future use.
Next year's Classic at Lake Hartwell will be the fourth straight he's sat out. He had a solid follow-up to his AOY campaign (he ended up 19th on the 2013 Elite points list), but then dropped outside the top 50 the next year and has remained there. His points finishes have degraded slightly year by year ever since – 52nd in 2014, 56th in '15, 59th in '16 and 63rd this year.
One of his biggest issues for the past several years has been underestimating the weights that would be required to finish among the top 50 at a given event. He'd settle on a number at the conclusion of the three-day official practice period and then strive to achieve it on day 1.
Oftentimes, when he'd hit or even slightly exceed his target weight, he'd nonetheless be buried on the lower half of the standings sheet.
"I need to quit putting a number on what I think it's going to take to do well, or maybe just automatically raise the number," he said last week while traveling to Alabama's Lake Martin for a pre-practice trip. "Everywhere we go it takes a lot of weight anymore – the days of catching 12 pounds a day and ending up in the top 12 don't hardly exist.
"That might do it at a place like the Sabine River (which the Elite Series will visit again next year), but even there I have to assume that it's going to take more."
Pumped About New Rule
Chapman believes that the circuit's newly stiffened no-information rule will aid anglers such as himself who take more of an old-school approach to tournament preparation. Competitors can no longer intentionally solicit information from people familiar with a fishery once that venue has been announced as an Elite stop.
"It's going to put things back in check and I think you're going to see a big change in how some people end up in the tournaments," he said. "What's been the big, overwhelming deal the last few years is the amount of info guys are acquiring. I'm not faulting them because it was legal to do, but it got ridiculous. A lot of guys, that's how they function. It doesn't always help them, but a lot of times it does. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.
"That's not how I was brought up fishing – whatever happened to doing it on your own and figuring things out. The networking that some of these people have is crazy, and now they're going to have to do it themselves. I think that's really going to help things."
Offseason Off to Good Start
The excursion to Martin is Chapman's second pre-practice trip of the young offseason. He's already been to South Dakota's Lake Oahe, which was the only other venue on the 2018 schedule that he hasn't experienced.
"I will say already that heading toward 2018, I'm feeling pretty darn prepared," he said. "My rule of thumb is that if I've never been to a body of water to go and scout it so when I go back next year I can at least wrap my brain around it. I try to get a feel for what to expect.
"Some of the little things that need to get done in the offseason have already fallen into place, and my new boat will supposedly be ready in a week or two, which is very unusual. Once I've got those things scratched off the list, it gives me more time to focus on the events and what I need to do to get ready for them."
He badly wants to get back to the Classic. Heck, at this point, he'd like to compete in an AOY Championship event – there have been four of those so far and he's come up short of qualifying for each of them.
"It stinks, but it is what it is," he said. "All I can do is look forward, learn from my mistakes and try not to make the same ones in the future."