What the Classic means: Chris Zaldain

I don't need to tell you there's been a lot of changes in fishing over the past year. But one thing that will never change is the Bassmaster Classic — the greatest event in all of pro fishing. I'm very thankful for that, because it's special.

It started at Wylie

I graduated high school in 2002 and that's when I started moving forward in tournament fishing and getting really serious about it. B.A.S.S. was heavily on my mind. I remember watching the 2004 Classic at Lake Wylie on TV. Takahiro Omori had the thought in his mind that, "I need to be doing this," and when he made that adjustment to a crankbait in the final minutes and final five casts of the final day, it paid off. He knew he'd won it — that stuck with me.

Ever since that moment, I've wanted to be there with a chance to make those decisions and win a Bassmaster Classic.

It was absolutely amazing for me to witness that. It's my earliest memory of a Bassmaster Classic, and honestly, it has stayed in my mind throughout my whole career.

Route to my first Classic

With Tak's Classic victory at the front of my mind, I moved on from local competition around my home in San Jose, Calif., and began to fish the Bassmaster Opens. I fished as a co-angler for a few years. I was fortunate to win the co-angler side of the Clear Lake Bassmaster Open in 2005, which provided me with a prize boat, and I used that boat to propel myself to the next level and on to the Elite Series starting in 2012.

It was great fishing the Opens — first the co-angler side, then as a pro — and then moving onto the Elite Series. But that memory of seeing a guy like Takahiro do something as simple as making a decision, and how that decision can change your life, stayed with me. Through it all I always wanted to be there, at the Classic, with the opportunity to make a decision like that and have it pay off.

I fished my first Classic in 2014, then again in 2016 and 2017. I'm fishing a Classic again this month. I have yet to be in a position to make a winning decision.

Not my last Classic

I'll be saying the same thing all through the Classic week coming up: Life is full of decisions, and we always want to strive to make the right one and to be successful.

Pro anglers have been faced with offers and decisions for the last nine months. I truly feel I've made the right decisions leading up to the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods. The decisions I've made with my sponsors, the circuit I'm fishing, what I'm doing on the water — I feel I have a lot of positive momentum coming off a second-place finish at Lanier. I'm making some right adjustments and decisions.

I made the decision to stay with B.A.S.S., and I knew that was the right decision. As it's been for my entire career, I'm driven by that five minutes of Takahiro Omori on TV that I watched when I was fresh out of high school.

That's why I'm fishing this Classic a little differently. I've already decided to commit myself to a Classic-winning technique, in what I feel is a Classic-winning area, and to be very comfortable and smart about how I fish.

For a lot of guys in the field, this will be their last Classic. This won’t be my last Bassmaster Classic. So I feel I can maybe fish a little more comfortably than some other guys, and like I've always dreamed, be in a position to make a Classic-winning decision.