Cook is nibbling away

Following along the lines of a hot noon hour. Drew Cook added a 4-14 at 12:12 p.m.

At Lake Fork that’s nothing to write home about. But for Cook it could be a big piece of his puzzle.

Prior to that he was 15 pounds and change from catching up to Pipkens. After that 4-14, he’s now 13 pounds and 5 ounces out. As folks have said many times, “the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”

Cook is nibbling away.

Cook’s smallest in his creel is 3-6, while Pipkens’ smallest is 4-7.

Big bite turning on

The noon hour seems to be having its moments. Since 10:05 when Brandon Card caught a 6-11 things have just kind of rocked along without any big game changers, a 3- or 4-pounder here and one over there.

Then at 11:13 Chad Pipkens caught a 6-8. And we looked for the dam to burst.

It wasn’t until 11:52 a.m. when Bernie Schultz caught a 7-7 did we start seeing some real movement. At 11:56, Drew Benton added a 6-5, and at nooon Clifford Pirch caught a 7-2, followed closely by David Mullins with a 6-13.

In the last 20 minutes five fish have become part of our top 10 big fish of the day in the Toyota Tundra Big Bass List.

The big bite may be turning on.

Pipkens gives us all a lesson

Chad Pipkens has given us all a lesson in fishing, if we chose to heed it.

Pipkens is a veteran of the Elites. Prior to this year his best finish was a top 10 in 2015.

While a lot of things have changed in that time, especially in the last year, those changes have nothing to do with these weights.

Every fishery has a weight that it should produce for a winning weight regardless of who is on the water. And then there’s a weight it can produce, which is heavier than it “should.” That’s the weight where all the stars and planets align and things just work. That’s the weight Pipkens is working on now. Plus, he had a great event at Hartwell and decent finish at Winyah Bay.

The difference. The guy who has been typically border-line spastic on the water at times, rushing here and rushing there, swinging and missing and swinging again, broke his collarbone playing hockey in between the Lake Lanier event and Lake Hartwell. I’m not making this up: A full-time professional bass angler, broke his collar bone playing hockey. There’s some old school bass anglers who have only used the word “hockey” behind the word “bull.” Many of them think a body check is that big old check you see guys holding up at the end of an event.

Still Pipkens was playing hockey and evidently got body-checked into a broken collarbone. While some of us thought his year, and possibly career, was over. Pipkens came back and has limped through the process of competing. The injury has completely slowed Pipkens to an almost snail crawl of activity, snail crawl as opposed to borderline spastic.

That difference has created Pipkens’ best year of his career. By slowing down, because it hurts to go fast, he’s put himself in a position to catch more and bigger fish than ever before.

The clue in all of that is after several years of all of the preaching, stories etc., that there’s no time to waste and you have to go 100 miles an hour in everything, that maybe a change of pace can work when the 100 mile an hour pace isn’t.

Telling stats

The most telling stat at the moment (and it will surely change) is the number between the first place angler and the second place angler.

At the moment Chad Pipkens is leading this event with 62 pounds, 14 ounces. Then there is Drew Cook in second place. Cook has already had a great day with 22 pounds for the morning. His total is even eye-brow raising to a point. At 47 pounds, 12 ounces just a day and half in, he’s having an incredible event.

The difference, though, is he’s 15 pounds, 2 ounces behind. Going further down, Brandon Card in third, is 17 pounds behind. Drew Benton in fourth is 19-15 behind and Brandon Cobb, who started today in second, is fifth and 23-3 behind.

If this were any other fishery, folks would be telling Pipkens he could sleep in on Day 3. But even with that kind of breathing room, Lake Fork can make that feel like just a couple of bites.

Brandon Cobb and big swimbaits

Brandon Cobb is off to a stellar start in his first year on the Elite Series. He won on his home lake of Lake Hartwell, and he currently sits 6th in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings.

Cobb finished Day 1 of Lake Fork, just 4 ounces behind the leader Chad Pipkens. "The shad spawn here is just like the herring spawn at home," the South Carolina native said.

