RIDGELAND, Miss. — Make it a clean sweep for Louisiana.
Jamie Laiche of Gonzales and an Ascension Area Anglers member, St. Amant High School anglers Braden Blanchard and Cade Fortenberry, and the Louisiana state team outfished 14-angler teams from seven other states to bring home first places Friday from the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Central Divisional held on Ross Barnett Reservoir.
Laiche, who registered “no boat,” competed in another contender’s boats for the first day of the three-day event and caught a five-bass limit each day. He came from second place after Thursday’s second round for a 38-pound, 1-ounce total to edge first-day leader Billy Lemon of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, (36-14) by more than a pound.
Blanchard and Fortenberry, high school qualifiers for the divisional tournament, fished two days and bested high school teams from the seven Central Division states with a 10-bass limit weighing 17-5.
And the Louisiana team, led by Laiche and top-10 finishes by Prairieville’s David Cavell and Gonzales’ Ryan Lavigne, outdueled Team Oklahoma to win the team title by slightly more one pound.
Louisiana’s three-day total edged the Okies 273-2 to 271-14. Mississippi’s team was third at 242-13. Team Louisiana earned a Skeeter boat/Yamaha outboard with trailer and accessories valued at $33,340.
Laiche said he scouted Ross Barnett and used a “secret lure and secret technique” all three days.
“I had at least 30 offshore ledges with specific areas the size of a car hood holding fish on each spot,” Laiche told the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society.
Because he wasn’t in his boat, Laiche said all the potentially winning waypoints on his boat’s large-screen Lowrance HDS-9 Gen3, honey holes he found during two practice days, had to be adapted to work during the tournament. He said he removed the electronic graph recorder and rigged it to a makeshift platform — a portable graph — complete with power cable.
He used alligator clips to hook the unit to the batteries in the boat he was in to retrieve the valuable waypoints.
“I knew my boat wouldn’t have the waypoints stored, obviously, so I just brought them with me,” Laiche said.
As a nonboater, Laiche was entitled to work the front of the boat for half the time the anglers were allowed on the water. Laiche said he positioned the portable graph on the front deck and was able to make pinpoint casts to specific bass-holding “sweet spots.”
Laiche was able compete as a “boater” Thursday when his partner called in sick. He said he fished “conservatively,” that day, and was able to use his boat during Friday’s final round when the partner he drew forfeited the right to use his boat.
Laiche described the fish-holding areas as “offshore ledges tapering from a depth of 3 to 12 feet. The sweet spot was the presence of gravel that attracted baitfish.”
Pressed for more details, Laiche said he found bass feeding near the sweet spot with a Bandit 200 Series crankbait on cloudy days. During sunny periods, Laiche said the bass moved to the bottom and he switched to a Missile Baits’ Tomahawk, a ribbon-tail plastic worm rigged with a quarter-ounce weight.
The win sends Laiche to the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship set for November on the Ouachita River in his home-state town of Monroe. Other top finishers from the other seven states’ teams also advanced.
The top finisher from among the Central Division anglers at the nationals will qualify for the March 2016 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees near Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Laiche qualified through this national tournament for his first Classic berth in 2008. He finished 38th on Lake Hartwell near Greenville, South Carolina, in that first Classic appearance.