Bull Shoals Kickers, Alabama Bass, Surviving in Competition
Just some of the stories from the Bassmaster Elite Series this week
Elite Series pros get their feet wet at Bull Shoals: Even though he’s
from Mayflower, Ark., Billy McCaghren doesn’t have a deep history on
Bull Shoals Lake in northern Arkansas. That’s why on Monday, he crammed a
full 12 hours into the first of three practice days for the April 19-22
He reluctantly left the water at twilight, wishing he could have located
more quality fish. Quantity was no problem. “This lake has a lot of
good fish in it,” he said.
His practice time drove home a truth about this Bull Shoals competition.
“A kicker will be very important in this tournament,” he said. “If the
weather’s right, everyone will limit, so you will have to have a little
more each day to get ahead.”
A kicker could be a larger spawner taken off a bed. McCaghren said Bull Shoals bass are still in spawning mode.
The lake of about 45,500 surface acres has close to 1,000 miles of
shoreline (at higher water levels) and cove upon cove. It will fish as
big as it looks, McCaghren said.
“This tournament will not be a case of everyone bunched up in one area, not from what I saw out there today,” he said.
A Sunday night rain was followed by bluebird skies Monday. Temperatures
were falling. The highs were in the 70s Monday, but forecast to drop in
the latter part of the week to as low as in the 40s at night. McCaghren
said the water temps, which he’s been tracking from afar because the
water has been off limits to Elite Series pros, had been in the 70s a
few weeks ago.
“Today I saw some water in the 50s,” he said.
Alabama Bass Trail featured in Bassmaster magazine: A special
advertising section in the upcoming May issue of Bassmaster Magazine
highlights the 11 lakes of the newly formed Alabama Bass Trail.
Written by B.A.S.S. Times senior writer Frank Sargeant, the section
gives Bassmaster readers more information on the trail announced in
March. The trail includes all sizes of fisheries, from giant Lake
Guntersville to 6,800-acre Lake Jordan, and stretches from northern
Pickwick Lake to the relatively untouched Mobile-Tensaw River Delta of
“The Alabama Bass Trail is a very unique and exciting concept for bass
anglers because it includes the best fisheries in the state, and each
offers a different angling experience,” said James Hall, editor of
Bassmaster. “For one state to boast so many opportunities is unique, and
the Alabama Bass Trail highlights that well.”
AlabamaBassTrail.org has more information about each lake, including interactive maps with hotspots, launch ramps and more.
Saving pro angler Chapman: Last fall while training for a triathlon, Brent Chapman almost drowned. A passing boater saved him.
Over the next few months, as surely as that boater pulled him aboard, he hauled himself out of the hot water his career had slid into.
The Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Lake Quivira, Kan., now leads one Bassmaster points race, is second in the all-important Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year race, owns a 2012 tournament title and has already qualified for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
His fast start to the season actually began last June when the 2011 Elite Series season ended. He had almost missed his fifth consecutive and 11th Classic qualification. While strong in his recent Classic finishes, he wasn’t making Top 12 cuts during the regular season. In four of eight tournaments, he had not made a Top 50 cut — meaning he had not cashed a check.
“That was a kick in the pants. Not making cuts and almost missing the Classic was very humbling and an eye-opener. How quickly you can go from being successful to going broke in a hurry,” he said. “It woke me up.”
Chapman embarked on a makeover. He organized his work life and took up a new physical regimen. Both steps improved his mental focus during fishing competitions. Things began to click. On Feb. 11, he won the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on Texas’ Lewisville Lake. The win gave him a 2013 Classic berth (provided he competes in the Central’s remaining two events) and the lead in the circuit’s points race.
In March, he posted a fourth- and a fifth-place finish in the first two Bassmaster Elite Series events. Those two tournaments put him one point away from the lead in the 2012 Angler of the Year competition.
Skeet Reese, who won the crown in 2007, leads with 192 points to Chapman’s 191. There are six more events in the 2012 regular Elite season. Each one has the potential to bump the early leaders down — or keep them up.
Chapman plans to stay on the upside of the points race by continuing with the physical and organizational regimen that got him this far. One of his first steps in that endeavor was signing up for a mini-triathlon in the fall of 2011. The course was 10 miles of cycling, 3 miles of running and a 500-meter swim.
He knew the swimming would be a challenge. While he can swim, he had no competitive swimming experience. “I’ve always been in decent shape, so I thought, ‘Even if I have to dog-paddle, I can do it,’” he said.
For his first practice, he used a rangefinder to mark off 500 meters across a cove of the lake he lives on. A neighbor stood on shore. Chapman jumped in — no working up to the distance, no warm-up.
“I got about halfway across the cove, and got into the situation where my body was shutting down. I spotted a buoy, and it took everything I had left to go the 30 or 40 yards to reach it.”
Clinging to the buoy, he shouted for help. A boater heard him and picked him up within minutes.
“If that buoy hadn’t been there, and if that boat hadn’t been there to help me, I would have drowned. There’s no doubt,” he said.
Undeterred, but just two weeks away from race day, he enlisted the help of a woman who trained swimmers. He learned enough about competitive swimming basics to complete the course — while wearing a ski belt flotation device around his waist during the aquatic leg of the race.
Meanwhile, he worked at becoming more organized. He had fallen into a procrastinator’s trap. His boat wrap and his tackle and equipment, for example, had become last-minute tasks before the season started. That created stress and left little time to focus on the upcoming competitions.
One by one, he started his off-season tasks earlier. He and his wife, Bobbi, became more proactive on the business side of his career. They paid more attention to blending their home life (and the activities of their two young children) into the traveling life of a pro angler.
“We’re a better, well-oiled machine now,” Chapman said.
Both Brent and Bobbi began to work with a therapist who specializes in “alignment therapy,” exercises that reduce pain and increase performance.
“I didn’t have a lot of pain, but I wasn’t in the shape I could be in,” Chapman said. “When you’re out there on the water, you want to focus on catching fish, not that your shoulder or your back hurts. Even when I won at Lewisville, I was sick with a cold, but by then I was in good enough shape to overcome it.”
One more factor helped Chapman get his career back on track: he turns 40 in July. The upcoming milestone made him stop and appreciate what he’s achieved: “I feel like I’m older and wiser. I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the years, know what to do and what not to do. I feel like my career is coming together.”
Trout eyeballs: Bassmaster Elite Series pro Randy Howell has a new video on YouTube that shows his children and fellow Elite Series pro Brent Chapman and his children eating trout eyeballs.
“I’m not doing it,” Howell said, as the five daredevils popped hard-to-see bits that he said “look like pearls.”
They caught the trout in the White River below the Bull Shoals Dam, where the pros were camping before the start of the TroKar Quest on Bull Shoals Lake, April 19-22.
Poche plants a garden: On his Facebook page, Keith Poche, Bassmaster Elite Series pro who lives in Pike Road, Ala., states that he has planted a container vegetable garden in his backyard.
He invites fans to take a guess about which types of veggies he planted. The guess serves as entry in a contest to win two hats from sponsors Jack Hooks and Bonnie Plants.
He’s accepting entries until 2 p.m. CT Friday. The drawing is scheduled to take place Friday after he weighs in on Day 2 of this week’s Elite event, the TroKar Quest on Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas.
Fans at home can see Poche and all the other Elite Series pros weigh their fish by watching the live video at Bassmaster.com this Thursday-Sunday beginning at 3:15 p.m. CT.