By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Brent Chapman's boat hasn't moved since he returned from the Lake Fork/Lake Athens Bass Pro Tour event in Texas well over a month ago and he's barely touched a fishing rod during that period. He's had plenty to keep him busy at the new home that he and wife Bobbi, along with their two teenaged children, settled into at the beginning of April.
The place sits on 20 acres, with about one acre taken up by a pond that's home to bass and bluegill. Between the house, the land and social media projects to help fulfill sponsorship obligations, he hasn't had much idle time.
"I guess in one way, this whole (coronavirus) quarantine thing has been a blessing in disguise," he said. "But now my wife is telling me I need to get back to work and pay the bills."
Work – which in his case means competing in professional bass fishing tournaments. When those will resume is, of course, still unknown.
"I'm not a big football fan or anything, but it was amazing to me how many fans were just infatuated with the draft," Chapman said of last week's NFL rookie selection process, which took place electronically for the first time with the principals sequestered in their own homes (or in the case of one prominent league owner, on a huge yacht). "It just made me think that if we could get going again, we could generate so many new fans.
"There's so many good stories that could be told and fishing is a form of social distancing anyway. I've told some sponsors that we're all going to come out of this wiser and smarter, and we will survive it."
Was on a Roll
Chapman, the 2012 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, was in the midst of a superb season when the pandemic ground everything to a halt. His finishes of 6th at Lake Eufaula, 24th at Lake Okeechobee and 4th at Fork/Athens have him at No. 2 in the points standings behind Ott DeFoe.
It's a big improvement over the start of the 2019 campaign, when he logged placements of 72nd at the Kissimmee Chain and 70th at Lake Conroe (in an 80-angler field). Things got better from there and he posted a runner-up finish at Smith Lake, but the early hole he'd dug relegated him to a 45th-place AOY finish and he sat out the REDCREST championship event.
"Last year I think I just happened to have two bad ones in a row," he said. "I had a great practice in Florida, but I just ended up going down the wrong path and with the ScoreTracker (which keeps BPT competitors constantly updated as to their position in the standings), the pace was moving a lot faster than I expected it to and I just couldn't catch up.
"Conroe I'd never been to before, so that was new to me. I had another really good practice, but I got off to another bad start and nothing really panned out. This year has been kind of the opposite in that I've had decent practices that have actually carried over into the event."
A Change for the Better
Chapman admits to some initial skepticism about the variable minimum-weight requirement for scoreable fish that was instituted on the BPT this year. The three events that have been conducted thus far all operated under a 2-pound minimum (the threshold for all 2019 events was 1 pound).
"I've always thought of myself as being more of a numbers guy, but I think I've become more comfortable fishing where the focus is on fewer bites and more quality," he said. "It might've been the best thing that could've happened and it's certainly worked to my benefit so far.
"My numbers have been on par with everybody else's and I've been able to catch some big ones that have kept me right there for Heavy Hitters (he's 9th on that list, which tracks the cumulative weight of an angler's largest individual fish from each event). It might be interesting later on in the season, like when we go back to Wisconsin. We had that window last year where the smallmouth were in a super-funk and the largemouth were prevalent, but harder to catch.
"I had a good tournament," he continued, referencing his 22nd-place finish, "but I caught very few fish that were over 2 pounds. Of course, I might fish a little different knowing that we're targeting 2-plus pounders."