Gonzales, La. — The Ascension Area Anglers Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation club has a proud tradition of producing B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (BNC) qualifiers since the club’s inception in 2007.
One of the founding club members, Ryan Lavigne, has qualified for two of the national championships and won this year’s BNC at Lake Conroe to qualify for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic. Lavigne recalled the only time an Ascension Area Anglers club member failed to make the BNC was in 2009.
Lavigne originally joined the Baton Rouge Bassmasters when he was 18 years old and then helped start the Ascension Area club in 2007. The 35-year-old Lavigne has fished for the Louisiana Nation state team in seven B.A.S.S. Nation divisionals and competed in Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens in 2009.
During his first BNC appearance in 2013 at Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas, Lavigne led the tournament on Day 1, but he eventually fell to seventh place and missed qualifying for the Classic. The Marathon Petroleum Company process technician won the nonboater champion title the second day of the 2016 BNC and then weighed in a 24-pound sack of bass the final day to clinch the overall championship and a 2017 Classic berth.
“Making the Classic has always been a dream of mine,” said Lavigne, who serves as secretary/treasurer for his club and the Louisiana Nation. “I have tried to get myself an opportunity to make it every year and the Nation was my route.”
The Louisiana angler believes the B.A.S.S. Nation has helped him become a more versatile fisherman. “Growing up fishing the Atchafalaya Basin, we do a lot of junk fishing down here and we have so much water,” Lavigne said. “So that kind of helped me be able to decipher patterns or eliminate water quicker. But the Nation has taught me to be more versatile because I get to go to clear lakes where it is more of a finesse deal since we don’t have that here.”
The Classic waters of Lake Conroe will allow Lavigne to disregard the finesse lessons though and rely on his strengths. “I am a power fisherman, offshore or shallow, and to me that is going to be the deal there,” he said.
Lavigne has attended the Classic as a fan and witnessed all the excitement and pageantry, but he is unsure how he will handle all of the festivities as a contender. He said his cousin Jamie Laiche, another Ascension Area Anglers member who fished the 2008 Classic, has given him some pointers on what to expect during Classic week.
Another challenge for Lavigne will be going up against Bassmaster Elite Series contenders in the Classic. “I am going to have to put some blinders on,” he said. “It is very humbling to know I am going to be in the company that I am going to be in. I do not take that lightly at all.”
Rooting for Lavigne at the Classic will be his wife Jenny, daughter Lilly, his mom and dad, sisters and brothers-in-law and aunts and uncles.