But Cobb took a very different approach to catching bass here at Fork. He's throwing a "giant swimbait" on the fabled Texas lake.

"Before today I've probably caught like three fish in tournaments on a big swimbait," he said, with a big smile.

Adapting and evolving with what each fishery presents is frequently the key to success on the Elite Series.

Today Cobb sits in 5th place in BASSTrakk with two fish for 8 pounds. That includes a 6-2 caught first thing this morning.

Third hour update

Hour two may have set us up for some disappointment. On Day 1, the third hour was the best hour of the day with 104 keepers. Today’s third hour only produced 73 keepers.

That’s a sizable drop off but the pace is still strong. Pipkens is leading with 60 pounds and change. At this time yesterday, Chris Zaldain was atop the leaderboard with 30 pounds and change or close to that. So the winning pace is still there.

We have 20 Elites with limits on both days, which is probably similar to yesterday.

The fishing remains good, though. There’s an average of one keeper showing up for every angler on the water. Ronnie Moore’s stats tell us the average size of those keepers on Day 1 was 3 pounds, 7 ounces. That’s obviously some great fishing, and a reminder as why this lake is the number one tourist destination for bass anglers.

Quick fishing tip

If you want a real quick fishing tip look no further than the list on the left side of BASSTrakk. It’s called the Toyota Tundra Today’s Big Bass.

It basically records the 10 biggest fish caught and highlights them. Pretty cool look at how the day is going.

The first thing I noticed is four of the top 10, were caught between 8:35 a.m. (Pipken’s 8-11) and 8:51 a.m. (Lineberger’s 7-5). They sandwich the two at the bottom of the list.

Only two of those were caught during the 7 a.m. hour, and one was barely in the 9 o’clock hour. As a student of sleeping in, that should tell you that the best fishing (at least at the moment) is the last 15 or 20 minutes of the 8 o’clock hour.

Lake Fork is as slick as glass

In the middle of the last two blogs, I actually ran out of the cabin to get a handful of breakfast burritos at the Minnow Bucket down the road.

Those who have been to Lake Fork, know of the Minnow Bucket. You should know they make an excellent breakfast. None of that matters except my trip took me over the Highway 154 bridge.

I was struck by another mainstay of Lake Fork. Typically the wind blows in Texas everyday. It’s especially true on Lake Fork. It wasn’t overly strong yesterday, but all day yesterday there was a chop on the water.

Wind is your friend most days. Today, though, Lake Fork is as slick as glass. That will change because this is Texas. But it’s surprising to see the catch rates go up without even a whisper of a ripple on the water. Might scare you to think of what might happen when the wind does blow.

Tour of Lake Fork

We have been running spots all across Lake Fork, following Chris Zaldain as he searches for his 4th keeper. It has not been a pleasant tour for Chris, as the only thing he’s caught that we’ve seen since the early morning bite were two catfish. They looked like nice catfish, though.

We are currently watching Chris work his Magdraft swimbait over a point near Long Branch on east side of the lake. This is our fifth stop, and each one is about 10-15 minutes.

Chris told me yesterday he knows pretty quickly if a spot is going to work for the pattern he’s running. Unfortunately for him, the answer has been no most of the morning.

2nd hour showed up in big way

The second hour of this derby did show up and in a big way.

If you were watching Chad Pipkens then you saw a big piece of that. Pipkens is back in the lead and likely won’t relinquish it today. But if someone took it from him, what an incredible story.

It could happen if the fishing continues to get exponentially better. Earlier we talked about the drop off from the first hour of Day 2 as compared to Day 1.

Hour two, though, really showed out. In the 1-hour span between 8 and 9, the Elite anglers caught 108 keepers as opposed to 85 on Day 2. That puts both days in a basic neck-and-neck race between the two hours, with 164 fish in the first two hours on Day 1 and 165 in that time span on Day 2. We will let the third hour be the tiebreaker and see if Day 2’s momentum keeps going.