Class acts are not hard to find in the Bassmaster Elite Series, neither are anglers who are willing to selflessly do the right thing. Just look to Brent Chapman and Chris Lane.
Lane and Chapman were the first two anglers to potentially (more on this later) qualify for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake, Okla., Feb. 22-24, but not by virtue of their exploits in the Classic or the Elite Series. They won the first two Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes and Texas’ Lake Lewisville, respectively. Those wins, though enormous at the time, turned out to be lesser highlights once the year progressed.
Just a month after winning the Harris Chain Southern Open, Lane won the Bassmaster Classic. And four months after his Lewisville win, Chapman won an Elite Series tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir and later the Angler of the Year title. These are life-changing and career making events that also carry an invitation to the 2013 Classic.
So when Chapman, after a long season that took him and his family from South Florida to Upstate New York and west of the Mississippi River, started wondering if there would ever be a break from the travel and wear and tear, it’s only natural that he would ask B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon what would happen if he skipped the last Central Open on Oklahoma’s Fort Gibson Lake. After all, he was already double qualified for the Bassmaster Classic.
When Weldon told him that skipping the last Central Open would forfeit his Classic berth from that series and cost an Elite angler a spot in the Classic, Chapman and his wife Bobbi got back in their camper and drove their home-away-from-home to Oklahoma, where the temperatures are over 100 and the fishing’s beyond tough. The Opens offer “win-and-you’re-in” Classic berths, but you have to fish all three in that division (Southern, Northern or Central).
“It’s the right thing to do,” Chapman said. “We (his family) committed to fishing the Opens. Is the fire that I had a Lewisville still there? I gotta be honest — it’s not. I’m exhausted. We haven’t had a chance to breathe since New York.”
The beneficiary of Chapman’s sacrifice will be Arkansas Elite pro Mike McClelland, who is currently the “bubble boy” as far as Classic qualification is concerned. As soon as Chapman launches on Friday to compete in the second round at Fort Gibson, McClelland is in. It means a lot because it’s the Classic, but it may mean even more because McClelland has won on Grand Lake in the past and will be a pre-tournament favorite for many.
“It’s funny that the guy who gets in because I fish this Open will be someone with a lot of experience on Grand Lake and someone with a great chance to win there,” admitted Chapman, “but I want to beat the best anytime I’m fishing, and Mike is one of the best. I want him in the Classic.
“Besides, last year I was in his shoes. I needed help to qualify for the Classic and got it. It’s nice to repay that.”
With Chapman’s entry and competition at the final Central Open, McClelland will be qualified for the 2013 Classic. California pro Jared Lintner stands to reap the same benefit from Chris Lane when Lane fishes the final Southern Open on Smith Lake, Ala., in October.
Chapman and Lane understand that by opening door to the Classic for their fellow Elite anglers they’re making the field tougher at Grand Lake, but for them the decision is easy. It’s the right thing to do, even after a long season that has seen them reach the highest highs our sport has to offer.