Keep an eye on Lowen early

Bill Lowen missed his window of opportunity yesterday. A trolling motor malfunction sent him back to the service yard after he was halfway to his Seneca River sweet spot.

"I got about an hour-and-a-half late start," Lowen said. "I've been catching most of my big fish in that first hour of the morning when I've got low light, and I missed that window. Every morning I've had my limit by about 9:30. When I got up there (Saturday) I started fishing about 8:45. On about my fourth cast I caught a 3 1/2-pounder, and I'm thinking, boy, I just missed my window."

Lowen salvaged the day with 14-14 and began today in fifth place, 6 pounds, 5 ounces behind leader Brandon Cobb. Lowen has been taking a different approach than the other nine finalists today. He's been way up the river, covering a lot of shallow water with a 1/4-ounce swim jig and a 1/4-ounce buzzbait.

"That's the one-two punch, and we're going to go down swinging," he said. "It's either going to be really good or really bad."

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Pipkens hooked up

Chad Pipkens just caught his first keeper of the day, and shortly after, his second. The first one was small, maybe 1-4. The second bass was close to 3 pounds.  Watching Pipkens this morning he looks a bit like someone who is just learning to cast. He’s rotating his whole body from side to side. Not raising his arms much. For a moment I had forgotten that he broke his left collarbone, playing hockey, just over a month ago. He has two screws in it. Pipkens said yesterday he feels okay if he can keep his left arm closer to his side. But that his right arm is starting to bother him because he’s over using it. 

'They're not biting this morning'

Here on Championship Sunday Steve Bowman, Derek Hudnall and I are covering Chad Pipkens. The Michigan Elite begins the day in 9th place with 45-14. We’re following Pipkens because we heard stories that he is really on em. Particularly early. He’s fishing a little saddle between the bank and an island, not far from the dam.

When we arrive two local anglers were fishing his spot. Pipkens politely talked to them and they departed. But they may have stired up the fish, or caught them. After 25 minutes Pipkens told us, “They’re not biting this morning.” Then he headed around the corner. As you’ll see in the photo, it’s foggy this morning, with sprinkles and 60 degrees. 

Can anyone catch Cobb?

At first glance it looks like 29-year-old Brandon Cobb of nearby Greenwood, S.C., has this tournament won. With a 5-pound, 10-ounce lead over second-place Micah Frazier and competing on Lake Hartwell, which he’s fished since he was old enough to walk, all the arrows point to Cobb, who has led this tournament since Day 1.

However, we’ve already seen stranger things happen on the Elite Series trail this year than someone coming from way back to overtake the Day 3 leader. Rick Clunn was in 8th place, 11 pounds, 13 ounces, behind leader Chris Johnston, when he rallied to win at the St. Johns River in February.

But it will take the Lake Hartwell equivalent of Clunn’s 34-pound, 14-ounce final day at St. Johns to overtake Cobb. That would probably be something in the neighborhood of a 22- to 25-pound bag. So everyone chasing Cobb will be trophy-hunting today.

“The only way to do that is burn down the bank and pass up two-pounders,” said Stetson Blaylock, who jumped from 10th place Friday to third place Saturday with a 19-3 limit. It included a 5-pound, 13-ounce largemouth bass, the biggest of the tournament so far. “I probably wasted two or three hours on two-pounders (Saturday) before I had a limit. Now at this point in the game, if you’re going to catch Brandon and have a shot to win, you better be looking for big ones.”

Blaylock noticed more big bass moving shallow to spawning beds Saturday than he had during the two previous tournament days.

“A lot of those big ones still didn’t get up there right, but I trolled over some whales that were just getting up there,” he said. “That just tells me that, if it’s going to happen, it would happen (Sunday). You’ll see a 22- to 25-pound bag.”

Cobb has been consistent all week with limits weighing 19-9, 17-8 and 18-5. If anyone is going to catch him, it will probably take a bag the likes of which we haven’t seen this week. Drew Cook’s 20-6 on Friday is the heaviest limit of the week – so far.

Queen of the prom

Reagan Cothran is the Queen of the Bassmaster Prom, at least in our opinion. Cochran caused a stir when she arrived at the Day 3 weigh-in at Green Pond Landing and Event Center. And why not, we don’t see many prom dresses at bass fishing tournaments. But Cothran is clearly a little different. She thought up having her senior prom photo taken at the Elite Series weigh-in. “I wanted to see the Elites, and I thought it would be unique to get my picture taken here,” she said. Simple, right?

Cothran started the bass fishing team at nearby Wren High School. She hopes to continue competitive fishing in college. 

Legends of B.A.S.S.

The men in this photo represent about 120 years of knowledge in the bass fishing industry. From left that's Alan McGuckin with Dynamic Sponsorships, James Overstreet, chief photographer for, Craig Lamb, writer, photographer and videographer for, and Dave Mercer, our weigh-in stage impresario (emcee). In the course of many years of working together on the Elite Series friendships have developed, and clearly these guys love working together. Although at the moment this photo was taken it looks like they were goofing off.

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Pipkens making a bad break good

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.

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Pipkens hurting so good

Chad Pipkens continues to master his injury-forced one-armed fishing style. Pipkens caught a 3-4 at 1:02, giving him 15 pounds on the day and putting him in 7th place, according to BASSTrakk.

It was four weeks ago Thursday when the broken left collarbone was surgically repaired. His doctors said it would take 8 to 12 weeks before it was completely healed.

"They knew what I did for a living and said I just need to be cautious casting and landing a fish and driving the boat," Pipkens said yesterday.

Injury free for the first two tournaments this season, Pipkens came into this event ranked 59th in Angler of the Year standings. Playing hurt is paying off for him this week.

"You learn from everything," said Pipkens, who is giving new meaning to the term "learning the hard way" this week.

Whitaker culling again

Jake Whitaker continues to cull. He just added another half pound this limited after catching a 3-pound bass. That gives him four 3-pound bass and one that is pushing 5-pounds.

Using my rudimentary math skills that gives him 17 pounds today. BASSTrakk is showing him with less. Either way the young North Carolinian is currently well inside the top 10 cut for Championship Sunday.

Whitaker culls up a pound

Jake Whitaker just caught a 3-2 and culled up about a pound, giving him nearly 16 pounds for the day and moving him into 6th place on BASStrakk.

The second year Elite angler is fishing docks and the banks in between them in a small cove with clear water.