By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Brent Chapman is used to the cold.
The Kansan has spent enough winter mornings wetting a line or hunting deer to know how to handle a little snow and 30-degree weather.
In that sense, he’s already on the right track for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, which kicks off this morning near Grove, Okla., on Grand Lake.
“I always joke with my wife that when I’m out deer hunting in the fall and winter, it’s preparing me for my job,” said Chapman, of Lake Quivira, Kan. “The hardest part of fishing in this kind of weather is simply staying warm. If you know how to dress and how to acclimate yourself, you’ll stay warm and you can focus on fishing.”
Chapman definitely had his focus on fishing last year.
The 40-year-old enters the Classic as the reigning 2012 Bassmaster Angler of the Year, the biggest title in the sport of bass fishing. He had two wins and six top-10 finishes in the eight-tournament Elite Series.
“Everything just came together,” he said. “All the knowledge I’ve gained over the years, being in good physical shape, being older and wiser ... it all came together for me and I was able to do very well.”
Now Chapman looks to cap it all off with a win in the Bassmaster Classic, the sport’s biggest spectacle.
The tournament officially begins today when anglers launch at 6:15 a.m. at Wolf Creek Park near Grove. Daily weigh-ins will take place, beginning at 3 p.m., at Tulsa’s BOK Center.
That’s nearly an hour-and-a-half from the lake.
“It’s definitely the furthest distance we’ve ever had to travel,” Chapman said. “But it’s the Classic. The only people who have to sacrifice, really, are the tournament directors and us. It’s the Super Bowl of fishing tournaments. We can put up with it.”
He says the key to the Classic is getting off to a good start.
“A lot of tournaments, you can have a bad day and then just try to land some good fish and get away with some points,” he said. “The Classic, your only goal is to win. Here, you swing for the fences. You can take more risks and try for the big fish. Nobody remembers who finishes second at the Classic.”
Chapman grew up fishing Kansas’ lakes and reservoirs and joined a local bass club when he was 14. He would occasionally make the short trip to Grand Lake for tournaments.
“Being from Kansas, we have a lot of great lakes and fisheries,” he said. “But we don’t have a lot of big-tournament fisheries. We a lot of our bass club tournaments would be down on Grand. It’s one of the lakes that helped form my career.”
He worked his way up — “baby steps,” he said — until he reached the professional level in 1994.
Among Chapman’s many sponsorship deals is a partnership with Labette County, Kansas’ visitor’s bureau.
Chapman travels to Labette County for youth clinics and to meet and talk to fans.
“I strive to be a positive role model for these young kids who love fishing and look up to those of us who are lucky enough to do this for a living,” he said. “I want these kids to look up to me and I want to treat them how I’d like to be treated.
“I’ve been extremely blessed to have this awesome job and I want to pass on what I can.”