Meet All-Star Chris Zaldain

Don Barone

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

Dateline:  Muskegon, Michigan

This, is my 4th, 2nd chance.

B.A.S.S., being, the, THIS.

I have been classically trained in Journalism, I have been experiencely trained in Journalism, I have been writing so long that the first story I ever wrote was in crayon, but going into this 4th, 2nd chance I told myself, this would be my last chance, and I was going to disregard everything I had learned in the past and I was going to do it my way, this.

I know some of you may love it, some may hate it, I understand both, but in this 4th, 2nd chance I was going to do it not how my learned brain told me, but how my emotional heart whispered, was the way.

And my heart told me to only follow four rules:

·      Tell the human story because that story shows we are all more alike than we are different.

·      Focus on goodness.

·      Write backwards, I always write the end of the story first.

·      Virgin ears.  The less I prepare ahead of time, the more I learn while doing the story.

Every story I do will have those four elements in it, and because of that, the interview I did with Chris Zaldain turned out to be one of the best interviews I’ve had this year…and I will tell you the God’s honest truth as to how the interview began…you can ask Chris this if you don’t believe me but this is exactly how I began it:

“So, how do you spell your name.”

“…who, who, who…”

“Z…A…L…D…A…I…N.  It’s Basque, my ancestors are French and Spanish.”

“Where you from.”

“San Jose, California.”

“Mom, Dad, they still alive.”

“Yes, my Dad, Bob, is a Vietnam Vet who now works as an Operations Manager at a Semiconductor company, my mom, my mom Rose, she is a breast cancer survivor, things were going well, now, now turns out she has Ovarian Cancer, but you know what db, she is handling it well, never been happier.”

Chris is in his 2nd year competing at the Elite level, he is 29 now, but at the age of 18 “I won the Western Open, won a brand new bass boat at age 18, and I was hooked.”

In his first year on the tour, last year, he finished in 69th place, missed the Bassmaster Classic, “…but this year I finished 8th, can’t wait to be in the Classic on Guntersville.”

“Dude, how did you get here in the first place.”

“You know, it was the getting here where I learned I could, and should be here.  I finished in 1st place overall in the Central Opens, but you know db, I drove 3,000 miles round trip to fish the three Central Open Tournaments, when I won it was very emotional, I called home to my parents, my friends, but it was on that long last drive home that it dawned on me that I surprised myself with the power of will…I so, so, so wanted to get to the Elites…and you know…I did.”

During the past two years I was cordial to Chris, said “Hi,” once or twice, knew that he roomed with Brandon Palaniuk and Kevin LeDoux but pretty much avoided him, as I do all rookies, I figure they have enough to worry about the last thing they need to be doing is dealing with me.

So I’m hearing things about Chris pretty much at the same time you are.  I have done absolutely no prep so I ask this, “Dude, other than bass fishing, what’s your favorite sport.”

And his answer was a game changer.

And through his other favorite sport, I really got to know Chris.

“Hockey db, I played a lot of hockey.”

“…oh tell me, who are you…”


“Yeah I played hockey for 12 years, I was the Center/Right Wing, you know I was always the quick little fast guy.”

Seems Chris was part of the NHL San Jose Sharks junior team, played all over Canada and the northern United States, “Owen Nolan, the Captain of the Sharks, was my hero, I wore his number, wore my jersey just like he did, cool thing, turns out Owen is a big outdoors guy and I ended up taking him bass fishing, how cool was that.”