a daY WitH AN ElItE
he Bassmaster elite Series anglers are widely recognized as the best bass anglers in the world. What makes them so good? are they really that much better than your average tournament angler? That is up to debate, but one of the best ways to see for yourself is to sign up as a Bassmaster elite Series Marshal. i had the chance to do this on Florida’s lake okeechobee this March and was paired with a rookie, California’s own Chris Zaldain. although he didn’t fare as well as he had hoped, he proved that there is a reason that some are considered elite. From my observations, there are several things that separate the elite from the average tournament fisherman - flawless mechanics, an unmatched intensity and the decision making during the day.
The first morning of an elite Series event is exciting; anglers and marshals move about and media representatives conduct interviews and take photos and videos of the fishermen. The B.a.S.S. staff makes sure everything is in order and emcee dave Mercer entertains the crowd of friends, family members and fans of the anglers. it was a relaxing morning, but that was soon to change. as our boat number was called, it was off to the races in a trail of boat wakes and the sight of brightly colored wrapped boats going in every direction. our first run was towards an area known as the “Monkey Box”. The drive from the north end of the lake to “The Box”, as it is known, is around 25- to30-minutes on
a calm day. Part of the run was through boat lanes in between the grass that were barely wide enough to fit a boat with the water being less than two feet deep at the time. it was an exhilarating run and was made even more exciting as we narrowly passed Kevin Vandam in one of the open areas. as we entered a more open area of the lake, the water became much rougher; but Zaldain’s driving skills made it unnoticeable and we were still able to travel at a high rate of speed towards our first stop. The Monkey Box is an ideal place to fish matted vegetation; because it is very plentiful and consists of the right mixture of different aquatic species. Hydrilla, lily pads, eel grass, pepper grass and hyacinths all merge together and form mats in specific areas. Based on his success in practice and confidence gained from fishing the waters in Calif., Zaldain made the decision to punch mats all day. i asked him about the differences between punching on both coasts and he said it came down to the seasons and color selection. in Calif., he relies on punching as a summer and fall pattern, whereas in Fla. it is almost opposite as the bass seem to gravitate towards the mats more in the pre-spawn and post-spawn. Fla. bass prefer darker colors, while in other parts of the country, natural colors such as watermelons and green pumpkins can be used along with the darker colors.
as a tournament angler myself, i consider myself serious when it comes to fishing tournaments. i am not one to rest or take my time moving from one
on the boat with