As the leader going into the final day of the Toledo Bend Battle, Brent Chapman has drawn a crowd. James Overstreet and I are among 33 boats filled with interested observers. Fortunately for Chapman, everyone is giving him plenty of room in this area where he's caught most of his fish this week. It's less than a five-minute boat ride south of Cypress Bend Park.
Chapman said at yesterday's weigh-in he wouldn't stay here as long as he did yesterday, if the fish aren't biting. He had most of his 16 pounds, 5 ounces by 8:30 a.m., but stayed here until 10:40 a.m.
He's planning to leave by 8:30 this morning, if the fish aren't cooperating. So far, they aren't. But Chapman has perfect fishing conditions - there's a bit of chop on the water, more than at anytime Saturday, and skies are overcast.
Chapman said Saturday the bass are on the bottom in this off-shore spot early. Then as the sun comes out they seem to rise up and suspend, making them less likely to bite.
"This tournament is going to come down to one guy catching a big bag of fish (Sunday)," Chapman said Saturday. "I just hope it's me."
We don't know whether this is a harbinger of great things to come or quite the opposite, after hearing so many of the pros talk about having a difficult practice on Toledo Bend.
Today's conditions are overcast, slightly foggy and really muggy. Not exactly, the type things you build a post card with, but it is much closer to the weather these guys had during their practice period.
Again, some of them made a point of saying they had terrible practices. Hopefully that won't translate into a tough final day. But we do know from experience that these type days seem to pull fish off of the cover, which means these guys may not be able to pin-point their targets as well as they have been the last couple of days.
Suspended roaming fish can be the bane to the guy casting in 20- to 30-feet of water. Or they can turn into a dream for a topwater guy.
It will be interesting to see how things play out. One thing is for certain, in this part of Louisiana the weather can change quickly.
There might be a few Elites hoping for that change sooner than later.
Waiting with Mark Zona and Dennis Tietje for Brent Chapman to set up and go on this all important first hour of fishing. He rolls in at 6:34 and tosses out some buoys as we look for an opportunity to toss Zona in the boat with him.
The wind is from the southwest for the first time this tournament. Dennis says that may bode well for Chapman as it should push some bait onto his target spots.
We are about to see.
Day Four of the Toledo Bend Battle begins. The 12 finalists are on the water now. Brent Chapman remains in the lead, with Marty Robinson in second place by 1 pound, 5 ounces. We'll be covering it live all day today. Some of our reports may be delayed a bit because of lack of cell service at Toledo Bend. But check back often.
War Room coverage begins at 9:00 Central.
OK, this is really my last comment about the importance of catching a limit in Elite competition. It really shows itself when it comes to winning a tournament. It's practically impossible to do without catching five each and every day of an event.
In fact, only three times in Elite history has the winner not limited every day. Kelly Jordon won the 2006 event on the Potomac and weighed just four bass on Day Three. Casey Ashley did it the next season, clinging to his lead at Smith Mountain despite being one bass short of a limit on the final day.
John Crews didn't limit on Day One or Day Three at the California Delta in 2010, but he still won. But only two anglers limited all four days of that event.
So far this season, 31 anglers have limited each day they've been on the water. By the time the season ends, that number promises to be much, much smaller — certainly in single digits and it might even be zero.
In Elite history, only six anglers have limited every day they competed for an entire season. Jeff Kriet was the first to do it in 2007. Last season, no one did it.
Speaking of limits (which I was), the guys who are the very best at catching numbers of bass in competition won't surprise you much. They're also the guys who regularly win, regularly challenge for AOY and regularly qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. Here are the best five in Elite history at bringing a limit to the scales. The number represents the average number of bass they weigh in on a competition day.
1. Kevin VanDam 4.8818
2. Aaron Martens 4.8729
3. Todd Faircloth 4.8634
4. Michael Iaconelli 4.8418
5. Gerald Swindle 4.8333
Of that group, only Swindle missed the cut at Toledo Bend, and he had a limit each of the first two days and missed the cut by virtue of a tiebreaker. Is is a coincidence that the guys who most consistently limit are also the most successful? Not even close.
We got a quick word with Brent Chapman before we leave the lake for the day. He confirmed that he's had his confidence restored by catching some bass in the last hour. He's keeping close track of his total weight for the day and says he now has 16 pounds. He also confirmed that he'll soon go back to his previous days' hot spot.
"It's good to get around some and be able to catch them," Chapman said. "Out there, I started feeling like I'd forgot how."
But even these bass aren't concentrated like what he has been seeing on Toledo Bend.
"They're kind of scattered and suspended," he said. "I've got some other stuff, but I think that (previous hot spot) has the best potential. So I'm going to go back out there and hope and pray I can catch a couple of big ones."
KVD has the record for limiting 57 competition days in a row. On the bad side of that stat is Brent Broderick, who once went eight consecutive competition days without catching a 5-bass limit in 2011.
The next longest streak of limit futility belongs to Grant Goldbeck, who went seven straight competition days without getting to cull, also in 2011. Only three other anglers have gone as long as six competition days in a row without a limit — Jon Bondy, Boyd Duckett and Jeff Reynolds.
These streaks of no limits invariably happen late in the tournament season, when the weather gets hot and the fishing gets tougher. Having even two consecutive days without a limit in the early part of the season is very rare. That's when the bass are up and eating and maybe even spawning. Everyone catches them then.
Brent Chapman has moved again, but just barely this time. And the move paid off, just like the last one. He didn't get his boat on plane this time, in moving deeper into a creek arm of Toledo Bend by maybe a couple hundred yards. Chapman quickly caught two bass, one of which helped him cull up by ounces.
More important is the confidence gained by catching some fish, after that long dry spell earlier this morning. It's doubtful Chapman has given up on the spot he caught everything from over the past two days, but that spot and Chapman probably needed a break.
Chapman just landed another bass — his third in the last five minutes — but it wasn't big enough to help him.