Jackson, Miss.—The first angler to weigh in today at the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Central Divisional at Ross Barnett Reservoir took the lead and never relinquished it.
Jamie Laiche, a 31-year-old chemical plant instrument technician from Gonzales, La., set the pace in the first round of the divisional by weighing in a five-fish limit tallying 17 pounds, 3 ounces. The Baton Rouge Bassmasters club member caught all of his keepers on a pattern he's not accustomed to fishing at home.
"I'm not a big crankbait fisherman," confessed Laiche, who is competing in his second Central Divisional. "I'm a shallow-water, flipping fisherman. Carolina rigging and crankbaits are not something we do in South Louisiana."
During practice, Laiche had some success Carolina rigging the ledges, but his performance today exceeded his expectations. "My day went better then practice because I caught bigger fish," he said. "I didn't know the potential I had after practice because I didn't stick a lot of fish."
With the wind blowing this morning, Laiche switched to working a crankbait along the ledges, a strong summertime pattern for schooling bass at Ross Barnett. "I have other patterns in the river but I figured this pattern will be the most consistent to replenish itself each day."
The Central Divisional consists of two competitions rolled into one event. Anglers from eight states are vying for the top spot in their team standings to qualify for a berth to the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship, the premier event of amateur bass fishing. Their daily catches are also counted towards their team's score as the eight states compete for bragging rights and a top prize of a Triton Boats TR-186 bass boat and Mercury 150 h.p. outboard rig with a total value of $32,000.
Laiche and his 12-member Louisiana squad are dominating the team competition with 89 pounds, 3 ounces. Nebraska is a distant second at 41-15. In addition to Laiche, other state leaders include Doug Thompson (Arkansas), Scott Hamel (Kansas), Hollis Polk (Mississippi), Daniel Stark (Missouri), Pat Klausen (Nebraska), Todd Lee (Oklahoma) and Bob Ramsdell (Texas).
The team champions and the top state of the Central Division will be determined at the conclusion of this three-day event on Friday.
Daily launches and weigh-ins are being held at Tommy's Landing. Weigh-ins begin at 2 p.m. CDT each day.