MONROE, La. – When daylight cracked over the Ouachita River this morning 153 EverStart Championship qualifiers had already lined the banks with their boats, eagerly awaiting takeoff.
Among those sleek fiberglass chariots were a handful of aluminum boats. At least a half-dozen pros had shucked their bigger glass boats for smaller, lighter models that would allow more efficient access to the river’s stump-infested backwaters.
Imagine the surprise of those pros as they entered their coveted backwater only to find the other five or six pros in aluminum rigs also in that very same backwater. Though the backwater plan backfired a bit, at least two from the tin-boat contingent now sit in the top 10.
Others running standard full-size glass boats chose to utilize the whole extent of the Ouachita River with their speed and make long runs to fish the river itself. Of those, several are in the top 10.
And yet another group used their standard glass rigs to access small creeks along the river for their success.
After day one, it looks of if three different gameplans are working at the Ouachita River. No one was able to crack the teens in terms of weight and certainly no one posted a super bag of bass to take a dominating lead. Top weights are bunched up tight from the 9- to 13-pound range. Big bass in each division came in at nearly five pounds, showing that a few bruisers are to be had.
The top mark to beat in the Pro Division was 12 pounds, 13 ounces, which belonged to leader James Stricklin, Jr., of Texarkana, Texas. Stricklin is neither in a backwater, nor on the main river, yet was able to access his water fairly easily in his full-size glass boat.
“I’m in a backwater, but it’s a deeper backwater and I do not have to fight my way in there,” Stricklin said. “I ended up catching four of my better fish in there and then came out into the river and caught the littlest one in my limit.”
He noted that the area does not produce many bites, but when it does they are of better quality. And the best news: he did not see another boat all day.
“I think the area has the potential to produce a really big bag if things got right,” Stricklin added. “I feel good about it. It’s a big area and I’m encouraged that it’s not receiving much pressure. I did fish it hard for the four bites I got today, but I think there are still plenty of fish in there.”