Pipkens: “Anyone can win” at James River finale

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James Overstreet

RICHMOND, Va. — It’s all about being there when the “window opens” on tidal fisheries. That’s why any one of the top 12 anglers who qualified for the final day has a chance to win the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open.

“I had zero bites at 11:30, then 25 bites after that,” said Pipkens, after bagging 15 pounds, 14 ounces in his five-fish limit Friday and moving from 30th place to 8th. “It’s extremely hard to be consistent. It’s all about windows. Unfortunately, my window is getting smaller. (Saturday) they should bite about noon. That will give me about an hour to an hour-and-15 minutes, maybe.

“In two days, total, I’ve caught one bass before 11:30,” said the 35-year-old Elite Series pro from Lansing, Mich. “You know it’s going to happen. It’s hard to be mentally ready.”

Every tidal-influenced bass fishery is like this, where brief windows of opportunity allow an angler to catch a big sack quickly, if he’s still awake and aware after all the down time. Inconsistency is what’s consistent on the James River. Bryan Schmitt was the primary example in the first two days of this tournament. Schmitt was in first place with 20-4 on Day 1, weighed only 9-6 on Day 2 and entered today’s final in fourth place, only 10 ounces behind leader Mike Iaconelli’s 30-4 two-day total.

Iaconelli, on the other hand, has been uncannily consistent with 15-2 both days. Is this the day that Iaconelli falls into the norm of inconsistency on the James River? The same applies to second-place Kotaro Kiryama, who is six ounces behind Iaconelli after two days of weighing 15-0 and 14-14. Anyone in today’s top 12 has a chance to win. Yes, even 12th-place Cameron Smith, who was fourth after Day 1 with 15-3 and dropped after weighing 11-4 on Day 2. Only 3 pounds, 11 ounces separates the top 12.

“I said this when (the Elite Series) was at Lake Guntersville,” Pipkens noted. “Anyone in the final 10 could win, and 10th place won. Whoever catches the biggest bag will win. Jamie (Hartman) caught the biggest bag and won. I think the same thing will happen here.

“I caught a 6 ½-pounder in practice and shook off some other big ones. I know what lives around here. But I know the window to do that for me is getting smaller and smaller.”

In the following chart of the previous six Bassmaster Opens at the James River, note the inconsistency in what it took to compile the winning weights. The exception was Randy Howell’s win in 2013:

YEARDATEANGLERDAY 1DAY 2DAY 3TOTAL WEIGHT
2017Aug. 3-5 Rick Morris 12-7 14-13 16-1143-15
2016Aug. 18-20Charlie Hartley 16-15 11-3 13-1141-13
2015July 9-11Chris Dillow 18-13 12-13 19-250-12
2013June 13-15Randy Howell 15-11 16-12 15-447-11
2012June 14-16Joshua Wagy 12-2 19-11 7-739-4
2011July 7-9Kelly Pratt 16-6 13-3 12-342-6