All-Star wrap-up

This past weekend I fished the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week event out of Decatur, Ill. We’ve fished all over the country, and the fans in Illinois are some of the best. They showed up in a big way and were excited to see what we had to show. Unfortunately, the fish weren’t as enthusiastic as the fans. The fishing was tough and frustrating, to say the least, but some of the guys figured them out.

Congratulations to my good friend Aaron Martens and his family for winning the event.

Missing the final four cut was a blessing in disguise. Yes, I would have liked to fish the finals over the weekend. However, I got the opportunity to fish with a couple of my heroes. I fished with Mark, an Army Ranger, and Patty, a New York firefighter.

These guys are my heroes because they do a job that makes our world a better place. They protect us and give us the freedom to live our lives without fear. Thanks to B.A.S.S. and Hope For The Warriors for giving us the opportunity to spend time with these heroes. I am sure spending the day together means as much or more to us as it does to them.

I feel a special kinship with these guys because they do exactly what I think I would be doing if I didn’t fish. In fact, if 9/11 had happened when I was in my 20s, I am sure I would have enlisted in one of the armed forces.

Now that Toyota Trucks All-Star Week is over, the season has officially concluded. It’s time to sit back and soak it all in and enjoy what happened this year. I accomplished three of my goals this year, which feels great, but it was a long and grueling season.

I’ll get out in the woods and shoot my bow a little in the next few weeks, and then I’ll start planning for next season, starting with the Bassmaster Classic just a few hours from my home.

As always, I’d like to give a tip in my Camp Chapman column. It’s one of the fundamentals of our sport: Don’t let preconceived notions dictate your fishing. I failed to remember this on the first day of the All-Star event. Expecting dirty water, I went into the event expecting to fish shallow, which is one of my strengths. I started slow — just one fish on the first day and one at 9:30 a.m. on Day Two.

That’s when I knew I had to break away from what I consider my strength and go deeper. I tied on the same bait I used to win at Toledo Bend — a jig with a Tight Lines UV Hog soft plastic trailer. I immediately caught three keepers deep, and I knew right then I had made a mistake for the first day and a half. My tip is to keep an open mind and let the day — and the fish — dictate what, where and how you fish.

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