Californian Chris Zaldain loves to catch all species of bass and with any technique, but cold water spotted bass fishing holds a special place in his heart. Growing up in northern California allowed him to fish some of the best spotted bass lakes in the country. This experience has allowed him to develop many theories on the habits, locations and preferences of monster spotted bass. He has successfully translated these theories to other areas of the country as he travels the USA as a pro on the top national tournament trails.
The Early Morning Bite
Zaldain feels that many anglers miss their chance at catching truly big spotted bass because they do not approach the day in the right manner. From his experience, the really big spotted bass are most active first thing in the morning. “A lot of guys will start fishing by trying to get a limit quickly and then spend the rest of the day trying to catch a bigger fish. I have had more success doing the opposite by focusing on the biggest fish first thing in the morning; then you have the rest of the day to try to fill out your limit,” says Zaldain. This approach has served him well and he has had numerous top finishes on two well known spotted bass fisheries in northern California; Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville. One of his best Western finishes in a major tournament was a 2nd place finish at the FLW Western Series in 2010. “What I did there was to fish as fast as I could and cover as many points as possible first thing in the morning with a jerkbait and a spinnerbait. Then as the sun got higher I switched to soft plastics and went to deeper water,” explains Zaldain.
Power Fishing Gear Selection
A power fisherman by nature, Zaldain will always try to find the most active fish first with reaction baits. “The biggest spotted bass are always the most aggressive, even in the middle of the winter. I will use a big jerkbait and spinnerbait as often as I can,” says Zaldain. His jerkbait of choice is a fairly large model jerkbait in the 128 to 130 mm size range, being the biggest that lure vendors make for bass. He will match the color based on the forage base, but typically it will be a trout or shad color. The spinnerbait that he prefers is also on the larger size and he will go as heavy as he can to fish deeper than usual. A white 3/4 oz model is his ideal bait for active spotted bass in the morning hours. He fishes both of these baits on either 12 or 15lb Seaguar AbrazX line. “I think fluorocarbon is a must and I like having the abrasion resistance if I am fishing around rocks,” shares Zaldain. He will fish the baits on a Powell 684 casting rod. “I like that rod because it is 6’8” and that size is just a little smaller and easier when you are constantly ripping that jerkbait,” mentions Zaldain.
Finesse Fishing Gear Selection
As the sun rises and the shadows begin to form, Zaldain will switch to lighter line and a more finesse approach. He spools his spinning rods with 6 lb Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon and fishes a darter head. “The darter head is really an old California trick, but it will work anywhere you have spotted bass and deep clear water. Lake Lanier in Georgia is a good example of a lake that is very similar to the spotted bass lakes in California,” mentions Zaldain. A variety of soft plastics will work for this finesse jighead, but the 6” Fat Roboworm is Zaldain’s go-to. When asked about colors for the worm, Zaldain says “I’m usually not particular about the colors (for largemouth or smallmouth) but for some reason, spotted bass seem to be picky about colors. I will usually go through a few different ones until I see what they want that day,” states the California pro.
Zaldain shares one more tip about fishing for spotted bass with spinning tackle and it comes down to the drag setting. Spotted bass are notoriously strong fighting fish and to combat that, Zaldain is a big advocate of having a looser drag. “You want them to run and pull drag. They fight so hard and if you are not careful you will lose some fish right at the boat when they make that final strong run,” acknowledges Zaldain.
The Wind is your Friend
Wind can sometimes seem like the worst enemy to someone trying to fish and keep a boat positioned, but in fact the wind is always your friend. Chris Zaldain welcomes the wind and believes that there is always a point on the lake that will have an ideal situation during windy days. “I like to find perpendicular wind. Where the wind is blowing at the perfect angle against a point from the opposite direction,” adds Zaldain. The wind blowing in this direction is usually your best bet for a big fish due to the churning of the water and mudlines they often create. The point where water color starts to change is an often overlooked factor in bass locations, but for anglers who fish for a living like Zaldain, these subtle differences often mean everything.
The advanced electronics on today’s bass boats have undoubtedly given serious anglers an advantage and Chris Zaldain agrees that, “Electronics are crucial when fishing for spotted bass.” He relies on them as a professional touring bass angler and adds, “One thing I will do whenever I start to idle out of the boat launch for the day is to watch my graph; it will give me an idea of where the baitfish are most active and what depth I should be fishing. Once I do that I will know what I want to target and start looking for likely areas that are in that depth range,” shares Zaldain. This approach has worked well for him when chasing winter spotted bass.
After talking about cold water spotted bass fishing, Zaldain exclaimed, “Man, I miss fishing for those big spotted bass. I have to get out soon and catch some. From late November until around February is the best time of the year to catch those monster spots.”
The thrill of a big spotted bass on the end of the line is something an angler will never forget.