Three on the rise

Category: Tournament

 Nov 17th, 2015 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Nov 17th, 2015 at 12:00 AM

At the end of almost every year when pundits look back on the sport they cover, inevitably the comments pour forth that we all hear time and time again. Amazing year. Groundbreaking year. One for the record books. On and on. So, let’s assume all of the platitudes from decades past apply to the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series season.

Okay, with that out of the way, there were three anglers that really stood out this season as future Hall of Famers. Well, maybe. Five years ago, nobody covering the big leagues of pro bass fishing knew their names, but we all sure do now.

James Elam (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)

Elam, Pipkens and Zaldain.

Soft spoken Elam.

James Elam doesn’t provide that pop of snarky attitude that Skeet Reese does or that potentially dangerous vibe of Mike Iaconelli. This cat is totally soft spoken on the stage when he is interviewed. In fact, for a while, it felt as though the Elite Series was too much for him. Um, el wrongo.

Elam ended up ranked 26th overall in Angler of the Year points, good enough to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. Elam had two Top 10 finishes on the Elite Series in 2015 along with two at the B.A.S.S. Opens. Oh yeah, one was a win at the Central Open event on Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma to double qualify him for the Classic. Look for this soft spoken cat to continue to kick booty as he gets more comfortable in the big leagues.

Chad Pipkens (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)

It’s not all about the hair for Pipkens.

Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer enjoys pointing out during interviews that Chad Pipkens has a haircare sponsor. The dude does rock the spikey hipster do. Funny thing is Pipkens was giving off the vibe early on in his Elite Series run that perhaps hair was what he was best at.

Not true at all. Pipkens, like Elam, has won a B.A.S.S. open event. This year he finished 27th in the overall rankings earning him his second consecutive Bassmaster Classic appearance. He’s a double threat; he catches bass and rocks the hair product.

Zaldain is the real deal.

Chris Zaldain (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)

A few years ago Chris Zaldain was the rookie on the Bassmaster Elite Series everybody thought was going to break loose. Then last year hit. Well, it wasn’t great. Sophomore blues, whatever. He made a good charge at the end and boy, oh boy, was 2015 his year.

Sure, he won a B.A.S.S. Open event 10 years earlier on Clear Lake in California, but that is the distant past. For 2015 Zaldain took home his first Elite Series victory at the prestigious Angler of the Year Championship out of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Chris also finished 6th overall in the Angler of the Year race. Qualified for his second Bassmaster Classic. Oh yeah, he got married, too. Pretty good year for the “California Kid”.

More like this