Chad Pipkens is playing hurt this week, and it’s no small hurt. Four weeks ago, while playing ice hockey, Pipkens suffered a broken collarbone that required surgery to repair. At Friday’s weigh-in he pulled down the collar of his tournament jersey to reveal part of the long scar that runs from near the base of this neck across his left shoulder.
“It was just unlucky,” said the 35-year-old Lansing, Mich., resident. “I just had a weird fall playing hockey. I didn’t get bumped, didn’t get hit, just fell to the boards kind of weird, and I had my arm up.
“The doctor said five to 10 pounds of pressure on the collarbone at the wrong angle can break it. I broke it in three places, and it pushed in an inch. That’s why I had surgery.”
It helps, of course, that Pipkens is right-handed and he broke his left collarbone. But bass fishing with one arm takes some practice. Pipkens can’t raise his left arm parallel to the ground. He can use his left hand without pain, as long as he keeps his left arm tucked close to his body.
“I’m learning what hurts less,” he said. “(Thursday) was more painful than (Friday). I’ve been casting, trying not to use my left arm at all, just winging it with my right arm. I’m making progress every day. It’s just a long process to full recovery.”
Pipkens is truly making the best of a bad break. Before the injury, he’d recorded finishes of 51st at the St. Johns River and 54th at Lake Lanier. He entered today in 15th place, after making his first Top 35/Day 2 cut of the season.
“You learn from everything,” Pipkens said. “In Florida, I had four of the best places in the lake. But I almost had too much, and I just ran around. If I was hurt and settled down in any one of those four areas, it could have been a top 10 or top 20 finish. Here I’m slowing down.”
When Pipkens was standing in the weigh-in line yesterday, he opened an email on his phone that revealed the location of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship scheduled for Sept. 26-29 — Lake St. Clair near Detroit. That gave him another mental boost. St. Clair is where Pipkens won the Northern Open in Sept. 2014 with a three-day total of 67 pounds, 4 ounces.
“That’s my favorite time of year to fish there,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of sneaky stuff, a lot of stuff I like to fish that’s really, really good then. It just gets on fire that time of year. I need to get it together. I’ve got some catching up to do.”
No matter what happens today, Pipkens has done some catching up this week, broken collarbone and all.