By Haley Kluge
The Holt Journal
With blond spiky hair that rivals a ‘90s boy band, Chad Pipkens, 31, is not the stereotypical professional fisherman.
The Holt native competed in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic in Greensville, South Carolina, where he challenged 54 of the best bass fishermen in the world. After qualifying with his first-place Bass Pro Shops Northern open event on Lake St. Clair, his win brought him eligibility for the Bassmaster to compete for $300,000.
“It’s the Superbowl of fishing,” Chad Pipkens said, after his 41st-place finish. “It’s an honor to even be able to compete in it at all.”
With thousands of spectators, competitors from around the world and live broadcasts from ESPN2, the competition was the first of its kind for Chad Pipkens.
“This is my first Classic, my first competition at this scale and my first time at this caliber,” Pipkens said. “I am proud of how I did and I’m hoping that this isn’t a one-time thing.”
At 10 degrees, the Bassmaster was the coldest in history, delaying the competition two hours on the first day, Feb. 20. After several attempts releasing the boat that was frozen to the trailer, it was 9:15 a.m. when Pipkens finally took off in the water.
“His dad and I are always nervous and waiting at the dock while he puts the boat in,” his mother, Doris Pipkens, said. “He always manages to make it in at the last minute. But there’s a lot of ups and downs to fishing. It takes a lot of skill. You have to have patience, perseverance, endurance, determination. It’s not an easy thing.”
After Pipkens faced challenges from frozen equipment and extreme conditions, he headed in to the weigh-in at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
“I don’t think people could ever imagine the experience of the weigh-in,” Douglas J Aveda salons CEO and Pipkens’ sponsor Scott Weaver said. “I was blown away at how big of a deal the classic was and the scale of the competition. Just the number and volumes of people… It’s packed full of fishing fans. People are screaming and chanting and so excited to be there. I can honestly say that it was electric.”
The arena was packed with thousands of spectators, including those who chanted “We love your hair” and carried photo cutouts of Pipkens’ face upon his entrance on his 20-foot Yamaha Skeeter.
“You never know how you’re going to do,” Pipkens said. “There are a lot of variables, so all you can do is hope for the best.”
At the end of the first round weigh-in, Pipkens placed 33rd with his 7 pounds, 9 ounces of fish, qualifying him for the next day.
“You’d talk to Chad, and you’d never know it was freezing or that conditions were rough or that it was a long day,” his mother said. “He somehow manages to make the absolute best of a situation. He turns it right around, and that’s how things have worked for him.”
He finished his second day with 6 pounds, 5 ounces, securing 41st place and $10,000.
“This has the potential to be a once and a lifetime opportunity,” Pipkens said. “But I just hope it’s not. This is what I’ve decided I want to do for a living, and I hope that things are just up from here.”