Pipkens plays the outside game

Watch Chad Pipkens during Bassmaster Elite tournaments and you’ll likely conclude that he’s an outsider. In fairness, the likable pro from Holt, Mich., has plenty of friends and interacts well with others, but we’re not talking social skills. Rather, Chad Pipkens has learned the value of seeking what most overlook and avoiding what many hammer.

Here’s the deal: While a lot of guys love heading to "flipping" lakes where they can keep a stout rod in their hand all day in hopes of yanking big fish out of heavy cover, Pipkens has a different view. Harnessing his Great Lakes prowess, he's more comfortable scanning the perimeters of the heavily trafficked zones to find subtle fish magnets that go largely untouched during the shallow-focused events.

“I’m not a slow-down-and-flip guy,” Pipkens said. “I know some guys have made a living doing that; I will not. I have no problem flipping, but you have to find fish that are feeding; there are always fish biting somewhere.”

Fish the unseen

Pipkens’ logic fits just about anywhere the shallow bite takes top billing, but it tends to shine even more so in overall shallow fisheries lacking a true offshore zone. For example, while Lake Dardanelle’s modest depths of mostly dirty water invite the bank-beating parade, he has found some of his better opportunities a rod length behind the main route.

When the Elites visited this Arkansas River gem, an influx of mud tanked his deal, but what Pipkens found exemplified his strategy.