RIDGELAND, Miss. — Entering the event as a non-boater proved no problem for Louisiana’s Jamie Laiche, who used some ingenuity to win the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Central Divisional at Barnett Reservoir.

Laiche, of Gonzales, won the overall title with a three-day weight of 38 pounds, 1 ounce to lead Louisiana to the team championship with 273-2.

First-day leader Billy Lemon of Oklahoma finished second with 36-14, and his state team finished second with 271-14.

The difference between Laiche and Lemon was 1 pound, 3 ounces. The margin of victory for Louisiana over Oklahoma was 1 pound, 4 ounces.

Mississippi finished a distant third at 242-13, over 30 pounds behind Louisiana’s winning weight. Mississippi’s highest finisher was Donald Adcock of nearby Richland, who finished 10th with 30-3.

Other states entered, in order of finish, included Arkansas (234-15), Kansas (229-5), Texas (208-8), Nebraska (183-7) and Missouri (138-9).

Because Laiche registered as a non-boater, he was fishing without the convenience and confidence of using his personal rig and its fish-catching accessories including his large-screen Lowrance HDS-9 Gen3 that held the waypoints of several hot spots he found in practice.

“I had at least 30 offshore ledges with specific areas the size of a car hood holding fish on each spot,” he said at the weigh-in.

Laiche removed the electronic graph recorder and rigged it to a makeshift, portable platform, complete with power cable and alligator clips. The idea was to power the unit using the batteries in his partner’s boat.

“I knew my boater wouldn’t have the waypoints stored, obviously, so I just brought them with me,” said Laiche, a member of the Ascension Area Anglers.

As the non-boater, Laiche spent his shared portion of Day 1 on the front deck. Within view was the portable graph that allowed him to make pinpoint casts to specific sweet spots holding bass. He caught a tournament-best 14 pounds, 15 ounces.

On Thursday, Laiche fished as a boater after his partner called in sick. He fished conservatively, hoping for an opportunity to compete from his personal boat on the final day. He got that chance after his final-day partner forfeited the right to use his boat.

The areas holding the winning fish were offshore ledges tapering from a depth of 3 to 12 feet. The sweet spot, as he called it, was the presence of gravel that attracted baitfish.

On cloudy days, Laiche found roaming bass feeding near the sweet spot with a Bandit 200 Series crankbait. Sunny conditions moved the bass stationary to the bottom. As a result, he switched to a Missile Baits Tomahawk, a ribbontail plastic worm rigged with a ¼-ounce weight.

The regional tournament advances the top finishing anglers from eight states to the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. Joining Laiche, Lemon and Adcock are the following state winners: Doug Thompson, Arkansas; Preston Frazell, Kansas; Matt Roberts, Missouri; Jerry Pape, Nebraska; Albert Collins, Texas. 

The states competed for a Skeeter/ Yamaha boat, motor, trailer and accessories package valued at $33,340.

The event included a friendly competition between state championship high school teams from the region. Braden Blanchard and Cade Fortenberry, students at St. Amant High School in Louisiana, won the high school title.