It's been seven years since Brent Chapman last won. Oh, he's fished well enought to make it to 10 Classics, but he hasn't won a B.A.S.S. event since the 2005 Busch Shootout on Table Rock Lake.
Though he's probably still chilled from the frigid conditions this week at Lewisville Lake, he has managed to shake that monkey off his back.
“This is a big weight off my shoulders,” Chapman told B.A.S.S. reporter Rob Russow. “First, this tournament is over. The bigger reason is that I made the Classic and finally got another win.”
While he heads to Shreveport-Bossier City for the 2012 Classic next week, he's already looking forward to 2013 when the championship hits his home state of Oklahoma and Grand Lake.
So things are looking up for the Chapmans. Last Summer, Don Barone penned a piece focusing on how the economy was putting Chapman's career in jeopardy. In "How fragile, we ... ", Brent's wife Bobbi said, "We are one season away from big trouble, real big trouble, collapse of everything, that's how bad."
Winning $52,160 this week with another $10,000 coming from the Classic in 2013 should help.
While no one was pulling against Josh Bertrand, it was enjoyable to see a consummate pro like Chapman take the title.
An intriguing fish-off where we could test drive our new blog format was an added bonus, and we hope you enjoyed the coverage.
Gotta give big kudos to Russow and photographer James Overstreet for riding along with the competitors Sunday. They froze while bringing you BassCam videos, blog posts and photo galleries. And they didn't have a Classic berth on the line, just the work ethic to stick around another day and get the job done.
Chapman and 48 other anglers are now focusing on the Red River, as we will. We have a variety of features previewing the Classic scheduled this week. We sure hope you come back and follow us as we follow the anglers in their quest to become Bassmaster Classic champion.
Chapman has moved to the stretch of bank Mark Tucker won on last year. He lost a keeper on about the third cast, right at the boat.
He said it looked to be about 2 pounds. There is a guy close to us wading in the water ... in shorts!
He's got to be the dumbest or toughest guy in Texas. We're headed to the weigh-in.
It's desperation time for Josh Bertrand.
He's kneeling and reeling a deep crank on the dam. It's one of his favorite techniques, but it's not producing.
He just made his last cast and we are headed in.
Anything live performance can have mistakes. We made one when we grabbed the Day One weigh-in photo that said Josh Bertrand and posted it today.
Of course, it wasn’t Bertrand, but Tommy Jonovich. Chad Schimmel and Vince Borrego gave us the heads up.
Vince said he was driving back to Arizona with Jonovich and gave us Tommy’s reaction to seeing his image with Bertrand’s name underneath.
"Wow Josh sure got handsome!"
That’s kinda humorous. Or cocky. Maybe both. We did get a chuckle and fixed it all up.
Vince tells us that both Tommy and Josh are “team partners that dominate the local tournament scene. We traveled together for the Central Opens this year along with Mitch Kistner.”
Again, thanks for the heads up. Hope you’re home or can access the weigh-in, which we should have coming up here shortly.
The anglers are to be back at the state park by noon, so time is precious now. Visit the live video of the fish-off weigh-in to see who gets the Open title and Classic berth.
And y'all come back now, ya hear.
Bertrand tries out a marina before he headed back to the dam.
I've been very impressed with the calm, focused attitude Josh Bertrand has brought on the final day. He's been able to laugh and joke with me while remaining zeroed in on catching a bass.
For someone who aspires to join the professional ranks, that is a valuable trait to have.
We are back at the dam and Josh plans on staying for the final 30 minutes of the day. He's got the drop shot in hand and is working slowly down the rocks around the largest outcropping.
"I wasn't able to fish this during the tournament because there were so many guys on it," Bertrand said. "I came by here and there was a boat shallow, deep and one on the other side. I don't think they could even make a full-length cast."
There's no one here now, leaving plenty of room for Bertrand to seine the area. He's looking for one keeper to get him on the board. On the way over, we saw Chapman running out of the area he was in.
"I just have to assume he doesn't have any," Bertrand said. "I need to catch a fish."
Chapman has moved to the marina closet to the launch area. He said he caught the only fish he weighed on Day Two here.
We saw Bertrand speeding back to the dam. Chapman hopes that's an indication that he is scrambling and doesn't have any fish.
Chapman is totally calm and says he'll win if it's meant to be. He's been a true pleasure to spend time in a boat with, despite the pressure of a tournament that is basically down to sudden death.
Chapman has approached the entire morning with the mindset of a professional.
On another note, he ran his boat close to a no-wake buoy, but got shut down in time. I had my back to the wind taking photos while we were running. He said had he ran through the buoys it would have been a rules violation, and he would have had to 'call' himself on that one. Hard not to pull for a man built that way!
There's less than two hours to go in this contest and despite the brutal cold, this is gut-check time.
Chapman is out in front with one fish in the 5-pound range. But he doesn't have a clue what Bertrand is doing.
Bertrand has a zero and has to be assuming that Chapman is either struggling or killing them.
This where the mental aspect of bass fishing competition plays its most important role.
This is where we wish we could tap into the brains of two anglers and record every thought. You have to visualize the pressure each of them must be feeling.
And then understand that they are battling not only the elements and each other, but the things inside of them.
Overstreet told me earlier in a whisper that Chapman "was fishing his guts out."
That's what a real fish-off is all about. Two guys laying everything out there, knowing it will come down to the last minute, the last cast, or the last second to determine who wins.
This is Josh Bertrand on Day Three.
The 23-year-old Bertrand is no stranger to tournaments, having competed since he was 13.
This is the first time he's has been to Lewisville. Although he enjoys coming out east, he spends most of his time as a fishing guide out west on the lakes around his home in central Arizona.
His ultimate passion, though, is fishing tournaments.
"I would love to do this for a living," Bertrand said. "I don't know if it will happen this year or in 10 years, but I'm going to keep trying."
Being in contention for a Classic berth has been a surreal experience for him.
"Every time I think about it, my heart starts racing and I forget where I am," Bertrand said. "It's amazing to think that the Classic could be one fish away. And yet getting that one fish to bite can be so hard."
Almost immediately after saying that, Bertrand hooks up with his first fish, a good one that loads the rod up. He plays it carefully to the boat, readies the net and scoops up a big ... drum.
A heartbreaking development, knowing that could have been the one.
Chapman has changed locations, moving to one of the major boat ramp areas and has pulled a crankbait for the first time today.
The crankbait is a flat-sided square bill that a friend of his makes. Chapman has had a hunch about this spot all morning.
One thing about it, if there's any fish caught here, Chapman's gonna be involved. There's not another truck at the ramp. This lake looks totally deserted!
Chris Bowes had a bit of fun. At the end of Saturday's weigh-in, he announced, "We’re going to send them out in about an hour.”
Bowes raised some eyebrows, but then told all that B.A.S.S. has no tiebreakers in place for first-place ties in Opens competition, and that a fish-off was in order for Sunday.
Brent Chapman and Josh Bertrand were to stay over and fish for 5 hours to decide the champion of the event, along with the berth to the 2013 Classic on Oklahoma's Grand Lake.
It's not the first time Opens have produced fish-offs. In 2009, there were two occurrences, both in the Central division.
In the first on Toledo Bend, James Niggemeyer and Jerrel Pringle tied, and they went out for 3 1/2 hours of overtime the next day. Niggemeyer took his third title. See the story here and check out the slideshow.