MONROE, La. — The conditions changed on Day 2 of the 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on the Ouachita River, but the first-day leader did everything the same and managed to stay on top of the field.
Louisiana’s Jamie Laiche added 13 pounds, 14 ounces, ending Day 2 with 30 pounds, 4 ounces and a 1 1/2-pound lead.
“I did the exact same thing,” Laiche said, “but I didn’t get that big bite like I did yesterday. I caught a ton of fish, but the size wasn’t there.”
The air temperature dropped 5 degrees from yesterday and the Monroe area got an inch of rain. Day 3 should bring more rain and even cooler temperatures.
None of those weather changes bother Laiche.
“I have the opinion that if it affects me, it’ll affect everybody else,” he said, calmly. “If the Lord feels like it’s my time, I’ll find ’em.”
Laiche, who’s a member of the Ascension Area Anglers in Louisiana, is trying to earn a return trip to the Bassmaster Classic. He qualified for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, where he came in 38th place. If he wins the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Saturday, he’ll get a chance to compete on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.
Laiche doesn’t actually have to win the championship; he only has to win his division. Each state is represented in the championship by its top angler, and several states make up each division.
The Central Division has proved to be the toughest here on the Ouachita River, with three of the Top 4 overall spots from that division. Laiche is trying to fend off Albert Collins of Texas, who’s currently in second place overall, and Doug Thompson of Arkansas, currently in fourth. All three anglers are tested and true; all three have qualified for the Classic before, and all three are within 6 pounds of each other.
“Any one of us would represent the Central well at the Classic,” Laiche said. “They are some of the best anglers out there. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
Laiche, who is fishing out of a small boat that helps him navigate the shallow backwaters and stumpfields, tops out at 28 miles per hour. As the leader of the tournament, he’ll go out first at takeoff on the final day.
“They’ll all be passing me,” Laiche said with a laugh. “But it’s not how fast you get there; it’s how much you come back with.”
Other division leaders who are trying to hold on for one more day to earn a Classic berth are Paul Mueller, Connecticut, in the Eastern Division; Fabian Rodriguez, Maryland, Mid-Atlantic; Greg Vance, Iowa, Northern; John Proctor, South Carolina, Southern; and Levi McNeill, Wyoming, Western.
Vance made up serious ground on Day 2 when he brought in a 13-pound, 11-ounce bag, vaulting him to the top of the Northern Division. Vance is one of the youngest competitors in the field at only 21 years old.
Vance’s bag was topped by only Laiche’s (13-14) and Albert Collins’ (14-8). But Vance did manage to catch the biggest bass of the day, a 4-pound, 3-ounce largemouth.
Whether Laiche pulls off a victory on Saturday or not, he’s already the winner of the Livingston Lures Leader Award. The leader on Day 2 wins a $250 package from Livingston Lures.
Competition resumes at Forsythe Park in Monroe, La., Saturday at 6:15 a.m. CT. The event concludes at the weigh-in, also at Forsythe Park, at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday. Tune in to Bassmaster.com for updates and for live streaming of the weigh-ins.