Fed Nation contenders rolling on the river

MONROE, La. — The Ouachita River is presenting a difficult final exam for the top amateur bass anglers of the world.

The B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship (FNC) presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats begins tomorrow on the Ouachita River with 54 contestants from local B.A.S.S. Federation Nation clubs in 47 states and six countries (Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and Zimbabwe) competing to be the best angler in their respective divisions during  this year’s three-day event.  The six geographic divisions are North, South, Central, East, West and Mid-Atlantic.   

The top angler from each of the six divisions qualifies for a berth in the Bassmaster Classic set for February on the Red River in Shreveport, La. 

A dry autumn has made navigating the river a challenge. 

“The water is low and it is hard to get where the guys want to get,” said Jon Stewart, Federation Nation tournament director. “The fishing has been tough according to all the anglers.” 

Stewart believes this year’s event will be tougher than the 2010 FNC won by Brandon Palaniuk with 29 pounds, 9 ounces on the Red River.

“The weather has been pretty nice for us (this fall) but the water level is a little lower than normal,” said Kevin Gaubert, Louisiana Federation Nation president. “Most of the rain has been down south of Alexandria and we have been getting a few little (weather) fronts. We are expecting a front this week but hopefully that will just reinforce the weather we are having now.” 

The weather forecast calls for scattered showers tonight and a slight chance for rain tomorrow but sunny and mild for Friday and Saturday.

“I hope the weather doesn’t change much,” Louisiana’s FNC qualifier Jason Pecoraro said. “On all the days I have been scouting in practice it has been sunny so hopefully it won’t change things up too much. There is really no place for the fish to go but (a weather change) might make them bite a little differently. The fish are definitely predictable because of the low water, so everybody is on top of one another.”

With the increased fishing pressure due to the river fishing small, Pecoraro expects a low winning weight. 

“Someone will come in with a 15-pound bag," he said, "but after Day One it’s going to start getting slim so I predict no more than 30 pounds to win this tournament.”

The take-offs and weigh-ins for each competition day will be held at the Forsyth Park boat ramp at 2201 Riverside Dr., in Monroe. Hosting the event is the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau.