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Lake life, Louisiana fishing

College anglers get to “play” in the mud!

Ten inches of rain last weekend in our area did a lot of things. One thing it did was give a large group of college tournament anglers from the region a headache. That’s because now they have to figure out how to catch bass on the fast-rising, muddy Ouachita River Friday and Saturday out of Monroe during the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Central Regional.

Nobody knows what’s ahead any more than University of Louisiana-Monroe fisherman Nick LaDart, who lives about five minutes from the river and has fished it all his life. LaDart figures the changes will make the tournament a flipping match.

“Usually this time of year we get a bunch of rain, and the river starts rising — except normally it will rise 5 feet over the course of two or three weeks whereas this week it is supposed to rise 4 or 5 feet in just a few days,” LaDart said. It will be up and even more muddy by this weekend!

LaDart said most of Ouachita’s bass have already spawned, but instead of migrating out to the main channel, the fish will probably stay in the backwaters while the river is rising. “I actually found 68-degree water, and it looked like the shad were spawning,” he said. “I caught a couple of females, and they were just as skinny as can be.”

ULM's Nick LaDart

ULM’s Nick LaDart

While practicing for the regional, LaDart caught five keepers weighing about 14 pounds, which he noted is “pretty stout right now.” LaDart said his ULM teammate, Brian Eaton, fished last Saturday on the Ouachita in a tournament that took only 9 pounds to win. Despite the rising river and skinny postspawn fish, LaDart believes it will still take 14 pounds a day to win the regional.

This is a pretty cool event for our area that will bring national attention and the anglers deserve a good turnout. This will be the first ever Carhartt Bassmaster College Series regional held in Louisiana. A total of 77 boats from 27 schools are entered in the Central Regional, which drew 55 boats last year. “If that many teams compete, the Ouachita tournament will enable 13 teams to advance to the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship,” said Hank Weldon, college tournament manager.

Weldon describes the competition in the event as “solid, especially with the likes of ULM, which has had a dominant team for several years, along with LSU and all the teams from Texas and Arkansas. Then you have OSU (Oklahoma State University), which has won the national championship in the past.

If you want to watch or cheer our local boys on, competition begins Friday, April 11 at Forsythe Park in Monroe when the anglers launch at 6:30 a.m. The competitors will weigh in at ULM at 3:15 p.m. on both days with the tournament concluding Saturday. 

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