Pipkens On Top After First Round At Mississippi River Bassmaster Elite

Nonstop soaking rain, increasing river levels and heavy limits of big smallmouth and largemouth bass were of hot discussion after Thursday’s opening round of competition at the 2018 Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River presented by Go RVing.

Thirty-four-year-old pro Chad Pipkens of Lansing, Mich., took control of the top spot after an impressive five-bass limit that weighed 17 pounds, 15 ounces.

The derby pays $100,000 to the top-scoring angler, and the dandy 5-8 largemouth has Pipkens also in charge of the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award. That fish could earn him an extra $1,500 once the event wraps up.

“It rained all day long,” he said. “And with the rising river levels, I was very pleased with what I caught today. I had a pretty difficult practice, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. But I learned a lot today. The big question is how will the water levels affect the bite each day.”

The Upper Mississippi is expected to be at 12 foot high by Sunday. Twelve feet is considered flood stage, which will certainly change the fishing from day to day.

The spot Pipkens was fishing proved to hold the right size of fish to help him take the lead, but he learned more about it as the day went on.

“I only caught seven bass today,” he said. “I had what I weighed by about 1 p.m., and that allowed me to run around and learn more about the overall area. I think the fishing will stay pretty good, even with more water coming in.”

Like every other angler, how the increasing river levels will impact the bite is a pretty big mystery.

“I really don’t have any idea what to expect. The key to catching a good limit each day here will come down to the anglers who adapt the quickest and make the best decisions,” Pipkens said. “Today went great, and my goal is to go out tomorrow and do the same thing again.”

In a tie for second place, Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., and Jacob Powroznik of North Prince George, Va., each weighed a five-bass limit of 16-14.

“I got real fortunate today and caught three good ones,” Pace said. “Each of those bass weighed about 3 3/4 pounds, which on this fishery are very solid bass. If I can catch a few like that each day, I’ll feel very confident about finishing real strong, maybe even winning.”

Pace weighed a mixed bag of both small- and largemouth bass, which is very typical on this fishery. As most anglers do, Pace kept his cards pretty close to the vest, not willing to reveal much about the techniques he was using to catch his fish.

Powroznik agrees that how the river will fish in coming days is largely unknown.

“I fished only one area today that is pretty expansive, and I believe it will hold up for a few more days,” he said. “I feel confident about what I have going on, but with the unknowns in how the rising river will impact the bite, I’m staying cautiously optimistic. The right fish are there, I know that much.”

Rounding out the Top 5 are Dave Lefebre with 16-9, and Casey Ashley and Gerald Spohrer tied for fifth with 16-7.

Take off will occur at Veterans Freedom Park at 6 a.m. CT, and weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. at the same location again on Friday. The weigh-in will move for Saturday and Sunday to Valley View Mall on Clinton Street in La Crosse.