DETROIT – Chad Pipkens picked the right day to have the best day of his life.
The 31-year-old Holt, Mich., angler, who has fished Lakes St. Clair and Erie since his college days, bagged 23 pounds, 6 ounces to win the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open #3 presented by Allstate on Lake St. Clair.
His three-day total of 67 pounds, 4 ounces edged out Fletcher Shryock of Ohio. Shryock came in second with 63-10, while Chris Johnston of Canada placed third with 63-6.
Joe Balog, the Harrison Township., Mich., pro and heavy favorite who led the first two days, lost valuable fishing time due to mechanical problems. Balog caught only three fish on Day 3, and fell to seventh.
Jeff Jenema of Michigan won the co-angler division title with a Day 3 bag of 13 pounds, 4 ounces. He was paired with Pipkens on the final day of the tournament. He won a $25,000 Triton 17 Pro bass boat with a Yamaha F115LA outboard.
Pipkens won a $40,000 Triton 19XS / Mercury 200 Optimax and $7,083 cash.
More importantly, Pipkens earned a berth in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell, S.C., next February.
“Winning this wasn’t about the money – it was all about getting that Classic berth,” said Pipkens.
“And to lock it up on a day when the fishing was nothing short of fabulous makes it even more special.”
That’s why he gambled to make the long runs to Erie from Metropark on Lake St. Clair each day -- a brutal ride across St. Clair, down the Detroit River and out into Erie.
A weather change Saturday gave Pipkens a boost. The strong winds switched from the southwest to the northwest, making it easier for him to reach and fish the Canadian waters of Lake Erie he had been plying all week.
“I only had two hours of fishing each of the first two days, but the change in wind direction let me fish longer and more effectively today,” he said. “My co-angler and I had periods where we were catching big smallmouth on every cast.”
Pipkens targeted rocky, gravelly corners on reefs scattered along the Canadian shoreline in 8 to 12 feet of water.
Everything came on a Damiki DC300 crankbait in “real shad” color. The lure dove to about 11 feet on a long cast with a 7-3 Powell fiberglass crankbait rod and Abu Garcia Revo STX baitcaster spooled with 12-pound Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon line.
Shryock also fished Erie, working the area around Kelly and Pele Islands.
“I was running 100 miles each way,” he said. “But that’s where the big fish are.”
He caught most of his fish on a green pumpkin tube with a 3/8 jighead and on two drop-shot baits: Berkley Power Bait Twitch Tail Minnow and a 4-inch Gulp Crawler. The drop shots were rigged with a 1/0 Trokar hook and 1 1/2–foot leader.
He fished ledges in 10 to 15 feet of water, where the bass would set up and let the current carry bait to them.
“They were on specific spots, but those spots changed daily because of the change in current,” Shryock noted.
Day 3 was a tough break for Balog, who had been on a big fish pattern the first two days. In addition to a 7th place finish, he also received the $250 Livingston Lures Leader Award for being the top finishing pro at the conclusion of Day 2.
In the co-angler division, William Langille of Ohio pocketed a Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250 for being the top finishing non-boater after Day 2.
The $500 Carhartt Big Bass Prize for the largest bass caught in the tournament went to non-boater Jay Ahonen of Ortonville, Mich., for the 6-10 smallmouth he caught on a drop-shot rig on Day 1.