Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 06/10/2012

 Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac

Many, LA – With just 10 pounds separating the top 12 anglers fishing on the final day of the Toledo Bend Battle, the outcome of the fifth Bassmaster Elite Series tournament of the 2012 season was anything but certain. Day three leader, Brent Chapman, was well aware of that fact.   

“Anybody in the top 12 will have a shot at winning this thing,” said Chapman, after weighing in 16-5 on Saturday to take a one pound, five ounce lead over Marty Robinson.  

Brent ChapmanOn Sunday, Chapman was able to maintain his lead and capture the first Elite Series victory of his career with an impressive 23-11 limit of Toledo Bend largemouth that boosted his winning total to 83-9.  He edged out Mississippi’s Cliff Pace by four pounds, four ounces. 

“I feel exhausted, but I feel awesome,” said Chapman shortly after hoisting the trophy in front of a packed crowd at Cypress Bend Park.  “I’m definitely glad that this one is over and that it ended the way that it did.   When you put it all out there for seven straight days, it literally puts a toll on you.  That’s what it’s all about – it’s an incredible feeling.”

Chapman said that he actually learned a lot about fishing deep during the last Elite Series tournament on Douglas Lake, where he missed the top 50 cut.  “I learned a lot about how deep to fish and also learned to rely on my electronics.”

In practice, Chapman said that he spent a lot of time idling over likely offshore spots on Toledo Bend, using his Lowrance electronics to locate schools of fish.  If he saw fish holding on the structure, he would turn around and fish the area. 

Chapman found his most productive spot when his primary pattern that he had been developing since early in the week started to run dry.  “My pattern started out at the beginning of the week as fishing road beds and bridges,” he explained.  “Tommy Martin puts out a chip that I loaded on my graph.  I exhausted all that I could find, and I decided to fish a point that I’d seen while I was running down the lake.  It was the only spot that I had that wasn’t a road bed.

“It was a main lake point that was fed from the Greek Creek.  It was the last point that the fish could go, so they set up there and ambushed the shad,” he continued. 

Brent ChapmanFor the majority of the tournament, Chapman relied on a flutter spoon that he picked off of a rack at Mark’s Outdoors near Birmingham, Alabama.  “They weren’t in any packages,” he explained.  “They were just hanging on the rack at the store.  It’s a bait that I’ve really fallen in love with over the last couple of years when it comes to this time of year and fishing deep.”

Chapman’s five inch silver colored spoon weighed between an ounce and an ounce-and-a-quarter, and he put two split rings on the back of the spoon before adding a 2/0 Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp treble hook.  “It’s a big hook with awesome barbs on it,” he explained.  “I only lost one fish the entire week on the spoon.” 

On Sunday, Chapman mixed in a three-quarter ounce football jig which he paired with a Tightlines UV Hog in green pumpkin color.  “That was the big key for today,” he said. 

With a two-and-three-quarter pounder still in the livewell, Chapman said that he made a cull in the waning moments of competition that finally allowed him to think that he had a good shot at claiming the title.  “I threw the spoon out with about 20 minutes to go and as I was reeling it in, I saw a four pounder behind it about five feet from the boat.   I killed the spoon, the fish sucked it in, and I lifted the fish in the boat.  That’s when I thought that maybe I was supposed to win this deal.”

With a win earlier in the year at the Bassmaster Central Open on Lake Lewisville, four top five finishes in Elite Series competitions (including the Toledo Bend victory), and the lead in the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year points standings, Chapman is undoubtedly having the best year of his career. 

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he explained.  “We’ve had some family health issues which have been pretty tough on us, but from a career standpoint and how well I’m fishing, the year has been incredible.  I’ve had some awesome events in my career, but this is a milestone for me.” 

2nd Place: Cliff Pace
After a rough start to the 2012 season where he recorded finishes of 90th and 63rd in Florida, Cliff Pace was dangerously close to missing the Bassmaster Classic for the second consecutive year after having established himself as one of the most consistent anglers on the Elite Series. 

Pace got back on track with 6th place and 15th place finishes at the following two tournaments at Bull Shoals Lake and Douglas Lake, and kept the momentum rolling on Toledo Bend, leading the tournament after the first day with a limit weighing 23-2. 

