Gonzales’ Jamie Laiche comes up just short in bid to earn spot in Bassmaster Classic _lowres

Photo provided by BASS/Thomas Allen -- Louisiana's Jamie Laiche caught 16 pounds, 6 ounces to lead the first day of the Old Milwaukee B.A.S. Nation Championship on the Ouachita River held in Monroe, La.

MONROE — When he approached the weigh-in stage at Forsythe Park, the smile on Jamie Laiche’s face hid the agony he was feeling in his heart.

After leading the three-day 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship for the first two days, Laiche, Louisiana’s Nation qualifier from Gonzales, knew rival Albert Collins had matched his first-day, 16 pounds, 6 ounces catch during Saturday’s final round.

Collins, from Nacogdoches, Texas, was in second place going into Saturday morning’s launch and his final day catch gave him a 44-pound, 15-ounce total that left Laiche needing 14-11 to overtake his fellow Central Division angler.

Laiche had a five-bass limit, but when the scales showed 12 pounds, 14 ounces, Laiche’s bid for his second Bassmaster Classic berth evaporated.

A second-place finish in a 59-angler field usually triggers a celebration for the runner-up. Not Saturday. Laiche and Collins were running neck-and-neck for the Classic berth allowed for the top angler in the Nation’s Central Division. This tournament qualifies six anglers in the field, once each from the Central, Eastern, Southern, Mid-Atlantic, Western and Northern divisions.

The Central Division was so hotly contested that five of its 10 anglers finished in the top 10. Arkansas angler Doug Thompson was fourth. Fabian Rodriguez of Ocean City, Delaware, broke up the Central Division hold on the top spots by finishing third and earning the Mid-Atlantic’s spot in the Classic set for early March on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Laiche, a member of Ascension Area Anglers, was bidding to return to the Classic. He qualified through the Nation’s tournament for the 2008 Classic on Lake Hartwell. Collins qualified for the 2013 Classic, and Thompson was the Central’s 2014 Classic qualifier.

Hot spots

You’re going to have to wait a day or two to let the water settle, because the recent catches at The Causeway and along The Wall at the flood control structure along the Intracoastal Waterway and the MRGO in St. Bernard Parish are giving up speckled trout.

Last week produced the season’s first big-time trout reports. Gulp! Jerkshad and colors in Deadly Dudley Terror Tails and Matrix Shad were the top producers on jigheads heavy enough to get baits to the bottom.

The bonus in waters near The Wall, mostly in the marshes down the MRGO, is keeper-sized redfish and solid largemouth bass catches on the same baits. Let the waters clear, and redfish and bass in that area will take topwaters like small Zara Spooks and Pop-Rs. In the marshes Rat-L-Trap’s Echo 1.75, a new square-billed crankbait (use the blue back/gray sides) is proving to come through the grass and taking bass and redfish from ponds along with Mann’s shad-colored 1-Minus crankbaits.

Redfish Pointe II

CCA Louisiana announced Friday that work was underway on Redfish Pointe II, its 17th artificial reef, this one in the western waters in Vermilion Bay. Chevron, DLS Energy and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries partnered with CCA in the reef’s four-acre expansion. The project is using 4,000 tons of limestone to enhance the original reef laid in 2006, and work will continue for the next two weeks.