Despite never fishing the Ouachita River before he started pre-fishing this fall, Jamie Laiche of Gonzales took the lead after Day 1 of the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship being contest this week on the Ouachita River.

“I call the Atchafalaya Basin my home water, and so I’d call myself a shallow-water, stump, cypress tree fisherman,” he said. “This is right in my wheelhouse.

“I’m used to fishing tough for seven to eight bites a day, which is how this is fishing.”

Laiche is one of a handful of anglers who brought small boats to navigate the stumps in the Ouachita.

“I gambled a little and brought the smaller boat,” he said, referring to his 17-foot Bass Tracker that is only 6 feet wide but floats in 7 inches of water. “It’s got a small motor on the back that floats high, and that’s key to getting into those shallow backwaters.”

Laiche is confident going into Day 2, but he’s not counting his chickens before they hatch.

“There is no comfortable lead in the Central Division,” he said. “It’s got some phenomenal anglers. I can’t slip. I’ve got to make the right decisions, I’ve got to execute, and I’ve got to have all my equipment top-notch.”

Laiche added that he would be very surprised if he could follow up today with another 16-pound sack, which was a larger catch than most people predicted. .

Many anglers expected the top weight on the first day to come in no heavier than 12 pounds. But besides Laiche’s 16-6 sack, Fabian Rodriguez brought in 14-8, and Albert Collins followed with 14-1.

The river is producing far better than it did last year when the championship was here during the same week under similar conditions. On Day 1 in 2014, only 29 anglers had limits and three had zeros. In 2015, 46 had limits and no one goose-egged. The overall weight caught on the first day is higher this year by nearly 150 pounds, even with the same number of competitors. And Alabama’s Coby Carden led on Day 1 last year with 11 pounds, 8 ounces — which would put him in eighth place this year.

The competition will shake out more today, when the air temperature is predicted to drop by as much as 10 degrees and rain will likely come.

The biggest bass for Day 1 was a 4-pound, 9-ounce largemouth caught by South Carolina’s John Proctor. Proctor is leading the Southern Division, looking for his first trip to the Bassmaster Classic. Other division leaders are Laiche, Central; Paul Mueller, Eastern; Rodriguez, Mid-Atlantic; Gary Adkins, Northern; and Robert Peixotto, Western.

Today’s weigh-in begins at 2:30 at Forsythe Park in Monroe, with the conclusion of the event slated for Saturday.

For a look at the complete leaderboard, click here