Zaldain: All about the angles

Being keen to lure presentation has been the key to Chris Zaldain’s swimbait success this season. Whether it’s dropshotting a swimbait in 40 feet at Lake Lanier, where he finished second, or nearer the shoreline here at Lake Fork, it is all about the angles.

“I am a diehard swimbait guy and whenever you fish it you must be cognizant of which way the wind is blowing and which way the current is moving,” he explained. “That enables you to present that swimbait in a manner that appears natural to the fish.”

He continued, “these big fish at Lake Fork are educated about the differences between the real thing and a fake, so a natural presentation is a must.”

Based on fishing pressure, as he pointed out, there is another plan in the mix for Friday with Zaldain.

“I put all my eggs in one basket around the shad spawn, and it’s not dependable after 10 or 11 o’clock,” he added. “So what I plan to do on Friday is work on the eight- to 15-foot mid-depth range where the bass go after the spawn.”

Hopefully by then Zaldain said he hopes to have another 30 pounds in the livewell.

“If I can catch 25-plus pounds a day then I will be in contention to win,”

Sigh of relief for Feider

That’s a 4 pound, 15 ounce sigh of relief for Seth Feider. Feider, as most fans know, is more comfortable tossing around a drop shot and targeting smallmouth bass.

While I’m certain most folks would not characterize Feider as refined, that approach seems that way in comparison to the hand-to-hand all-out battle that is taking place on Lake Fork. This is bubba fishing at its best, and while Feider fits that mold, his fishing style typically does not.

All season long we’ve been watching Feider with particular interest. He’s a poster child for tenaciously hanging in there so far this season. As a smallmouth specialist, he’s had to endure the giants of St. Johns River and the pluff mud of Winyah Bay and he’s still sitting in the top 20 in the Toyota Angler of the Year Standings.

Now we are at Fork, and Feider is showing some shades of red around the collar, and he’s happy about. He stays in the top 20, he’s got the final three events - Cayuga, St. Lawrence and St. Clair - circled with big bullseyes on each of them.

Some bites have slowed

It’s likely a lot of Elite anglers haven’t had their expectations met today. As mentioned earlier, most felt like the lightning messed up the shallow fish. And it may have. It could still be messing with them. The weather remains unsettled.

Yesterday, in the first hour the 75-man field caught a total of 79 keepers. Today, that total from actual take-off until 8 a.m. is 57 fish. That’s a considerable drop off. The true tale of the tape, though will come in the second and third hours. Those were the best hours of the day on Day 1.

We will keep comparing. But at the moment it appears some of the bite has slowed.

Quick start for Zaldain

We had barely arrived after a short trip across Lake Fork when Chris Zaldain found two quick fish on topwater in very quick succession. They are most definitely not the fish he wants to count at the end of the day, but certainly a welcome sign that his instincts are correct.

Not long after that a slightly better fish found his bait. He’s not throwing the swim bait that he used to catch his largest fish yet, but he says it’s a timing deal, and the time is not right yet.

One difference from yesterday- today he is joined by three spectator boats and photographer Seigo Saito and a LIVE camera. What Chris did yesterday is creating a little more attention this morning.

Combs betting on the come

While practically everyone else is on the shoreline taking advantage of the shad spawn, Keith Combs skipped it and is back where he began yesterday, throwing his favorite Strike King 5XD crankbait. Combs made the decision based on where the most dependable action will be, which is in the postspawn areas.

“The bass spawn is in full swing but it should be long over by now,” he said. “So that’s why I am fishing outside.”

Combs said it does not take long for the bass to spawn and migrate to the near-shore staging areas where he is betting on the come. Yesterday that started happening after 2 p.m., when between then and 2:25 p.m. he caught his 27 pounds of weight.

“I have found a few schools that have moved out and more are coming,” he continued. “After those shad spawn they will move out to these postspawn flats and they will get crushed by the bass.”

Expect Combs to be there if and when they do.

The dam maybe starting to leak

We haven’t seen the dam burst with fish catches at the moment, at least not yet.

A half hour in and there’s been 32 keepers put in the boat.

At 7:30 a.m., the largest of which was 4-15, caught by Seth Feider.

Like yesterday, Chris Zaldain has two of those first-hour fish. Unlike yesterday, when those two weighed in 7-pound range, today’s offering has stepped down into the 2-pound neighborhood.

And while Chad Pipken has a keeper, he’s fallen out of the lead. While typing this, Brandon Cobb has put up a 6-2 to start his day and Drew Benton has a limit totaling 16-4

The dam maybe starting to leak.

Home-field advantage

The homefield advantage factor is virtually a part of every Elite event. Guys who have an inside track because of experience literally litter the top of the standings in most of our events.

As the event wears on, they either fade or stick to the top of the standings. Occasionally locals stumble a bit and have to make up ground in a hurry.

Fork is different, though. Not a lot of derbies are fished here. So the experience level is heightened in some ways, offset in others. But there is still as expectation based on their address. If you are from Texas, you should know something about Lake Fork. 

Keith Combs and Lee Livesay are probably the two biggest hometown favorites. Both are in the top 10, both had average days by Lake Fork standards. Both are expected stick in the top of the standings.

There are others, though, whose first day performance shows us a little how things were off for Day 1.

Guys like Frank Talley who finished the day in 59th, Ray Hanselman in 60th and Brad Whatley, who lives nearby, is in 62nd.

We expect all of them to have better days today, simply because of the location they call home. They do as well.

Are the old wives' tales true

It won’t be long now before we see if one of the old wives’ tales in fishing has any basis.

Yesterday, virtually every angler who vented a bit about how much different Day 1 was from practice.

Many blamed the storm that rolled through the night before. It was particularly vicious. Much of the night looked like a strobe light party, circa 1970s. For you kids out there, that means it was constant flashing.

Many anglers believe that hurts the shallow fishing the next morning. And virtually everyone can recall more than one instance where lightening got the blame for the poor fishing.

I’ve seen it many times myself. But there’s really no way of knowing if that’s true or not.

Thankfully the chance of thunder and lightening that was forecast didn’t actually play out. So this legendary shad spawn that is taking place on the lake could provide some added fireworks today, especially this morning.

The anglers have all left the dock. So we expect to see an increase in catch rates coming soon.

Day 2 Bassmaster LIVE lineup

The Top 6 anglers on the Day 1 standings will be featured on Bassmaster LIVE for Day 2 of the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest Elite. To get in the Top 6 anglers had to have at least 26 pounds, 14 ounces.

Chad Pipkens31-15
Brandon Cobb31-11
Chris Zaldain30-10
Garrett Paquette28-12
Keith Combs27-1
Luke Plamers26-14

Morning bite could be a little more solid today

Many of the pros said Thursday’s morning bite was a little off because of the strong thunderstorms that pounded the area Wednesday night.

Even guys who eventually caught big limits - like Chad Pipkens, Brandon Cobb and Keith Combs - said the thunder and lightning seemed to have the bass in an early funk.

Since Thursday night seems to have been a little quieter, it’ll be interesting to see how that early bite works today.

There’s a shad spawn in progress on the lake, and most of the action usually happens early. If the conditions are better today, we could see fireworks shortly after takeoff.