On Saturday, Brent Chapman returned to the school of bass that produced 25 1/2 pounds for him Friday. He milked it again for 16 pounds, 5 ounces and captured the lead for another day in the Bassmaster Elite Series Toledo Bend Battle.
He’s hungry to nail down his first Elite Series win. But his 59-pound, 14-ounce total over three days left him anything but certain it would come Sunday. Even if Marty Robinson was not just 1-5 behind him in second place with 58-9, and even if he had a bigger cushion than the 10 pounds he does have on the angler sitting in 12th place, Chapman was not feeling easy. He knew what Tim Horton’s 27-9 sack of Saturday meant.
“This tournament is going to come down to the guy who catches a big bag of fish tomorrow, and I just hope that’s me,” said the pro from Lake Quivira, Kan. “Anybody in the Top 10, maybe the Top 12, is going to have a shot at winning this thing.”
Horton was third with 58-1; Day 1 leader Cliff Pace was fourth with 57-12; and Matt Herren was fifth with 56-11. The field was cut to the Top 12 for Sunday’s competition. The prize is $100,000 and a Bassmaster Classic entry in 2013.
Chapman had hoped for another 25-plus pounds like he had on Friday, but conditions changed. He wasn’t sure exactly why more of the big bass in the deep school he’s been working didn’t bite Saturday.
“My theory is that maybe they’re generating electricity on a weekday, and that allows those fish to bite a little better, and on a weekend it doesn’t,” Chapman said.
“I don’t know what to expect for tomorrow. I am going to stay there until about 8:30, then I’m going to make a move. I’m not going to sit there and hope. This is too good of a lake, and there’s no reason not to go to another spot where they’ll bite later in the day.”
He said he may have stayed on his spot too long Saturday — he left about 11 a.m. — because he got no additional bites after the first-light flurry. He had his 16 pounds in his livewell by about 8 a.m.
He said he has four other places to go to if his sweet school shuts down. He caught a few good-size fish on them in practice and thinks they have potential.
“As much as I’m hearing that these fish are moving around for everybody, there’s nothing to say I couldn’t pull up on one of those and find a giant school of big ones there,” he said. “I’ve got an opportunity here to win.”
Second-place holder Robinson sacked 21-5 Saturday. That pulled him up from sixth. Like Chapman, he’s got a shot at his first Elite win.
Robinson of Lyman, S.C., has about six spots he’s been working all week. One, which yielded a 5-pounder, he swore off Friday as depleted. But Saturday morning, when the wind shifted to come from out the south, he decided his 5-pound spot might be worth one more stop. He was right.
“I don’t know for sure if that’s what triggered them today, but the big ones were biting there. I caught a 4 and two 5 1/2’s,” he said. “Obviously there’s some good ones there, but they’re picky.”
Robinson said the key for him Sunday will be making the right decisions: “When to leave, where to go, how long to stay — those are the three biggest.”
From Muscle Shoals, Ala., Horton rocketed into third place from 21st with his 27-9 sack. It included an 8-15, but that wasn’t the Carhartt Big Bass of the day. That honor went to Florida’s Terry Scroggins for a 9-3.
Horton said the genesis of Saturday’s big catch actually happened late Friday afternoon. He had only about 10 pounds with an hour to go. He checked a place he’d fished at last year’s Elite event on Toledo Bend. What he saw was a nice surprise.
“The bass were stacked on it,” he said. “I only had 15 minutes to fish it. I couldn’t wait to get there this morning. It was a bass on every cast for an hour.”
When the bite stopped, he had about 22 pounds. Then he made a 40-mile run to a spot he’d been on earlier in the competition. That’s where he caught his 8-15. He said it was a single fish holding on a rough, gravely spot on the bottom. It bit a 10-inch Carolina rigged Yum worm.
“Maybe that magic spot will put something special out again tomorrow,” said Horton, the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year in 2000 — his rookie year. His Bassmaster record includes an Elite title taken on Lake Champlain in 2007.
Besides the Toledo Bend title, Elite pros are competing for Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. Those count toward postseason and Bassmaster Classic qualifications, as well as the AOY title.
Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., lost his lead in the points race this week when he missed the Top 50 cut on Friday. That opened the door for Chapman to regain the points lead he had lost to Howell after the Douglas Lake event in May. An event’s points aren’t awarded until the tournament is over, so interim results aren’t official, but after three days Chapman is in the lead, followed most closely by David Walker, Herren and Ott DeFoe.