Cliff PaceWhile he was never able to relocate the school of four to five pound largemouth that he tapped on Thursday, Pace hung around the top of the leader board for the duration of the tournament, entering Sunday in 3rd place.

With a limit weighing 21-9 on the final day, Pace pushed his four day total weight to 79-5 and finished in 2nd place – the highest finish of his Elite Series career since also recording a 2nd place finish on Pickwick in 2010.   

“Anytime that you get to fish all four days out here, you’ve had a great week,” said Pace.  “A win would have been much better, but that’s just life.  Brent (Chapman) had a better group of fish found and just ended up beating me.” 

For the duration of the event, Pace targeted offshore flats adjacent to the main channel ledges within five miles of the boat ramp.  “The key this week was really slowing down and fishing very, very thoroughly,” he explained.  “I fished three main spots.” 

On the first three days, Pace used a ¾ ounce V&M football jig.  On Sunday, he switched to a Carolina-rig with the calm conditions and used a V&M Super Finesse Worm in Redbug color. 

Pace drug both offerings along the bottom as slowly as possible.  “I was fishing at a snail’s pace,” he said.  “I think that I was fishing deeper than most of the other guys.  Most of my fish came from 25 to 35 feet of water.”   He paired the football head jig with a 7’3” Skeleton Series Castaway flippin’ stick and 15 pound test Hi-Seas Fluorocarbon.  He used the same setup on the Carolina-rig, but bumped up to 20 pound test Hi-Seas Fluorocarbon line. 

3rd Place: Marty Robinson
In 2011, Marty Robinson recorded a top 20 finish when the Elite Series visited Toledo Bend.  With a Sunday appearance, the South Carolina pro was assured to eclipse that finish in 2012.  After bringing limits to the scales weighing 15-8, 21-12, and 21-5 over the first three days of competition, Robinson sat in 2nd place, less than two pounds behind Brent Chapman. 

Marty RobinsonRobinson did his part, bringing in another solid limit weighing 19-2 on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough.  He finished the tournament in 3rd place with a total weight of 77-11, and in the process, recorded the highest finish of his Elite Series career. 

“You have to have a flawless tournament to win, and I struggled on the first two days,” said Robinson, referring to several lost fish in the opening rounds.  Throughout the tournament, Robinson keyed on the ends of underwater ridges in 10 to 14 feet of water.  “Most of my fish came out of big schools, but I did catch some key fish that I think were isolated,” he explained. 

Robinson’s primary bait was a ¾ ounce Buckeye Mop football jig.  He also mixed in a Fish Stalker Lures Party Marty Head that he paired with a Zoom Critter Craw. 

On Sunday, Robinson said that he had several productive flurries throughout the day.  “I didn’t catch hardly any fish that were off the beaten path today,” he explained.  “Throughout the week, I’d been able to pick up a fish here and there, but today, I had to be right on the nuts.

“This is the only tournament so far this year where I came down before the off limits and tried to see a little bit of the water,” he continued. “It really paid off because this is a huge lake.  With the fish being deep, a guy needed to look at this lake as much as he could.” 

4th Place: Greg Hackney
Louisiana’s Greg Hackney was the only angler in the top five who saved his best effort of the week for the final day.  With a limit weighing 20-14 on Sunday, Hackney finished in 4th place with a total weight of 76-1.  “Most of the time, these tournaments are fun, but they’re not really fun,” explained Hackney.  “This one was really fun,” he said with a smile. 

Greg HackneyWhile the majority of top finishers worked offshore ledges and structure, Hackney keyed on deep hydrilla edges in 17 to 25 feet of water.  “I caught all my fish flipping deep grass,” he said.  “You couldn’t see it, but you could feel it. That’s by far my favorite way to fish, and all my good finishes here have come doing that.” 

Hackney relied on a single lure throughout the tournament – a Strike King Hack Attack jig in Okeechobee Craw color that he paired with a Strike King Ragetail craw.  “It was all about the big 1 ¼ ounce jig,” he explained.  “I experimented with other weights, but you just couldn’t get the bites.  That big jig would trigger the big fish and fire up the school. That was the whole deal.”

On Sunday, Hackney said that he was forced to relocate his fish.  “I think that I may have caught them all off of my first stop,” he said.  “I caught 15 pounds on my second place, and then I just tried to run stuff where I thought that I’d get a big bite.  I caught a six pounder late this afternoon.  I knew that I was one big bite away.” 

