Friday, June 2, 2023

2023 Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River Day 1: Pipkens Rips Lead!

Canadians: Chris Johnston 45th, Cory Johnston 60th, Gallant 83rd & Gustafson 96th

Chad Pipkens of DeWitt, Mich., is leading after Day 1 of the Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River with 14 pounds, 7 ounces. (Photo: Seigo Saito/BASS)


ORANGE, Texas — Chad Pipkens of DeWitt, Mich., broke with two of his historical patterns and sacked up a 14-pound, 7-ounce limit to lead Thursday’s opening round of the Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River.


On a fishery where limits are never assumed and only 11 anglers eclipsed 10 pounds, Pipkens heads into Day 2 with a lead of 1-5 over Hunter Shryock of Ooltewah, Tenn. Suffice it to say, Pipkens has positioned himself well to end a streak he’d rather forget.


“It’s about time Sabine River!” Pipkens happily exclaimed. “I have fun at this place, but I have gotten my teeth kicked in every time I come here. This is the fifth time I’ve fished here and the good news is I think I can fish Saturday without catching a fish.


“I’m going to go out tomorrow and have some fun and try to put a few in the boat. We’ll see what happens.”


As Pipkens explained, breaking his streak of Sabine disappointment was the result of abandoning his previous preference.


“It was just a good day,” he said. “I had a good start and I was just able to mill around. That has not been the deal for me in the past. I would have three or four different areas and I would fish too quickly.


“That’s how I like to fish, but it’s not the deal in this place. You have to mill around (an area). It changes every 30 to 40 minutes and you might roll up and catch one.”


Pipkens caught his bass on a mix of reaction baits and slower presentations. Doing so produced several day-changing opportunities. Two-pound bass are welcome on the Sabine, so Pipkens was stoked to put a 5-12, a 3 and a 2 1/2 in the boat.


He said his main area has a few sweet spots that he’s cycling through and trying to get a bite every hour.


“I’m not getting a lot of bites, but there was one place that was pretty special this morning,” he said. “I caught a limit on my first spot. I caught probably half a dozen keepers. They weren’t there in practice, but they were there today.


“Outside of those sweet spots, I’m just fishing — keeping my bait wet. In years past, I tried to run too much. I didn’t fish where the fish moved to. Today, I fished where they moved to.”


Pipkens said most of that fish movement was tide related. The early morning’s combination of low light and incoming tide proved most productive. Surprisingly, his biggest fish came later in the day.


Looking ahead to Day 2, Pipkens said: “I’ll just keep my head down and stay focused. You need a bite about every hour to hour and a half.”


Shryock is in second place with 13-2. Making a bold decision to trash his pre-event work and opt for minimal running proved to be the right call.


“My practice was just a waste,” he said. “I tried to go to so many different areas and never really found something, so I stayed close and maximized my fishing time. I knew I had a long day, so I knew if I could keep my line wet for as long as possible, that was going to give me my best chance.”


Shryock said his success was predicated on being in the right place when the fish started biting. He found the morning outgoing tide most productive. Although he managed a couple of bites later in the day, all of his weight came earlier.


“I fished everything — rock, wood, grass; it didn’t matter,” Shryock said. “Basically, I fished whatever was in front of me. I just put my head down and kept fishing.


“It was mostly reaction baits that produced my weight, but I did catch a few flipping and dragging baits.”


Kenta Kimura of Osaka, Japan, is in third place with 13-1. Running about 100 miles from takeoff, he benefitted from the recent heavy rains.


“I didn’t expect this,” Kimura said. “That spot I fished was dry in practice. The rain from yesterday raised the water level. I know it’s going to be dry tomorrow, so I’m not going to do it again.


“I just tried to catch as many as I could catch because I don’t think I’m going there (on Friday).”


Describing an active day that produced 30 keepers, Kimura said he caught the majority of his fish on a Deps Evoke 1.2 squarebill. Multiple colors produced keepers, but Kimura found precision casting critical to his success.


“All of my fish were concentrated on one spot about the size of (a golf cart),” Kimura said. “That was the coolest experience I’ve had in a tournament day.


“I think current is the whole key. That’s what I’m concentrating on.”


Brandon Cobb of Greenwood, S.C., placed 60th with 6-3, but still leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 530 points. Kyle Welcher of Opelika, Ala., is in second with 501 points, followed by Tyler Rivet of Raceland, La., with 483, John Cox of DeBary, Fla., with 476, and Drew Cook of Cairo, Ga., with 474.


Joey Cifuentes III of Clinton, Ark., is in 20th place with 8-15 and reclaimed the lead in the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings with 419 points. Previous ROY leader Will Davis Jr. fell to second with 407 points.


Pipkens took Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day honors with his 5-12 largemouth. He also currently leads for the VMC Monster Bag award with his catch of 14-7.


Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. CT at the City of Orange Boat Ramp. The weigh-in will be held at the ramp at 3 p.m., with only the Top 50 anglers advancing to Championship Saturday. Bassmaster LIVE coverage starts at 7 a.m. on, Tubi and the FOX Sports digital platforms. 

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