WAGONER, Okla. — The pressure is off for Brent Chapman. Or is it?
Just two weeks ago Chapman sealed his fate for the season. The Kansas pro conquered a career goal by winning the 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. He’s already qualified for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. For the remainder of the year, he can do anything. Get ready to track down a monster whitetail buck. Anything but go bass fishing.
Yet here he is at the final Bass Pro Shops Central Open. Chapman can add another accolade to his stellar season this week at Fort Gibson Lake. Just by showing up and fishing he can become a rare Classic triple-qualifier. But that’s not why he’s here either.
“I don’t have to catch fish here,” he said prior to the take-off. “But, at the same time, I make my living fishing and by winning tournaments.”
Turning a win here will be difficult. The stakes are higher, and the fishing outlook is bleak.
“This practice has been horrible,” he continued. “But that gives me an opportunity to improve my mental game.”
That’s how practice panned out at the season’s first Central Open at Lake Lewisville, Texas. Chapman had a “horrible” practice there, too. And he went on to win the tournament after a sudden-death fish-off.
“Yeah, that thought has crossed my mind,” he said. “Here, it’ll challenge me to look at the optimistic side. That’s always a good mental exercise regardless of how the season is going.”
After 20 years on the tour, Chapman knows how the mental side of the game can play dirty tricks on the mind. His peers will be doing more than sweating in the 100-degree heat while Chapman is out having fun on Fort Gibson. It’s here that one Classic berth goes to the winner. There’s even more on the line for others seeking a spot in the Elite Series.
“Just two weeks ago, I was under that pressure; and I feel for those guys,” he said. “But here it’s going to be even more stressful. For some of these guys, it’s a Classic berth, staying or getting into the Elite Series, maybe even making or breaking a career.”
“Really, if you think about it, there’s always more on the line at the final Open of a season,” he added.
There’s even more stress in the form of space. Think of Fort Gibson as a pressure cooker. The lake spreads out across 21,798 surface acres, but that’s not all that much fishing space for roughly 150 boats filled with anglers under pressure.
“It’ll definitely add more stress to some of these guys,” predicted Chapman. “It fishes small. And that makes all the obvious stuff really stand out. You have to go looking for obscure types of areas that are difficult to find. And there’s not that much time to go looking around.”
Even so, Chapman is fishing to win.
“I said this before earlier in the year,” he said. “As a successful professional angler, you’ve got to have a greedy attitude, at least in your fishing.
“I’ve won a couple of events already this year and I don’t want to stop here,” he concluded.
The pressure is on for many pros fishing at Fort Gibson. But the stress won’t get Chapman down. He knows there will be plenty of that to go around next season.