TULSA, Okla. – Brent Chapman, the 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, ascended the ballroom stage at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino confidently but quietly, without added flair.
Through 11 prior Bassmaster Classic appearances, he had never been put in the position of having to speak to his peers on the Classic Night of Champions, so he took on the task tentatively at first, but eventually reached a crescendo of confidence.
His speech started off with a humble round of thank yous – to his peers, to his sponsors, to his competitors, to his family and to his friends – and gradually became more direct about what the TTBAOY title meant to him. Like his B.A.S.S. career, now over 200 events strong, his speech built up steam.
Chapman described a camping trip his family took to a Kansas lake when he was an impressionable 12-year-old. Watching a local bass club’s weigh-in, “the light bulb went off,” he said.
Now, for at least the course of one year, his is the brightest bulb in the fishing universe. A little over a year ago, that current reality seemed unlikely, as Chapman struggled with the meaning and finances of his good-but-not-great career.
Three trophies – one for his Bassmaster Open win to start to 2012 season, followed by one for an Elite Series win at Toledo Bend and eventually one to honor his season-long title – restored his faith in his abilities and in his career path.
Prior to the season-ending Elite Series tournament on New York’s Oneida Lake, his daughter Makayla presented him with a handmade Dream Catcher to hang above his bed.
“She told me to catch my dream of the Angler of the Year award,” he said.
Similarly, close friend Alton Jones implored him to watch a movie with the catch phrase “SFT” – “see it, feel it, trust it” – before that event. Nearly 20 years after his first B.A.S.S. event, Chapman took inspiration from those influences and put the title charge in his own hands.
While he claimed that the process of giving a valedictory speech in front of his peers “freaked me out,” he said that now that it’s over, the pressure has subsided. Similarly, his career arc also reflects a reduced level of stress.
With the trophy firmly ensconced in their Kansas home, the Chapman family – and Brent’s career is, indeed, a comprehensive family undertaking – now sets forth on the next step of their journey with a major pressure valve relieved.
“It feels different now,” said his wife Bobbi.
That affect allows the competitor in Chapman, the one who earned this honor through years of quiet toil, to see if he can add to his legacy.
“I’m looking forward to living the rest of my dream,” he said.
That next step may come this week, when the Classic field dukes it out on Grand Lake. His daughter’s dream catcher has no apparent expiration date and there’s no doubt they could make room for another trophy.