The KJ factor, Chapman's incredible year, and much more

Looking back at Toledo Bend, forward to La Crosse

LaCrosse, Wis., Mississippi River Up Next

Chapman turns 40-years-old on July 6. There are two more Elite Series tournaments before then, starting with the Mississippi River Rumble, June 21-24, at La Crosse, Wis. Hitting "the big four-oh" marks a milestone in everyone's life. Chapman, however, may look back at 39 as the most memorable year of his fishing career.

Chapman qualified for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic even before the 2012 Classic was held. He did it while surviving the most brutally cold conditions for a B.A.S.S. event in recent history. Winds howled up to 35-miles-per-hour over four days when temperatures barely topped the freezing mark during the Bass Pro Shops Central Open at Texas' Lewisville Lake. There's never a good day for a "fish-off" to break a first-place tie on the leaderboard, but this had to be the worst.

In looking back, it's hard to ignore the symbolism of that hard-earned title. It was a sign of things to come. Temperatures topped out in the low 90s last week at Toledo Bend, and felt even higher when the lake surface got slick at mid-day on the weekend, when Chapman became a double-qualifier for the 2013 Classic with his victory. Cold, hot, shallow or deep, Chapman has adapted.

Even so, he can't help but feel eager for the mild weather and shallow-biting bass predicted for La Crosse.

"It's going to really suit my style," he said. "Shallow water, that's the type of stuff I really look forward to."