MONROE — Gonzales angler Jamie Laiche retained his first-place spot after Friday’s second round of the three-day Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, but needs a strong finish Saturday to hold off a surge from Texas’ Albert Collins in his bid for a second berth in the Bassmaster Classic.
Working the waters off the Ouachita River in an aluminum boat, Laiche came in with another five-bass limit weighing 13 pounds, 14 ounces Friday to give him a two-day, 30 pounds, 4 ounces catch, and a less than two-pound lead over Collins’ second-place, 28-9 total in the 59-angler field.
Holding first place on back-to-back days will mean little if Laiche falters. Six anglers representing the Nation’s six divisions will earn berths in the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. Both Laiche and Collins are competing for the Central Division berth. And if both falter, Arkansas’ Doug Thompson at 24-2 and in fourth place is ready to take the Central’s Classic spot.
Laiche qualified for the Classic in 2008, and Collins and Thompson earned the Central’s berths in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Collins cut into Laiche’s two-and-a-half pound first-day lead with Friday’s 14-8 catch.
“There is no comfortable lead in the Central Division,” Laiche said. “It’s got some phenomenal anglers. I can’t slip. I’ve got to make the right decisions, I’ve got to execute, and I’ve got to have all my equipment top-notch.”
Fabien Rodriguez, a Mid-Atlantic Division angler from Delaware, holds third place at 26-8. Other anglers are competing for berths given to the top finishers in Southern, Eastern, Northern, Western divisions.
The final day’s weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. at Forsythe Park. Live weigh-in can be viewed on the Bassmaster’s website: www.bassmaster.com.