The B.A.S.S. Nation Championship returns to Monroe and the Ouachita River this week, one year after a Connecticut angler took the title with 32 pounds and 15 ounces.

Last November, Paul Mueller came from behind to win, and earned a berth in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, as well as the Elite Series.

“We are very excited to be back on the Ouachita again this year,” said Jon Stewart, director of the B.A.S.S. Nation, “and we expect it to be a nail-biter just like it was last fall.”

Mueller learned to be consistent on the Ouachita last year despite heavy water level fluctuation that left other competitors struggling. This year, it could be more of the same. 

Many anglers will likely head for the bayous, according to Nick LaDart, a graduate of the University of Louisiana-Monroe who frequently fishes the river.

“There will still be a few fish left on the main river, but I don’t think you can win with them because usually they are a lot smaller,” LaDart said. “If the water rises a little bit before the tournament, it will definitely push a lot of shad back in those pockets.”

The bass will be shallow around laydowns and cypress trees in the early morning and then move out to deeper cover later in the day, LaDart said. 

“I have caught them in a couple of inches of water and then, when the sun comes up, they tend to spread out a little bit more,” he said.

Mueller will compete against 58 other anglers, who are representing 47 states and one Canadian province, plus Japan, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, Spain, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Australia. 

In addition, Jack Barber will represent the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). The PVA sends its Angler of the Year to the BNC each year, and this is Barber’s first year to qualify.

The competition begins Thursday and concludes on Saturday. Launches will take place daily at 6:15 a.m. at Forsythe Park Boat Launch, with weigh-ins starting at 2:30 p.m.