Although he fished miles of grass, Hackney located only eight places where he could catch quality Toledo Bend largemouth.  “Each place was only about as big as the back of a truck,” he said.  “You could fish a lot of that pretty grass and never get a bite.  That’s what kept a lot of other people from fishing it,” he concluded. 

5th Place: Cliff Prince
Entering his rookie season, smart money would be that Cliff Prince’s best chance at cracking the top five would most likely come during the first two tournaments of the season in his home state of Florida. While he performed well on the St. Johns River, finishing 16th, Prince failed to make a Sunday appearance. 

He got his first taste of final day competition this week at Toledo Bend and made the most of the opportunity.  With a final day limit weighing 16-13, Prince finished in 5th place with a total weight of 69-9.  It was an epic comeback, considering that he finished the first day in 67th place with just three fish weighing 9-15. 

Cliff Prince

“It’s been an awesome week,” he said.  “After practice, I really wasn’t looking forward to this tournament.  I really came into my area as the tournament progressed.”

Prince fished bridge pillars throughout the tournament.  “I was catching 12 inchers on a drop shot during practice around the bridge,” he explained.  “I switched up to a jig for the tournament, and that proved to be the difference.  I started catching big ones one right after another.” 

Prince used a ½ and ¾ ounce BOOYAH jig, depending on the wind, and also threw a Bomber Fat Free Shad crankbait.

Timmy Horton6th Place: Timmy Horton
Final Day Thoughts: “Today was tough on me.  I broke off a really good one this morning, and after that I just couldn’t catch any size.”

Primary Pattern:  “I was cranking ledges with timber nearby and also hitting the same spots with a Carolina-rig.”

Primary Baits:  Excalibur Fat Free Shad (Citrus), Luhr Jensen Hot Lips Express, YUM 10” worm (Green Pumpkin).

Key to the Week: “Making long casts and using the wind to my advantage was a big key in getting my bait down to the 20 to 25 foot depth where I was catching my bigger fish.”

Week in Review: “I just love fishing these tournaments where they school up in the summertime, to catch a stringer like that on day 3 was just really special.  This is just my favorite way to catch them, and it made the week really fun.”

Mark Davis7th Place: Mark Davis
Final Day Thoughts: “This morning I found the school again and caught my 18 pounds in about 15 minutes.  I thought it might be a 30 pound day if I could get them fired up, but they started to get small and then they just quit on me.”

Primary Pattern: “I was fishing the rough areas that I found in the creek channel bends with the jig and the Carolina-rig.  The rough areas were the key deals, if you didn’t have that I couldn’t get bit.”

Primary Baits: Strike King ¾ oz. Tour Grade Football Jig, Rage Craw (Trailer), Strike King 6 ½ inch finesse worm.

Key to the Week: “The key this week was finding real hard turns in the creek channels with some type of hard bottom.”

Week in Review: “It was a good tournament for me.  Anytime I can fish the way I like to fish and make it to Sunday I am happy.  I just never felt like I was on the winning fish, but I was able to make the most out of what I found.”

Matt Herren8th Place: Matt Herren
Final Day Thoughts: “Today was tough on me.  I actually ended up catching the five I weighed today on a drop shot because it got so slick out there this afternoon.”

Primary Pattern: “I was fishing a very subtle ridge that wasn’t getting any pressure.  I would catch a few on the football jig in the mornings and then crank the rest of the day.”

Primary Baits: Bandit 250 Ledge Crankbait, ¾ oz Santone Football Jig.  

Key to the Week: “The key for me was really working my crankbait aggresively and making the fish react to the bait.”

Week in Review: “Just to make a top 12 in this tournament after all the disasters I had is great.  It could have turned out really bad for me this week, but things ended up working out.”

Casey Ashley9th Place: Casey Ashley
Final Day Thoughts: “Today was a lot tougher on me.  I really think my spots just ran out of fish.”

Primary Pattern: “I only had two places that I found that had schools of fish on them and I milked them all week with a jig.”

Primary Baits: ¾ oz Football Jig.

Key to the Week: “Finding a couple of schools of fish that got me through the week was the deal for me. The bait was there, and the fish were with them.  Both spots had some hard spots and one of them had some brush on it.”

