Lee Hipes is excited to start competing in the world of bass fishing in the coming months. He recently received his new jersey and he’s excited to get started.
“Ever since I could stand on two legs I’ve had a pole in my hand,” said Hipes, who was raised in Fincastle and now lives in, appropriately named, “Troutville.” The 42-year-old has been fishing all his life but started to compete in tournaments after joining the Navy.
“When I was a teenager I would fish every chance I’d get,” he said. “Then when I was in the Navy I was stationed in Seattle and I started entering tournaments.”
While Lee is getting ready to enter the Bass Fishing tour, he’s mostly dabbled in the trout fishing waters to this point. His trout fishing accomplishments include seven top 15 finishes in the Washington State Olympic Peninsula Open, five first place finishes at the Kamp Grounds of America Open, two top three finishes at the South Platte Pro-Am and a top 10 finish at the Lovin’ Everyday Foundation Charity Tournament.
The biggest trout he’s ever caught was 14.3 pounds and his top bass was 6.1 pounds. He caught a six-and-a-half-foot shark in salt water that he threw back before he could weigh it, and it was too big to hold up for a picture. That was off the coast of Wilmington, N.C.
Lee works at Altec Industries on Center Drive in Daleville and they’ve been good about letting him work around their schedule to compete in tournaments. The better he does, the more tournaments he’ll be able to compete in for better prizes.
“It can be kind of stressful, but you get used to it,” he said. “I’ll be fishing against some of the best in the state.”
Lee will be in the very competitive Kayak Bass Fishing Tour. Smith Mountain Lake will host tournaments in April and September and Lee is hoping to have an edge on his home waters.
“Smith Mountain Lake is my home lake and I should do well there,” he said. “It could make me or break me.”
He said the secret to success is the time you spend on the water, and he’s knows Smith Mountain Lake well.
“You have to establish a pattern of where the bass are biting,” he said. “You try different lures and techniques to try to get the bass to bite and find out what they like. Then, you have to catch them on the day of the tournament. You can catch all the fish you want before the tournament, but if you can’t catch them on the day of the tournament you’ll get beat.”
Hipes is especially proud of his kayak, a Bonafide 127. The sleek Special Edition Black Widow is one of only two in Virginia, and on this tour you have to use a kayak.
“There are only certain motors you can put on a kayak,” he said. “I have a Torqueedo motor and a Carman display fish finder with a micro power pole on the back to anchor it down. The average person is not going to have my kayak.”
Lee has a measuring device called a “catch bump board” that is used to determine how big the fish is. You have to take a picture of the fish on the bump board, and the combined length of your top five catches determines the winner.
“You also have to have a GPS locater,” he said. “They have to know exactly where you are. That keeps people from cheating.”
Different contests pay different amounts of prize money. Some professional fishermen travel full-time, earning their living catching fish. Payouts for the Kayak Bass Fishing and Bass tournament trails from last year were between $30,000 and $48,000. The Basscast Tournament trail is based on the number of boats entered in the tournament.
Lee wouldn’t mind being able to fish full-time, but he needs to be sure he can support his family. He has a wife, Tiffanie, and two sons, 23-year-old Brandon and 12-year-old Lucas, who attends Read Mountain Middle School. Brandon also likes to fish and Lucas has fished in some tournaments for kids.
Lee has worked hard to build a name for himself and promote sponsors within the trout fishing community. Now, with the tremendous growth of kayak bass fishing, he’s looking to bring his talents to the kayak fishing nation.
Hipes has 11 sponsors and is hoping a successful season leads to more. If you’d like to join his sponsors you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll be happy to get back to you as soon as he gets back on dry land.