Zal-Daingerously Close

photo by Andy Crawford, courtesy of

photo by Andy Crawford, courtesy of

“I hear you knocking, but you can’t come in…”

It’s starting to seem like that should be Chris Zaldain’s weigh-in music.

He finished 12th at the Classic, after swimbaiting up 21-12 on Day Two to move from 28th to 3rd. He finished second at Lanier, thanks to a bevy of strategically-implemented swimbaits, but falling short of Paul Mueller’s total by 14 ounces. And now, thanks to four solid days, including 23-10 on Day Three, he vaulted up to 2nd overall at Guntersville, missing the title by 6 ounces.

The margin in Alabama almost came down to the difference between Zaldain’s Day Three 23-10 and Jamie Hartman’s Day Four 23-15.

What does a guy have to do to get a win around here?

Fortunately for Zaldain, who might otherwise start to get a bit of a complex, he won the 2015 Angler of the Year Championship on Sturgeon Bay. He’s yet to earn a regular-season Elite trophy, despite consistently haunting the top ten.

The hallmark of his quest has been swimbaiting, and walking the walk when it comes time to make a charge at victory. Lots of pros, even those who’ve been to the winner’s circle, are quick to prematurely pick up a spinning rod just to save face. At the Tennessee River, when the only place that really mattered was first place, Zaldain proudly went down swinging. At other times, he’s wisely supplemented his big bait theory with limit-getters. At Lanier, which many might consider spinning rod heaven, he rope-a-doped with it a bunch. At Guntersville, a classic (and soon to once again be Capital-C-Classic) power fisherman’s field of dreams, he did lots of damage with a flutter spoon, but knew when to put it down, too.

None of us who’ve watched him compete will be surprised when he hoists another trophy, or a string of them. Remember, Hartman, the one guy who beat him this week, had five top eight finishes his rookie season (including a runner up at Cherokee and a 3rd place finish at Toledo Bend), and two more 8th place finishes in subsequent injury-plagued years, before finally winning at Guntersville.

The wins may not come on the particular venues where we expect them most, but process and consistency has a way of evening out the disappointments and rough edges.