Week in Review: “To come out of here this week with a top 10 finish is great.  I was having a tough year, and was really dreading this tournament.  So to figure out a deep bite, and do well was here was really a surprise for me.”

Yusuke Miyazaki10th Place: Yusuke Miyazaki
Final Day Thoughts: “Today was a lot harder for me.  The bigger fish just never bit on my spots.”

Primary Pattern: “I was fishing ledges and breaks with the heavy spoon.”

Primary Baits: Daiwa D-Spoon.

Key to the Week: “Finding my fish early in practice and having the time to idle around and find more spots up north on the ledges. My Daiwa D-Spoon has a fast rate of fall and also doesn’t twist your line like other big spoons, that helped out a lot.”

Week in Review: “The key for me was practicing up north rather than where I usually fish down south.  I was staying up there this week and ended up finding some good fish in practice.  I am really happy with my tournament this week.”

Paul Elias11th Place: Paul Elias
Final Day Thoughts: “It just never started today.  I only had two places, and only one place that was really good.  It was a really small place and I just stayed on it.  I’d leave it every now and then, but I’d come right back.  I just never caught anything there.” 

Primary Pattern: “There was a rough, rocky area right off of the river channel.  There were some really big fish there, and they never really fired during the tournament.  I had to try and pick one up every two or three hours each day.” 

Primary Baits: ¾ ounce Mann’s Stone Jig; Mann’s Mosquito Hawk on a Carolina-rig. 

Key to the Week:  “I really maximized my spot.  I only had 23 bites the entire tournament.  I was sticking with the big fish areas and knew that if I got five or six bites and landed them, I’d do well.” 

Week in Review:  “I was really looking forward to this tournament, so I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to stay in contention.  I’ve had a dismal year, so I need to have three more top 12 finishes to even start thinking about the Classic.  That’s what I’m shooting for from now on.”

Chris Zaldain12th Place: Chris Zaldain
Final Day Thoughts:  “I lost a bunch of fish today, but that’s what happens when you’re punching heavy cover.  I have no excuses because it was a great tournament for me.”

Primary Pattern: “There were three ingredients that my pattern needed.  One was bluegill smacking on the surface, one was lily pads, and one was about eight to 10 feet of water under the boat.  I was pitching up to six feet of water." 

Primary Baits: One ounce tungsten weight with a Skinny Bear Punch It skirt in Watermelon color with a Sprayed Grass Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver on a 4/0 hook; Snag Proof frog in Fred’s Frog color. 

Key to the Week: “There were only two areas in the whole lake that I found with the type of cover that I was looking for.  One was about 15 miles south, and the other was 20 miles north.  I ran both areas each day, and my Skeeter/Yamaha ran excellent.” 

Week in Review:  “Going into the second half of the season, my main objective here at Toledo Bend was to finish this tournament with momentum.  I fished in my comfort zone, less than 10 feet of water, the entire tournament and had an absolute blast.” 


Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4 Total Fish Total Weight
1 Brent Chapman 5 18- 1 5 25- 8 5 16- 5 5 23-11 20 83- 9
2 Cliff Pace 5 23- 2 5 16-10 5 18- 0 5 21- 9 20 79- 5
3 Marty Robinson 5 15- 8 5 21-12 5 21- 5 5 19- 2 20 77-11
4 Greg Hackney 5 17- 8 5 17- 2 5 20- 9 5 20-14 20 76- 1
5 Cliff Prince 3 9-15 5 23-10 5 19- 3 5 16-13 18 69- 9
6 Timmy Horton 5 16- 7 5 14- 1 5 27- 9 5 10-14 20 68-15
7 Mark Davis 5 20- 3 5 15-10 5 14- 2 5 18- 9 20 68- 8
8 Matthew Herren 5 20- 0 5 22- 0 5 14-11 5 8-10 20 65- 5
9 Casey Ashley 5 20-13 5 18- 6 5 15-11 5 10- 2 20 65- 0
10 Yusuke Miyazaki 5 18- 3 5 13-13 5 18- 9 5 10- 4 20 60-13
11 Paul Elias 5 19-12 4 13-12 5 18- 9 3 6- 1 17 58- 2
12 Chris Zaldain 5 16- 1 5 19-10 5 15- 8 3 6- 3 18 57- 6