CHAD PIPKENS- GAINING KNOWLEDGE AND CONFIDENCE-AND DOING IT QUICKER
Lansing, MI angler Chad Pipkens, has fished 100 tournaments as a professional. He has three Bassmaster Classic appearances, one major tournament win, and 14 Top 10 finishes. Chad has finished in the money 60 times for total winnings of $525,418. After having one of his best years in 2019, the Elite Series angler was really looking forward to 2020. Covid has changed a lot of things but not his passion for professional bass fishing and his family. iBass360's Ryan Said, a former Elite angler himself, sat down with Chad to get his perspective on this crazy season and his future. We are very appreciative that Chad made the time to talk about such a wide range of topics.
iBass360: First things first- are you fully recovered from your ice hockey injuries, and did you continue to play in the 2019-20 season until COVID shut things down?
Chad: Despite some frowning from my wife, I did play some hockey this fall. You can’t play an aggressive game like hockey cautiously or else you are actually more likely to get hurt, but I was more aware of my position on the ice. I tried to skate more in the center or along the boards rather than going aggressively into them. I have taken much harder hits than the one that caused the collar bone injury last year. That injury was just a fluke thing- the way it happened-
but it is mostly healed. The collarbone is still crooked and there are still screws in there, and I do still feel some pain from time to time, like during extended drives in the car, but I don’t notice it when I am fishing which is the important thing!
iBass360: What position do you play and should the Red Wings consider you as part of their rebuilding? Throwing sheephead on the ice could become a thing!
Chad: I play wing or center depending on what the team needs. The Red Wings should definitely consider me! Lake Erie definitely needs to be “relieved” of a few sheephead!
iBass360: 2019 was one of your better years. You qualified for the Classic and had five top 10’s including a really great performance with what may have been a PB largemouth at Texas Fest. What made 2019 the season it was?
Chad: Because of the hockey injury, when the season started I was not expecting a lot. My first top ten at Hartwell, which happened soon after the injury, I was more relaxed because my goal was just to catch a fish and get points. It’s funny, you have zero nerves when you’re not expecting much. I could only drive the boat with one hand and I could only fish with a spinning rod and even that was painful. I had to be extra careful driving the boat so I was only going 45 mph down the lake and guys were blowing by me.
The injury forced me to fish slower and not get caught up in running around. I fished slow and consistent, hitting areas very carefully, and multiple times. I also mixed in some new but close by stuff each day. The experience helped me make good decisions and it worked out.
I have done well in the Opens for many years, won points titles and such. I am always more relaxed in those events and just go fishing. I think that finally carried into the Elites for me in 2019. In previous years on the Elites, on tournament day, I would just fish areas that I got bites in during practice, rather than making free-wheel decisions. In 2019 I treated the tournament as an extension of practice and I just kept making adjustments and kept “practicing”. This helped me fish relaxed during the tournament.
iBass360: As you transitioned from a “Northern” angler and fished more in the South, what came easy and what was more difficult to achieve in rounding out your angling style?
Chad: I had to learn to continue to fish my strengths even though I was in new types of waters in the south. You tend to think that if you go to a new place, you have to learn all new things that work there, and that’s not the case most of the time. You obviously have to learn some new things, but you can still fish your strengths. 2016 was one of my worst years. It was the year that everything was flooded at every tournament we fished. Flipping dominated the headlines, so that is what I tried to do. The thing I did not do was remember there are always fish off the bank,
even if they are not deep. I’ve always liked to be off the bank and I should have done more of that. I like to fish non-visible targets, and I needed to remember that a bass is a bass. There are certain things they like no matter where they live. Things might look different lake to lake, north vs. south, but the fish generally behave the same and I had to learn to keep fishing my strengths, and learn how to adapt my strengths to new bodies of water instead of thinking I had to learn whole new techniques.
iBass360: Knowing how competitive you are, what will you focus on in 2020 to increase your qualifications for the final day championship rounds?
Chad: My focus is just to carry the mindsets, the practices, the disciplines, etc. that I found successful in 2019 over to 2020. I was really happy with my progress and how I was able to apply things I have been learning for years. I just want to push that farther in 2020. In doing that, my goal is to be relevant in the AOY discussion. I want to be in the mix throughout the season.
iBass360: You’re a new dad. I would imagine on the one hand it gets you pumped to succeed for the family, but on the other, makes it harder to be on the road as much as you are. How are you finding the fishing and family balance? Any tips to share?
Chad: It is totally different leaving the house for sure. So far I have only had to do it twice because of COVID. It is 100% the hardest thing I have ever done. To be honest, the first time, on the trip down to Florida, there were a few tears driving away. I am not 100% sure of all of the reasons but some are obvious and I have ideas on the others. There is definitely added motivation and it really helps with perspective. As long as you have some kind of financial stability it helps you to fish more relaxed. Last year I fished more relaxed because of the broken collar bone. This year it will be all about the baby streak I hope! This whole game is so mental!
iBass360: Covid has turned the season upside down. The good news seems to be there are four smallmouth locations and a return to Lake Fork for the Elites and a trip to Oneida for the Eastern Open Series. I see this as a positive for you, what are your thoughts on the schedule?
Chad: You never know when you are going to catch them, but I love what I see this year on the schedule. My last win was at St. Clair in 2014 and I have had several chances since then. I feel like there