College anglers face rising Ouachita River

MONROE, La. — College anglers will have to figure out where postspawn bass will be headed on the rising Ouachita River Friday and Saturday during the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Central Regional.

University of Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) angler Nick LaDart lives about five minutes from the river and has fished it all his life, so he knows the Ouachita’s seasonal quirks. “It is going to be tough because we had almost 4 inches of rain Sunday night, and the river is supposed to rise 4 to 5 feet by Saturday.”

When he practiced on Monday, LaDart noticed the water was muddy everywhere he went. “It’s going to be a tough tournament, but it’s going to be fun because it is going to be a flipping match,” he predicted.

“Usually this time of year we get a bunch of rain, and the river starts rising — except normally it will rise 5 feet over the course of two or three weeks whereas this week it is supposed to rise 4 or 5 feet in just a few days,” LaDart said.

LaDart notes most of Ouachita’s bass have already spawned, but instead of migrating out to the main channel, the fish will probably stay in the backwaters while the river is rising. “I actually found 68-degree water, and it looked like the shad were spawning,” he said. “I caught a couple of females, and they were just as skinny as can be.”

While practicing for the regional, LaDart caught five keepers weighing about 14 pounds, which he noted is “pretty stout right now.” LaDart said his ULM teammate, Brian Eaton, fished Saturday on the Ouachita in a tournament that took only 9 pounds to win. Despite the rising river and skinny postspawn fish, LaDart believes it will still take 14 pounds a day to win the regional.

This event will be the first Carhartt Bassmaster College Series regional ever held in Louisiana. A total of 77 boats from 27 schools are entered in the Central Regional, which drew 55 boats last year. “If that many teams compete, the Ouachita tournament will enable 13 teams to advance to the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship,” said Hank Weldon, college tournament manager.

Weldon describes the competition in the event as “solid, especially with the likes of ULM, which has had a dominant team for several years, along with LSU and all the teams from Texas and Arkansas. Then you have OSU (Oklahoma State University), which has won the national championship in the past. 

“There are definitely some good teams in this competition.“

Competition begins April 11 at Forsythe Park in Monroe when the anglers launch at 6:30 a.m. CT. The competitors will weigh in at the University of Louisiana at Monroe at 3:15 p.m. CT on both days. The tournament concludes April 12.