RIDGELAND, Miss. — Overcoming a tournament handicap and applying angling ingenuity ranked ahead of a secret lure and technique for Jamie Laiche, overall winner of the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Central Divisional.
Laiche, of Gonzales, La., won the overall title on Ross Barnett Reservoir with a three-day weight of 38 pounds, 1 ounce. Billy Lemon, who led on Day 1, finished second with 36-14.
Laiche registered for the tournament on Ross Barnett Reservoir as a non-boater, leaving him without the convenience and confidence of using his personal rig and its fish-catching accessories.
“I had at least 30 offshore ledges with specific areas the size of a car hood holding fish on each spot,” he said.
That was a handicap because Laiche stored all the potentially game-winning GPS waypoints on his boat’s large-screen Lowrance HDS-9 Gen3. Laiche plotted the hot spots during practice.
What to do?
Laiche removed the electronic graph recorder and rigged it to a makeshift, portable platform, complete with power cable and alligator clips. The idea was to power the unit using the batteries in his partner’s boat.
“I knew my boater wouldn’t have the waypoints stored, obviously, so I just brought them with me,” said Laiche, a member of the Ascension Area Anglers.
As the non-boater, Laiche spent his shared portion of Day 1 on the front deck. Within view was the portable graph that allowed him to make pinpoint casts to specific sweet spots holding bass. He caught a tournament-best 14 pounds, 15 ounces.
Laiche fished Day 2 as a boater after his partner called in sick. He fished conservatively, hoping for an opportunity to compete from his personal boat on the final day. He got that chance after his final day partner forfeited the right to use his boat.
The areas holding the winning fish were offshore ledges tapering from a depth of 3 to 12 feet. The sweet spot, as he called it, was the presence of gravel that attracted baitfish.
On cloudy days Laiche found roaming bass feeding near the sweet spot with a Bandit 200 Series crankbait. Sunny conditions moved the bass stationary to the bottom. As a result he switched to a Missile Baits Tomahawk, a ribbon tailed plastic worm rigged with a 1/4-ounce weight.
The regional tournament advances the top finishing anglers from eight states to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. Joining Louisiana’s Laiche and Lemon, of Oklahoma, are the following state winners. Doug Thompson, Arkansas; Preston Frazell, Kansas; Donald Adcock, Mississippi; Matt Roberts, Missouri; Jerry Pape, Nebraska; and Albert Collins, Texas.
The state competition proved just as dramatic as the win by Laiche. His state won it by the slim margin of 1 pound, 3 ounces. Louisiana’s 14-angler team caught a collective weight of 273 pounds, 2 ounces. Oklahoma finished second with 271-14 and Mississippi came in third with 242-13.
The states competed for a Skeeter/Yamaha boat, motor, trailer and accessories package valued at $33,340.
The two-angler youth teams, also high school champions, joined their adult counterparts from each state to gain valuable tournament experience.
Braden Blanchard and Cade Fortenberry, students at St. Amant High School in Louisiana, won the high school title.