“I had this very same thought last year when fishing the Elite Series event on Lake Cherokee where the water temperature was in the 30s,” Chapman recalled. “The first morning I wasn’t catching much and I finally got so frustrated I just ran up the lake to somewhere new, pulled out a squarebill, started cranking the bank and immediately caught a few nice fish.
“At that point I remember thinking: If I just picked a handful of lures that always produce and fished the rest Elite Season with just those lures, I’d probably end up doing pretty well.”
In 2012, Chapman won the Elites Series Angler of the Year and one thing he remembers from that campaign is that he never used a spinning rod the entire season.
“That was definitely a year of keeping things simple and fishing the way I wanted to fish,” he said. “You would think I would have learned a lesson from that. Sometimes we as anglers are our own worst enemy in making things too complicated.”
“The more I do this and the more we fish all over the country, the more I’m convinced there is a core group of lures that always produce, no matter when or where; it’s like bass never get immune to them. So in a way, I’ve already assembled a short list of those lures in my head that would fit the bill for this sort of approach.”
The squarebill crankbait continues to be a dominant pick in the Pros Pick 3 roster and Chapman keeps that trend alive and well with his first choice. Chapman has no specific brand of squarebill to recommend, saying only that the “1.5” designation has become the all-around standard, no matter which brand you choose.
“Given its size, the depth it runs and the cover it can be fished in, a 1.5 squarebill just goes where bass live,” he said. “Cold water, warm water, muddy water, clear water, rocks, docks, wood, scattered grass – it doesn’t matter – bass have always eaten that style crankbait and they always will.”
Top color picks for Chapman include sexy shad, chartreuse with a black back and a reddish crawdad color. His weapon for wielding the squarebill is a 7-foot Wright and McGill medium heavy cranking rod lined with 16-pound Gamma fluorocarbon.
Similar to others who have been forced to pick just three lures, the standard ½-ounce jig is staple for Chapman as well.
Again, Chapman does not care to name a brand of jig because so many companies make good jigs right out of the package. His standard is an Arkie-style head in black and blue or green pumpkin with a matching trailer of the “rabbit ear” variety. His jig stays tied to a 7’-6” Wright and McGill flipping stick with 20-pound test Gamma.
“Most jigs look alike in the water,” Chapman said. “What matters to me about jigs is how well they hook fish. If I can catch nine fish out of ten bites on a jig, then that’s a good jig. I’ve used some jigs that, for whatever reason, just don’t hook fish very well. I get ten bites on it and only land three or four of them. So I’m not as much about how jigs look as they how well they function.”
After 22 years as a pro angler, Chapman is still amazed at how well jigs work all over the country.
“When I started in this sport jigs were fish producers and they still are to this day,” he said. “From Florida to New York to the West Coast, there’s hardly a place in the U.S. that a good old jig will not work.
“If you go to basic impoundments across the Southeast and Midwest, a jig is the single perfect tool for sampling all sorts of cover as you fish down the bank. You can flip docks, drop down into brushpiles on the graph, cast it and swim it around shallow grass and seawalls between the docks, skip it under a walkway, pitch it into a laydown – and the list goes on.”
Senko-Style Stick Worm
For his final pick, Chapman selects a stick worm.
“It’s crazy just how many fish that stupid-looking thing catches,” he said. “When it first came out, every one said you had to fish it weightless on a Texas rig. Now we all know it catches fish no matter how you rig it. Weightless, wacky rig, nail-weight – heck, some guys thread it on an oversized shaky head and wear them out in it. It blows me away how versatile that single stick of plastic is.”
Of all the options, Chapman likes to Texas-rig the Senko-style soft stick bait with a 3/8- or ½-ounce weight on 16-pound Gamma and pitch it to ... everything.
“That thing is unreal when pitching deep cover like standing timber or deep grass,” Chapman offered. “It works pitching bushes, reeds, eelgrass, pad stems, cypress trees – you name it.”
As for colors he seldom strays far from green pumpkin, watermelon or black and blue flake.
After Chapman wrapped up his picks, he asked for an odd favor.
“If you see me in a funk midway through the season, please send me this article so I can read it and remind myself of what I already know,” he laughed.