Zaldain Claims Narrow Lead Over Reese In Bassmaster Elite Tournament At Kentucky Lake
PARIS, Tenn. —

PARIS, Tenn. — Chris Zaldain knew what he wanted to do, he knew why he wanted to do it and he got the job done to the tune of a 24-pound, 3-ounce limit of bass that leads the first round of the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Kentucky Lake presented by Abu Garcia.


“A few days ago, I got some bad news about my mom’s (Rose) health, she’s battling cancer,” said Zaldain of Laughlin, Nev. “The last few days have been rough, so I came into this event to win it for my mom.

“I really want a chance to go into Sunday and win this event. I feel like my career needs it. I feel like my family needs it.”

Zaldain said he’s fishing such a specific pattern that he couldn’t divulge many details. However, he did note that a very specific integration of three distinct factors — some habitat, others conditional — were essential to his success.

“I practiced with one thing in my mind, pretty much one bait, one approach and it paid off big time today,” Zaldain said. “The second day of practice, I caught almost 30 pounds, no joke. Kentucky Lake has got ’em.

“A lot of people are complaining about the Asian carp, but the bass still live here. You just have to fish where the carp aren’t.”

Noting that he fished a purely prespawn pattern, Zaldain knew his day would be one of quality over quantity. His biggest was a 6-pounder, which made it to the Bassmaster blog feed with Zaldain’s handwritten dedication note to his mother.

“I’m fishing for five bites,” Zaldain said. “I’m not going out there trying to catch as many as I can, I’m just trying to catch five.

“Angles are everything to the way I’m fishing. I watched people fish through an area twice and I went in behind them and caught fish.”

The morning bite was key for Zaldain, who tanked his last keeper at 10 a.m. Looking ahead, he’s confident that he can replicate his game plan again Saturday, the second of four competition days.

“If I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll have a big bag,” he said. “We have a weather change coming tomorrow, so I may have to make a few adjustments, but it’s going to be more of the same. In fact, a few of my spots, I didn’t even touch today.”

While Zaldain’s game plan worked to perfection, Skeet Reese’s didn’t. The Elite pro from Auburn, Calif., had to scrap his original game plan when he found himself fishless at 8 a.m. Switching to waters he never visited in practice, Reese targeted an area where he threw reaction baits and intercepted fish coming and going from a spawning area. His decision to change game plans led to a solid limit of 23-11, just 8 ounces behind the leader.

In third, Alabama’s Kelly Jaye picked off a five-bass limit weighing 22 pounds by throwing a custom colored Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait that he modified with larger hooks for a faster sink rate in the 8-foot depths he targeted.

Jaye said he needs sunlight penetration to allow the fish to see his bait better, so if Saturday offers any break in the cloud cover, he’s anticipating a heavier bag.

Rounding out the Top 5 are reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Jordan Lee of Grant, Ala., with 21-3 and Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., with 20-13

Gerald Swindle of Guntersville, Ala., and Chad Pipkens of Lansing, Mich., are tied for the $1,500 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award with twin 7-pound, 7-ounce fish.

Daily takeoffs will begin at 6 a.m. CT out of Paris Landing Marina, and weigh-ins are scheduled at Paris Landing State Park beginning at 3:15 p.m. CT. each day.