Two factors define the position of BASS Federation Nation Championship qualifier Jamie Laiche going into the Oct. 27-29 competition: 1) He's from Gonzales, La.; and 2) He's from Gonzales, La.
Because the competition will be on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La., Laiche's Gonzales address makes him the home-state favorite. Viewed from a second angle, his Gonzales address means that if he's successful in the championship, he'll qualify to compete on home waters, again, in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, which is set for Feb. 18-20 on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans.
"If I make it to the Classic, I would consider myself a local because the Classic's Bayou Segnette launch site is about an hour from my house. I've fished that area quite a bit," Laiche said.
He is only one of 55 entrants in next week's Federation Nation event. They represent 47 states and six foreign countries. The overall champ will win a Skeeter/Yamaha bass rig valued at $60,000. The winners in each of six divisions will advance to the 2011 Bassmaster Classic.
The Red River event will be Laiche's third time in "the Nationals," as many Federation members refer to their championship. He was successful in 2007 in qualifying for the 2008 Classic, and now he's looking for his second trip to the tournament to beat all tournaments.
"It could be on the very northern tip of the United States, and it would still be very cool to make it to the Classic. But being out of southern Louisiana, this Classic would be even more special to me," said Laiche, who said he has recovered from a serious arm and hand injury that sidelined him for many months. The remaining partial numbness of one hand doesn't cramp his fishing, he said.
Laiche's experience and success on the Red might help him. In 2008, he finished 10th in a Bassmaster Central Open there. He was also one of the six members of the winning team in the 2007 BASS Club World Championship held on the Red.
But fishing home water could also hold him back. Laiche said he will lose any Red River advantage he has if he can't resist the impulse to "fish the past," the term anglers use to describe a common shortcoming: inability to recognize changes in fish behavior and location because the past clouds the angler's judgment.
"We all have trouble with that when we're fishing home water or water we know well," Laiche said.
To come up to speed, he spent three long weekends on the Red before the Oct. 16 cutoff.
"The river was fishing really tough," he said. "The water was a little lower than normal, and lower than I like it. I think the river fishes better when the water's higher. The times I was there, there wasn't much current. Bites were few and far between."
Water level and current aren't likely to change much for the tournament, he said, so water temperatures could rule the bite. If the water cools by tournament time, that could trigger a shad migration to shallower areas, and thus a better bass bite, he said.
As the only competitor from Louisiana, Laiche is sure to get extra fan and media attention in Shreveport-Bossier City, but his is not the only interesting story about the Federation Nation Championship. Many people will be watching their state's sole entrant, as well as other anglers, for their unique stories. A sample:
- Jay Evans of Corvallis, Mont., will be out to earn his second Bassmaster Classic berth. He competed in the 2009 Classic, which was, coincidentally, on the Red River. He finished 25th in that Classic.
- Scott Parker of Londonderry, N.H., is trying for his second Classic appearance. Like Evans, he was in the 2009 Red River Classic, where he finished 31st.
- Randy Phillips of Oxford, Mass., as the 2009 Federation Nation Championship winner, has an automatic entry into the 2010 event. He will be attempting to put together back-to-back Classic qualifications; if successful, he would be the only Federation repeat in 2011 from 2010.
- Joey Nania of Liberty Lake, Wash., at age 19, has a shot at becoming the youngest Classic qualifier in history. A two-time Junior Bassmaster World champion, he now has both eyes on a pro career. He got a good look at the Red River in early June when he competed there in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open, but he didn't do well there — 101st of 185 pro-division anglers.
- Ron Ryals of Live Oak, Fla., is this year's entrant from the Paralyzed Veterans of America. He was the organization's Angler of the Year.
- The six non-U.S. entrants are Isauro Tijerina of Mexico; Dave Rochette of Canada; Mike Macdonald of Zimbabwe; Alessio Telese of Italy; Justy Varkevisser of South Africa; and Ryuji Saho of Japan.
While championship contenders are on the Red River the final day, the 2010 Junior Bassmaster World Championship will take place on nearby Cross Lake. Twelve young anglers in two age groups (11-14; 15-18) will vie for scholarship money. The Junior anglers will weigh their catches Oct. 29 on the Bassmaster stage at Red River South Marina beginning at 3:30 p.m. CT, just before the adults being their finale weigh-in.
Coverage will be online at Bassmaster.com beginning Wednesday, Oct. 27, and continuing through Friday, Oct. 29 with a live leaderboard, photo galleries and results each day.
Fans are invited to the 7:30 a.m. CT launches and 3:30 p.m. CT weigh-ins at Red River South Marina in Bossier City. All events are free and open to the public.
2010 BASSMASTER FEDERATION NATION CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD
Dale Hightower, Sand Springs, Okla.
Tom Jessop, Dalhart, Texas
Zachary King, Clarksville, Ark.
Randy Ladner, Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Jamie Laiche, Gonzales, La.
Brian Maloney, Osage Beach, Mo.
Isauro Tijerina, Mexico
Travis Tunnell, Benton, Kan.
Kenny Wasmund, South Sioux City, Neb.
Sean Alvarez, Rutland, Vt.
George Cooper, Buxton, Maine
Abe Kalechman, Stafford, Conn.
Joe Matt, Syracuse, N.Y.
Chris Molineaux, Hope Valley, R.I.
Scott Parker, Londonderry, N.H.
Randy Phillips, Oxford, Mass. (defending champ)
Dave Rochette, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
Jason Ross, Ashley Falls, Mass.
Daniel Gray, Butler, Pa.
Brian LaClair, Denton, Md. (representing Delaware)
Mike Macdonald, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Mike Moore, Philippi, W.Va.
Edward Riley, Woodbine, Md.
Ron Ryals, Live Oak, Fla. (PVA qualifier)
Jeffrey Stetler, Leesburg, N.J.
Cavin Young, Prince George, Va.
Jeremy Franken, Watertown, S.D
Mark Klemp, Villa Park, Ill.
Brian Mailot, Columbus, Ohio
Dan Parker, Coultenberg, Iowa
Robert Perkins, Crosslake, Minn.
Nathan Ranallo, LaCrosse, Wis.
Alessio Telese, Signa, Firenze, Italy
David Watson, Sullivan, Ind.
Gerald Woodard, Southfield. Mich.
Tony Beck, Social Circle, Ga.
Brandon Card, Caryville, Tenn. (representing Kentucky)
Donnie Cox, Tazewell, Tenn.
George Crain, Cropwell, Ala.
Rob Digh, Denver, N.C.
Jeff Green, Gaffney, S.C.
David Mock, Tallahassee, Fla.
Justy Varkevisser, Johannesburg, South Africa
Andy Bravence, Globe, Ariz.
David Brinkerhoff, Kelso, Wash. (representing Oregon)
Jay Evans, Corvallis, Mont.
Jerry Frahm, Brigham City, Utah
Bill Golightly, Preston, Idaho (representing Wyoming)
Paul Hemsley, North Las Vegas, Nev.
Bob Lechel, Los Alamos, N.M.
Allen McCaw, Ignacio, Colo.
Joey Nania, Liberty Lake, Wash.
Brandon Palaniuk, Rathdrum, Idaho
Ryuji Saho, Osaka, Japan
James Smiley, Lake Forest, Calif.