Safety First, Catch ‘em Second

Watching Chris Zaldain and other Bassmaster Elite Series pros catch big smallmouth and largemouth bass out of extremely heavy currents below the Wilson Dam on Pickwick Lake has been quite the spectacle. The techniques, the baits, and methods are unique to this type of fishing and make for entertaining Bassmaster LIVE coverage.

There is a lot to take in, but perhaps the most important lesson anglers can obtain from watching Zaldain work in the white water comes from the Personal Floatation Device (PFD) he has strapped to his chest for every cast.

Per their rules, Elite Series pros only have to wear a lifejacket / PFD when their outboard motor is running. But with the amount of current ripping in the Wilson Dam tailrace, Zaldain is wisely choosing to wear an inflatable PFD over his Carhartt jacket even when he’s on his trolling motor.

“Safety always comes first – no matter what,” Zaldain said. “Anything can happen on the water and that’s only magnified in conditions like we are facing on Pickwick this week. When in doubt, throw a PFD on and then worry about catching fish.” 

Zaldain reiterated that even the most experienced anglers need to err on the side of caution in turbulent water, but beginning anglers should wear a PFD anytime they feel slightly uncomfortable.

No fish is worth something bad happening to you, or someone in your boat. Plain and simple. 

“If you get knocked out of the boat in heavy current it could be a disaster,” Zaldain explained. “You’d get separated from your boat and would be in trouble in a hurry. I’m a pretty good swimmer, but I promise you I can’t handle this current like my Yamaha and Skeeter can.”

Seeing someone with as much experience on the water as “Zaldaingerous” wear a PFD in competition and take the proper precautions is a good reminder for anglers of all levels.

Zaldain started day three of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite in 16th place and plans to head back to his swift water honey hole. Dealing with the waves, current, and approximately one million drum in hopes he can connect with another 20+ pound bag of smallmouth like he brought to the scales Saturday.

“I’ll start my day slinging a 6-inch Mergabass Magdraft swimbait up in the current for sure,” Zaldain offered. “It’s all about current seams and boulders up there in the tailrace. It’s a stressful way to fish, but it’s been fun.”

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