Monster Lake Fork bass interrupted Chad Pipkens’ sleep last night.
“I see like giant bass leaping across my brain, and my heart starts racing,” the pro from Lansing, Mich., said early Saturday while answering texts.
Awakened but not all that shaken, Pipkens said he got up, did something productive then went back to bed before visions of lunkers again roused him. It’s understandable after his best two days of catching ever -- the smallmouth expert has weighed his largest two bags of largemouth.
Pipkens’ 10 fish total 62 pounds, 14 ounces and lead the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
With a “new personal best” 8-11, Pipkens added 30-15 Friday after leading with 31-15 on Day 1, when his best five weighed 6-5, 7-0, 6-8, 5-4 and 6-14.
On Friday, with a Bassmaster LIVE camera, Pipkens put on quite the show with bass weighing 5-15, 8-11, 5-6, 4-7 and 6-8. He’s 37-2 from a B.A.S.S. Century Belt, which hasn’t been awarded in six years. Averaging 18-9 over Sunday and Monday will get him to 100 pounds, but that’s not critical to his mission.
“First and foremost, if I get with 90 or 110, I really don’t care. I just want to win,” he said. “I’d love to have that other accolade, but it’d be gravy. That would be way gravy.”
Only second-place Drew Cook, with 51-10, is also on pace to reach 100 pounds. Keith Combs is the last to earn a belt, totaling 111-5 on Falcon Lake in 2013.
Pipkens realizes it’s not over as Lake Fork is land of the giants. It has produced 30 of the top 50 bass entered in Texas’ famed Share Lunker program, including the record 18.18-pounder. On Lake Fork in the 2014 Toyota Texas Bass Classic, the predecessor of Texas Fest, Combs set the three-day tournament record. He had a 10-14 big bass in a 42-pound bag that gave him 110 pounds, which averages to 7-5 a fish.
Pipkens' fish are averaging 6-5, and he’s on pace for a whopping four-day mark of 125-12, which would be the sixth highest ever in B.A.S.S. competition. In the 2008 Elite on Lake Falcon, all 12 anglers fishing four days earned Century Belts, led by Paul Elias’ record 132-8.
Again, Pipkens isn’t concerned with any records, just winning.
“It goes so easy when it goes good, so it seems like it could be really easy, but every fish I weighed came off two places,” he said. “Every fish I caught yesterday came off one place.”
Pipkens’ second spot is rather popular, with Garrett Paquette, Brandon Card and Jeff Gustafson also fishing it to Top 10 success. His main spot, which he discovered in practice while idling down a bank following contour lines, is subtle, so much so that he described it as “stupid.”
“There’s just something that’s right there,” he said. “It looked right -- it’s just this little nub. It’s not even worthy of a point.”
With another angler practicing in the area, he juked by going to the bank before casting to the wad of fish he saw on his scanner. At first it seemed a lost cause when a worm wasn’t bit. A clear crankbait left over from Lake Lanier produced a big bite that pulled off. Hmm, maybe they’re white bass, he thought. Another big bite pulled off. He saw what he thought was a striper flash, then he caught a striper.
“Yeah, they’re probably all stripers,” he said. “Then I hooked a 4.”
Sleep wasn’t being lost that others would fish his juice, certainly not Elites who saw him there, and not really the bevy of recreational anglers expected on the lake Saturday.