Is the honey hole drying up?

Pipkens’ day is not getting any better. After two days of wacking them on his honey hole, it appears as if its dried up. At least for now.

That has to be wearing on him. I would imagine the pressure is starting to ratchet up a bit. It doesn’t help when he hooks up with his first keeper of the day, and starts to swing it in the boat and it comes unbuttoned on the way.

These are the things that can open a flood gate of emotions. From this point on, how Pipkens deals with these things and responds will be a look into his character. We expect he will be just fine emotionally. After all, he did turn a broken collarbone into his best season of his career.

But honey holes drying up and losing fish can make even the strongest of anglers melt a little.

Crews always provides a welcome mat

Consistency has been the mark of 11-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier John Crews’ pro angling career. And that includes his commitment to a pre-launch routine.

The green rag you see laying on the front deck of his Bass Cat is first used to wipe the dew off his boat seats. Then he arranges it in perfect position every morning to be used as a welcome mat for his ride-along judges and marshals to wipe their feet on as they board.

Crews’ ride along judge on Sunday at Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest on Lake Fork was sweet and jovial Amy Wisdom.

She’s a 24-year-old from East Texas who couldn’t help but laugh at the site of Crews’ green welcome mat. She’s been paired with him before and knew it would be there this morning. Especially following three wet and muddy days on Lake Fork.

“Oh yea. The towel is there every time,” she laughed. “I rode with John at the Bassmaster Elite on the Sabine River when he made it to Championship Sunday, and he had the welcome mat waiting for me that morning too.”

Crews says it’s not just any old green rag. “I actually call it “The Charlie Hartley Signature Series Towel” because Charlie is the only angler I know who is so fanatical about keeping his equipment clean, he actually washes his boat in the morning before he launches,” laughs Crews.

Not only is Crews’ towel a nice gesture, but also a common sense move by the Virginia pro to maintain resale value on his Bass Cat by avoiding visible wear and dirt stains on the front deck carpet.

This is Amy’s third tournament to ride with the Elite Series pros, and she sees the opportunity as a fast track to learning more about the sport she loves. “I’ve always been a fan, but I’m hoping to start fishing some team tournaments with my dad, so this is a great way to learn a lot really quick,” she says.

She’ll certainly garner great knowledge on everything from how to target bass that are munching on spawning shad, to shallow crankbaits and swimbaits too.

But her first lesson of the day from Crews was one centered on courtesy, and a simple way to keep your boat carpet clean.

AOY race

One of the races taking place on the water today, is quietly changing up in the back ground this morning.

Patrick Walters leads the Toyota Angler of the Year race and has for several weeks. After Day 2, it appeared as if Drew Cook might be challenging Walters. Both obviously have their sights on that title.

Friday, Cook had cut the difference in the points to 6, which in these events is just ounces at times.

Today, though, Cook is losing some ground. He’s dropped from 2nd to 11th while Walters has risen from 25th to 19th. That’s a net gain of 19 points at the moment for Walters. Of course that could change with a fish catch or two. But it does illustrate how tightly contested the AOY race is every minute of the season.

Here comes Combs

The best case scenario is showing promise for Keith Combs, who just moved into second place according to BASSTrakk. Combs favors offshore fishing in his home state waters when the bass begin to move to deeper water following the spawn. When those fish gather over post spawn staging areas and eventually to deeper water those ideal conditions play into the hand of Combs.

That is what is happening now as he throws a crankbait in what he described on Bassmaster LIVE as one of his six best areas.

“All I need is for them to fire,” he said.

Those are dangerous words from this offshore expert. All week Combs has bet on the come of postspawn fish moving to his chosen areas. Earlier in the week he told me that would happen next week. That might happen sooner. Stay tuned.

Sunshine but no wind

One big change today is the weather. We spent some time talking about the sunshine earlier and how it has been at a premium in these parts the last week.

With this high-pressure day, there is very little wind. We’ve said it before, the wind always blows in Texas. We had a calm morning two days ago, but it didn’t last long. It’s super calm now with very little ripple on the water.

That will hurt fishing in a big way this time of year. The wind is the best thing that can happen March through May for a fisherman on the hunt. Even more so when the fish are transitioning. But we know this will change at some point.

That could be a big reason for Pipkens’ slow morning. Along with that, one of the ingredients for him was he would catch a lot of white bass in the middle of catching his 30-pound sacks. Those white bass have yet to show today. I don’t know how the two correlate at the moment. But both are wind-loving species.

Cobb takes the lead

Brandon Cobb has caught an 8 pound, 8 ounce lunker and for the first time in 2 ½ days, someone beside Chad Pipkens is leading this event.

Cobb’s Day 3 weight is 19-1 for the day and 65-3 for the three days. That’s just 2 pounds, 5 ounces more than Pipkens, who has yet to catch a keeper.

Andy Crawford tells me Pipkens is idling back to his honey hole, as I type this. So Pipkens is surely hoping the fish have returned there. As I typed that Keith Combs caught a 6-11 and has pushed his daily weight to 22-14. Combs is now in second and Pipkens has dropped to third.

Cobb with an "over"

The scoring of this tournament adds another interesting dimension beyond weight. Length matters. What that means is a fish measuring outside the 24-inch slot can be brought to the scales for the traditional show and tell weigh-in.

Brandon Cobb scored the first “over” of the day and the seventh of the tournament. His fish weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces. Five “overs” were caught on Thursday and one on Friday.

Crews with a stellar start

John Crews has started his day off in a stellar way. He just posted a 5-15 largemouth. And we couldn’t be happier.

Crews has been the ambassador for Autism Awareness in Bassmaster for years. Autism awareness month kind of wrapped up yesterday during a muddy Expo where Shane LeHew took a head-first slide in the mud to bring awareness to Autism.

These are the kind of things Crews does all year long, He and Dave Mercer are on a two-man mission to keep the discussion of Autism at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Crews is currently in 26th place in this derby. He needs four more of those to ensure a berth into the final tomorrow.

Sunshine helping Combs

The sunshine has certainly helped Keith Combs today. He’s on a post-spawn type pattern that really is helped by the sunshine the lake is getting today.

The proof is in the pudding, sort of. Combs started the day in 16th, and some worried he might share some of the same hometown jinx that befell Lee Livesay. Combs is doing his best to keep that from happening.

He’s currently in third place in the standings and has cut Pipkens’ lead to a manageable 9 pounds or so. Combs has four keepers that weigh in at 13-7. That’s nothing to write home about, but he does have a 5 and 3 ½, both of which can help build a nice, come-from-behind stringer.

Of course Pipkens could jump in and start breaking hearts at anytime with his honey hole. Combs, though, at least appears to be making certain if he goes down, he goes down swinging.

High-pressure skies today

Chad Pipkens started on his honey hole this morning and did not scratch up a bite. He did get hung up a time or two, but has yet to catch anything.

He’s now moved on, hitting the bank trying to chase the shad spawn. There might be some concern that this magical spot that has basically produced almost 63 pounds of fish in two days has dried up. But we will withhold judgement.

On Day 2, it was an hour later in the day before Pipkens had a bite there, so there’s still time for this place to start producing.

One big change is this is the first day these anglers have fished Lake Fork under high-pressure skies. My expectation is that will make it better for some, worse for others. But it’s a bright, beautiful day in these parts. While sun typically positions fish quickly, it’s been so long since it’s beamed like this, some of the fish could be stunned by it.