LAKE FORK, Texas — After two days of competition at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the anglers will take a break from fishing Saturday.
Chad Pipkens said he will welcome the break — and with the cushion he has in the standings, he should rest easy.
Pipkens’ five biggest bass during today’s second round weighed 30 pounds, 15 ounces — his second straight day with more than 30 pounds — and he maintained his overall lead in the event with a massive, two-day total of 62-14.
That means he’ll have a gigantic cushion of 11-4 over his closest competitor when fishing resumes Sunday morning.
“I had probably the best hour and a half of fishing I’ve ever had — and I got to have it on the right day,” said Pipkens, a Michigan resident who is fishing just two months after breaking his collarbone while playing ice hockey. “I’ve seen it like that before, but it happened on the wrong day when I had to let up on them.
“We have an off day tomorrow. So today, I was able to just keep hammering them.”
Unlike Thursday’s first round when Pipkens struggled early, he got off to a fast start today, exploiting an early-morning shad-spawn bite in shallow water. He caught a nice-size largemouth off his first spot and then moved to another spot where things got as good for him as they’ve ever been.
During Texas Fest, bass are caught, weighed and released immediately. Then they’re entered into the BASSTrakk leaderboard, leaving a perfect log of when each catch took place.
According to BASSTrakk, between 8:26 and 8:47 a.m., Pipkens caught a 5-15, an 8-11, a 5-6 and a 4-7. He finished his five-bass limit at 10:13 a.m. with a 6-8.
“It was just on fire,” Pipkens said. “It was happening. It doesn’t happen like that very often, but when it does, it’s pretty special.”
While many anglers have been tightlipped about the baits they’re using this week, Pipkens openly said he’s using a Damiki DC 300 crankbait.
“They’re eating it,” Pipkens said. “They’re getting the front hook and the back hook. They’re almost swallowing it.
“The 8-11 that I caught came up and the bait was just gone, which is exactly what you want with a big fish like that.”
Pipkens’ mentioning the bait on Bassmaster LIVE — and demonstrating how much bass like it — resulted in a rush on the lure. A check of three major online stores that carry Damiki crankbaits showed that the lure was sold out by noon in several colors resembling Pipkens’ choice.
Though some anglers were lamenting Saturday’s off day, Pipkens said he needs the rest — and not necessarily for his surgically repaired collarbone.
“These bass are so strong,” Pipkens said. “They just dig and dig, and my forearms are killing me. Hopefully the fish will rest up a little bit, too. Maybe they’ll even group up some more.”
Despite Pipkens’ sizeable cushion, Lake Fork has the kind of gigantic fish that can help an angler make up ground quickly.
There were 15 limits that weighed 20 or more pounds today, and the Top 10 biggest bass all weighed 7-5 or better, including Pipkens’ 8-11 that ranked as the largest of the day. Oklahoma pro Luke Palmer and South Carolina’s Brandon Cobb are still tied for the lead for Toyota Tundra Big Bass of the Week with the twin 8-12s they caught Thursday. The winner of the prize gets a new San Antonio-built Toyota Tundra.
The angler closest to Pipkens in the overall standings is Florida pro Drew Cook, who caught 25-14 Friday to push his two-day total to 51-10. He moved from seventh to second in the standings.
“My main area wasn’t panning out first thing this morning,” Cook said. “So I went to my second area and caught a 6-pounder right away. Then I went to a place where I’ve been sharing water with (fellow Florida pro) Drew Benton and caught some more.
Benton is keying on shallow shellbars where bass are feeding heavily on spawning shad. He said he spent most of his time in three or four areas, making the same cast repetitively.
“It’s a really shallow shellbar,” Cook said. “But it seems like the shad are spawning on it all day — and I didn’t know that until today.
“On Thursday, I caught about 20 pounds doing that and then left and went sight fishing. Today, I stayed with it all day and they bit all day.”
Michigan pro Garrett Paquette is in third with 47-13, followed by Tennessee veteran Brandon Card (46-15) and Benton (46-5).
Competition will pause Saturday for an Outdoors Expo with a packed schedule of events at Sabine Rive Authority in Quitman. The Expo will feature free demo boat rides, prize giveaways, meet-and-greet sessions with the Elite Series pros, fishing seminars and a live concert, part of the Mercury Concert Series, by country music star Chris Knight at 4:15 p.m.
The Expo, which will also be held Sunday, opens at 10 a.m. and is free to attend.
The 12 members of the recently selected 2019 High School All-American presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors Team. will also hold a special exhibition tournament Saturday, with a weigh-in scheduled for 3 p.m. at Sabine River Authority. Each All-American will be paired with an Elite Series pro.
Also Saturday, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will offer fans and fishing enthusiasts a variety of activities, including casting and fly-tying instruction, fish art, and an aquarium and multiple children’s activities. TPWD will also be honoring five Toyota ShareLunker Legacy Anglers who caught and donated bass that weighed 13 pounds or more to the organization’s selective breeding program in 2019.
Get Hooked on Fishing presented by Toyota, Shakespeare and TakeMeFishing.org will provide an interactive fishing experience for children with casting lessons, a fishing pond and a chance to meet the pros.
And TPWD will also induct Alan Haynes of Tyler, former CEO and president of The Sportster Inc. retail sporting goods chain, into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in ceremonies Saturday at Texas Fest.