Zaldain comes out swinging

Sooner or later it will happen for Chris Zaldain. By that I mean he fishes to win every day. Nothing held back. Swing for the bleachers or strike out.

James Overstreet and I were just talking about Zaldain’s fishing style of holding nothing back. He’s proved it works. And is coming oh so close to hitting the home run. Already two second place finishes this year at Lake Lanier and Lake Guntersville. “He’ll take a bombing to win,” Overstreet said. And we both compared his style to someone else who fishes the same way. His name is Brandon Palaniuk.

This morning Zaldain was a eager to get started. He launched his boat at 7 a.m., even though the launch wasn’t until 9 a.m. The change in the wind direction is the reason why.

“Until yesterday we had winds out of the north and northeast, and that’s not an ideal direction for what I want to do,” he explained.

What Zaldain wants—and got today—is a south-to-southwest wind, which speeds up the wind-driven current coming out of Lake Ontario and into the narrower river. At the funnel point are transitional post-spawn areas where Zaldain is focusing his efforts.

“They just bite better in that wind,” he explained. “When it blows it rips the current and moves the fish into the current breaks.”

He continued, “What’s good about my pattern is that unlike some of the other guys fishing down there, I am not sight fishing. It’s all about the wind.”

What is more, those other areas do not replenish. Neither does Zaldain’s areas, because the fish are on the move back into the lake. That’s just fine with him.

“They are coming off the spawn, which was late here, and I’m trying to intercept them,” he added. “They are the stopping places going back into the lake, and that current forces them to stop in the current breaks.”

Zaldain is fishing what he described as mid depth areas in 18- to 22-feet of water.

“It’s where those shallow fish are coming next,” he said. “They are going only one direction and that is out and back to the deeper water."

Zaldain said his area has the potential to produce a 25-pound limit. Like his angling style, he is oh so close. BASSTrakk shows him in the lead with a limit weighing 21-10 and an overall total of 63-13.

Lester stays solid, but can't repeat 2018 heroics

Brandon Lester hasn't won an Elite Series event, but he came heart-breakingly close at the St. Lawrence River last year. Lester led the tournament after two days. He finished third, only 18 ounces behind winner Josh Bertrand. And Lester had his hand on the winning fish, a 5-plus-pounder that came unhooked at the boat.

Lester has been steady through two days this week. He started the day in 27th place after finishing 26th on Day 1. And he's staying steady again today with a limit weighing 13-13 at 2 o'clock, according to BASSTrakk.

Yelas lands a 5-pounder

Jay Yelas has been having a strong day from the start this morning. It just got stronger. The longtime pro angler from Lincoln City, Ore., landed this 5-pounder on a drop shot rig at 1:27 p.m. (I wonder what happened to this fish's pectoral fin?)

The 2002 Bassmaster Classic champion is one of only three anglers with 21 pounds now, according to BASSTrakk, which currently shows Yelas in fourth place. Yelas started the day in 15th.

Lowen adding a big kid

As a storm bears down on Bill Lowen, a ray of sunshine peaks through his day of clouds in the form of a 4-pound smallmouth. “Finally!” he yelled. He is able to cull a 1 1/2 pounder and add an adult to the daycare swimming in his livewell. Another four of those and Lowen will be sitting pretty. And I’m sure he won’t mind the impending rain if those sorts of bites keep coming. 

Page views

A wide variety of baits at St. Lawrence

From Greg DiPalma's success on a Carolina rig to Brian Snowden's Day 2 big bass of 5-13 on a spybait, there has been an unusually wide variety of key lures on the St. Lawrence River this week.

Of course, various soft plastic drop shot lures have been the major player. But Steve Kennedy's "hunting-and-fishing" method put him in second place after two days. Kennedy has used a 7-inch hand-painted glide bait in a yellow perch color pattern to find big smallmouth bass, then catching them on a small Keitech swimbait or a hand-tied jig.

Speaking of jigs, the black hair jig has been important for several anglers, Bill Lowen in particular.

"Typically up here they eat a swimbait real good," Lowen said Friday. "For whatever reason, they're not eating it very well for me. I've tried different colors, different sizes. But, boy, you put on that black hair jig, if you see one swimming just throw it out there in front of him and thunk!

"The only thing bad about that thing is it's got such a little hook. You almost feel like you're crappie fishing. You've got to chase them down, chase 'em, chase 'em. It's pretty stressful. I don't know if my heart can take another day of it."

Then there's Keith Combs and Ray Hanselman Jr., who have been successful with crankbaits and jerkbaits.

The always popular "Lures of the Top 10" feature compiled by Craig Lamb after the tournament will be especially interesting after this event.

Lunch time

I laughed when Steve Kennedy pulled up his trolling motor and said he was “going to eat a sandwich and think about it.”

And then he pulled out a sandwich, drifted with the current, ate his lunch and shared some thoughts.

“Without the sun, I can’t see them if I pull them up,” Kennedy explained

Even if he does see bass, they aren’t committing.

“I need the sun to fire them up,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know if I’m going to figure them out.”

Lowen is babysitting

“Man, it’s like I’m living in the nursery today,” Lowen yelled as he boated another 2-pounder. His bites have been less frequent than the past two days and the quality is certainly lacking in comparison. He has four fish for 8 pounds in his livewell. There is little doubt he hopes that he is simply babysitting these small bass for a short time today, because those kids will not help him make the cut come weigh in. 

Page views

Kennedy needs the sun

Steve Kennedy just hit Spot Lock for a few casts after a smallmouth followed his bait.

“That was a big one,” he said. “He followed it all the way to the boat, but he wouldn’t take it.”

That’s been the story of his morning.

“I’ve been seeing fish, but I need to sun to come out to make them bite,” Kennedy said.

Looks like that’s a long shot, though: Storms are moving in from Lake Ontario, so the afternoon could be sun-free.

Page views

LIVE: AOY leader Canterbury with a big smallmouth

Scott Canterbury landed a big smallmouth on Day 3.

Summertime storm

We’ve had incredible weather all week. But that could be about to change. I’m sitting on Caleb Sumrall and we have that big blob bearing down on us.

Not sure how it will impact the fishing but it will certainly create some uncomfortable moments.

It promises bumpy rides and lots of rain. In some places a summertime storm like that one would be a welcome sight. Not sure that’s the case on the St. Lawrence.