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Outdoors / Sports

Established bass pro Brent Chapman, right, and up-and-comer Casey Scanlon, center, give out advice recently at a forum with help from moderator Clyde Holscher. (Brent Frazee/Kansas City Star/MCT)

Chapman settles in as bass fishing vet

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brent Chapman remembers when he was in Casey Scanlon's shoes.

It seems like only yesterday that he was chasing his dream in a bass boat, trying to survive in the tough world of the pro circuit, Chapman said.

Now he is the veteran, one of the stars on the national Bassmaster circuit. And he is looked upon as a role model for young fishermen such as Scanlon who are scrambling to establish themselves on the national level.

"It's funny that I'm looked at as the 'old guy' now," said Chapman, 41, who lives at Lake Quivira, Kan., and was the Bassmaster Angler of the Year in 2012. "It doesn't seem like that long ago that I would come to the Sportshow just to listen to some of the pros like Denny Brauer and Guido Hibdon, and I dreamed about being like them.

"Now I'm getting where I want to be. But I definitely can sympathize with guys like Casey who are just getting started.

"It's a great job, but it's not as easy as it looks. You don't get there overnight."

Chapman and Scanlon, who lives in Lenexa, Kan., were paired in a forum on bass fishing last week at the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow.

Chapman can speak from experience. He has been on the Bassmaster circuit for 17 years and has competed in 12 Bassmaster Classics, the world championship of bass fishing. He once was the phenom that Scanlon is now.

Scanlon, 30, is entering his third year at bass fishing's highest level, and he already is turning heads. He qualified for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic by winning a Central Open tournament in 2012, and is widely considered one of the next stars on the circuit.

"When I got into this, I was pretty naive," Scanlon said. "I thought you just went fishing and that was it.

"I didn't see the business side of the sport. In my first Bassmaster Open, I didn't even have a tournament jersey. I had never even approached a sponsor. I was the typical 'guy in a white shirt' who went up there to weigh in his fish."

Now Scanlon is aware of what it takes to survive at this level of fishing. He has sponsors, and as he finds success in tournaments, he is getting noticed.

THE ART OF THE OUTDOORS

When Tim Stidham caught a trophy bass when he was in his early 20s, he had the same reaction that many fishermen do.

He wanted to have his prize catch mounted.

"I talked to a taxidermist, and he wanted $65 to mount it," said Stidham, 58. "Well, that sounded like a lot of money to me. I was paying $165 for my house payment at the time.

"So, I didn't do it."

Instead, Stidham set out to become a taxidermist himself. He saw an ad for a taxidermy school in Field and Stream magazine, and signed up for a correspondence class.

"It only cost me $6 for the entire course," Stidham said with a laugh. "The first mount I did was a squirrel, but it wasn't very good.

"But the more I would do, the better I got."

Crediting Cindy Cunningham of Second Creation Taxidermy for the big part she played in helping him develop, Stidham soon was coming up with attractive mounts. Today, he owns Tim's Taxidermy and Wildlife Artistry, an avocation to supplement his day job in sales.

He has mounted a largemouth bass weighing almost 11 pounds that was caught at Truman Lake, a deer that scored 190, and huge elk, in addition to numerous ducks, pheasants and quail.

At the Boat and Sportshow, he has displayed everything from a black bear balancing on a limb with a beehive in its paws, to trophy fish and deer. And then there's the barnyard chicken standing on a stump.

You think that's unusual? Hardly. Stidham also has mounted everything from family pets to turkey vultures.

"Last year, a woman contacted me and wanted to have a necklace made out of a rib bone that she had removed in a surgery," Stidham said. "You never know what you will get in. The other day a guy from Texas called and wants me to mount five diamondback rattlesnakes for him."

FISHING'S TASTE TEST

Quinton Phelps has an idea on how to control invasive aquatic species such as Asian carp that have shown up in force in Missouri's major waterways.

He wants fishermen to eat them.

"A lot of fishermen say, 'No way am I going to eat something like that,' " said Phelps, a research biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "But they haven't tried them. They have preconceived ideas of what they'll taste like.

"Once they try them, they find out that they're really quite good."

Phelps proved that Thursday evening at the Boat and Sportshow. After he and his assistants showed the proper way to fillet silver and bighead carp, they battered the fish and deep-fried them. Minutes later, they passed out samples to the crowd.

"A lot better than I thought they'd be," said one elderly man.

Phelps smiled and flashed one of those I-told-you-so looks.

"They have good white meat," Phelps said. "And if you fillet them right and get the red meat and the Y bones out of them, they're good to eat."

Phelps is on a campaign to get fishermen to eat Asian carp and help reduce populations of the invasive species that are so prevalent in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

"People will say, 'There's no way you could ever fish them down,' " Phelps said. "But look at what is happening in China. They are taking so many Asian carp out of the Yangtze River that they are having to restock them.

"They're considered a delicacy over there. People love them."

The invasive carp were introduced to the United States to control water quality in aquaculture operations in the South. But they eventually made their way into major waterways in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Phelps said.

Because they are so prolific and adaptable, they have thrived in rivers in Missouri and Kansas and threaten to have an impact on native species such as catfish.

That's why Phelps is on a mission to show fishermen just how tasty the fish can be. The more Asian carp that are eaten, the fewer problems they will present in the water.

(c)2014 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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