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Lake life

Livesay’s take on Ouachita bass

Lee Livesay shows off a huge largemouth at an earlier 2021 BASS tournament

The 2021 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship will be crowned on Louisiana’s Ouachita River right in the middle of Monroe.

More than 50 boats will compete in the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on the Ouachita River Nov. 3-5, and Bassmaster Elite Series pro and former Monroe, resident Lee Livesay says there will be plenty of water for anglers to cover in this shallow-water paradise.

“The fish are going to be biting good everywhere, main rivers and backwaters,” Livesay said. “The water should be cooled down and there should be some fish schooling on the main river.”

Boaters and nonboaters competed in one of five B.A.S.S. Nation regionals held across the country and qualified for the championship by finishing at the top of their state standings. Now, anglers will compete for one of three spots in the 2022 Bassmaster Classic, which will go to the event’s Top 3 finishers.

The championship tournament is being hosted by the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The B.A.S.S. Nation champion will earn the title of “Nation’s Best,” which includes an Elite Series berth and the use of a fully-rigged Nation’s Best tournament boat for a year. If the Nation champion turns down the Elite Series berth, they will instead be awarded paid entry fees to the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens for all divisions. The second- and third-place finishers and nonboater champion will also each earn paid Bassmaster Opens entry fees for all divisions.

Monroe has played host to several B.A.S.S. tournaments and was the site for the 2014 Nation Championship that current Elite Series angler Paul Mueller won as well as the 2015 championship claimed by Albert Collins.

Livesay lived in Monroe for several years before relocating to Texas and spent many hours on the Ouachita River bass fishing, crappie fishing and hunting. He has won more than $500,000 as a pro bass angler. The river stretches for 640 miles and Livesay says there will be plenty of room for the anglers to spread out, whether that is in the numerous backwaters or on the main river.

“It’s a really cool place to go,” he said. “It’s big, and that’s why it’s a really good tournament venue. You can go north, you can go south. There are hundreds of river lakes you can get in and ditches and canals. Then you’ve got Bayou D’Arbonne that connects to Lake D’Arbonne.”

Anglers will have a variety of cover to unlock, including swampy backwaters, multiple types of bushes, cypress trees and current-related structure and cover in the main river. Livesay said in his experience, the biggest population of better-than-average bass live in Bayou D’Arbonne.

“There’s a million different places to catch bass and you have to figure out where to catch the bigger ones,” Livesay said. “It is a target-rich environment. You’ll see guys catching them on spinnerbaits, flipping little creature baits and jigs, shallowing squarebills and crankbaits, and you’ll see some topwater fish.”

The X factor on the river is the rise and fall of water levels from week to week. Big rains and tropic moisture can send the river levels soaring in a hurry.

“There are so many variables on that river because the water level goes up and down,” Livesay said. “The key there is knowing what you can get in and when you can get in and how fast you can get in and out. It might be two feet below normal pool a week before the tournament and that sucker might jump up 10 feet before the tournament and you might be able to get into someone’s pond in the back of their yard.” 

Competitors will launch from Forsythe Park each day at 7:15 a.m. CT and return for weigh-in at 3:15 p.m.

The full field will compete the first two days. The nonboater champion will be crowned after Day 2 and the Top 10 boaters, Top 2 boaters from each of the five regions (if not already in the Top 10), the nonboater champion and any nonboaters that have enough weight to be in the Top 10 boaters overall will advance to the championship round.

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