Z ON BZ
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac
San Jose, CA – Last September, The BASS ZONE ran a feature on California’s Chris Zaldain just prior to the third Bassmaster Central Open of the 2011 season as he attempted to qualify for the 2012 Elite Series. To read the initial story, CLICK HERE.
Zaldain earned an invitation to fish the Elite Series, and was again featured on The BASS ZONE at the end of May. He talked about the disappointing start he experience during the first four Elite Series tournaments of his career, and how he planned to bounce back in the second half of the season. To read that story, CLICK HERE.
In this new feature called “Z ON BZ,” you’ll be able to go behind the scenes with the California rookie after every Elite Series tournament during the second half of the season and see how he assessed his own performance in each event.
At the end of every “Z ON BZ” feature, Zaldain will grade himself on five key elements.
This week, the focus is on Toledo Bend – the fifth stop of the 2012 season and the start of the second half of the regular season. Zaldain opened the tournament in a tie for 18th place with a limit weighing 16-1. He moved up to 8th place on Friday with a 19-10 effort, and finished Saturday 10th place with another 15-8.
Making the first Sunday cut of his career, he weighed in three fish for 6-3 on the final day and finished in 12th place with a four day total weight of 57-6.
Here’s how Zaldain broke down the best finish of his Elite Series career:
Practice Leading into Toledo Bend
“I was at home for three weeks before Toledo Bend, so I had plenty of time to think about it. I left my boat and truck with Kevin Ledoux (Elite Series Rookie) in Oklahoma and took some time off to clear my head.
“I was able to step back and relax, and I got that fire back. When I got to Toledo Bend, everything just felt right. Everyone was talking about the deep bite and how the bass get offshore in June. I looked for the deep stuff on the first day of practice, and I found a bunch of schools. The problem was that I never caught a big one.
“I started out shallow on the second day of practice throwing a frog. I pulled into an area and targeted some lily pads. No joke, on the second or third cast, I threw my frog up on some really thick lily pads and a six pounder came up and completely engulfed the bait.
Tournament Game Plan
“I figured out that the big bass were in the shallow water eating bluegills that were eating the insects off the bottoms of the lily pads. I knew that if I could find the right shallow scenario, which was a deep cut with lily pads just off of the main lake, I had a chance at doing well up shallow. The boat had to be sitting in about 10 feet of water and the pads had to be in about six feet.
“On the third morning of practice, I started out shallow in a completely different part of the lake. That’s when I added flipping into my game plan along with the frog. Every 30 to 40 feet I’d get a bite and shake the fish off.”
“On the first day, I spent about 85% of my time fishing shallow. On the remaining three days, I spent about 95% of my time up shallow.
“The thing is, when you’re punching heavy cover, you don’t typically bet many bites but the ones that you get are usually pretty good ones, especially if there are bluegill around. The unfortunate thing is that in that thick stuff, it’s almost impossible to pull a five or six pounder out of the grass and vines.
“I had two bites all week that I caught in the sparse stuff, but all my other fish came in the really thick lily pads. After I set on a fish, I’d feel how bit it was and then I’d immediately have to put my trolling motor on high and try to go get it.”
Making the Final Day
“After what I’d caught on the first three days, I felt fortunate to have made the final day. Even though I lost some really big ones, I almost felt lucky to have landed all the ones that I did from the first through the third day.
“Even though I finished in 12th place, everyone in the top 12 had a legitimate shot at winning the tournament going into the final day. To make my first top 12 in front of a crowd like that – it was an incredible feeling.
“I was just smiling ear to ear, and it made me want to do even better for the rest of the season.”
“The most important thing is that my finish on Toledo Bend sparked some momentum for the northern swing. We’re going to have a couple tournaments that are stacked right on top of each other up north, so it’s big to have that confidence.
“I definitely don’t feel invincible, but everything feels great and I’m firing on all cylinders. There still is hope for the Classic, and with three more top 20s, I think that I’ll have a shot at making it.”
Zaldain’s Report Card
Overall grade for Toledo Bend – (B)
“I’m giving myself a ‘B,’ only because I didn’t get all of my bites into the boat during the week.”
Confidence level throughout Toledo Bend – (A)
“It would have been an ‘A+’ if I’d know the lake a little bit better. It’s a giant lake and I knew that I could duplicate my pattern in other areas. I just didn’t have time to scout it out. As far as what I was doing, I had the utmost confidence in it.”
Execution at Toledo Bend – (B)
“This is a tough one, because I know that I did everything that I could possibly do to get those suckers out of the pad stems. They just didn’t want to come in the boat.”
Decision Making at Toledo Bend – (A)
“I had the bites, so I know that I made the right decision to fish shallow for the majority of the tournament. I really didn’t second guess any of my decisions all week.”
Overall Grade through Five Elite Series Tournaments in 2012 – (C)
“It’s still early in the season, so I’ll give myself a ‘C.’ There’s a lot that can happen in the final three tournaments of the year.”
way to go cuz!!