Women's Bassmaster Tour heads to Louisiana's Ouachita River

The race to win a berth in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic will resume when the Academy Sports + Outdoors Women's Bassmaster Tour plays out April 23-25, when the anglers head to West Monroe, La., for the second event of the season.

WBT pros who have scouted the Ouachita River say the water is high and warming, and the bass are biting. The three-day tournament will be the WBT's first stop on this part of the Ouachita, so it will be new territory for many of the anglers.

On the pro side, the top prize is $1,000 cash and a boat rig valued at $55,000. In the co-angler division, the top prize is $500 cash and a $25,000 boat rig.

Fishing fans can follow the action on Bassmaster.com with live, streaming video and real-time leaderboards. Daily coverage, including photo galleries, stories and standings, also will be available at Bassmaster.com.

Pros will earn points in the Ouachita competition that count toward the season's most coveted prize, the Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year trophy and qualification for the Feb. 19-21 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala. At the end of the season, the WBT pro with the most points will earn the title and a spot in the 2010 Classic. She will follow in the footsteps of Kim Bain-Moore of Alabaster, Ala., who as the 2008 AOY competed in the 2009 Classic, the first woman to qualify for the prestigious competition.

Right now, first in line for the Classic spot is the winner of the season opener, Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga. She, of course, would have to hold her lead in the points race throughout the three remaining regular-season events and the WBT Championship, set for Oct. 16-18 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

Ouachita River fishing might prove to be good practice for those who make it to the championship. The Ouachita and Red rivers are similar in that access to bass-rich waters is controlled by water level.

Two weeks before the tournament's start, WBT pro Meta Burrell of Fort Worth, Texas, said the water was high enough to reach some of the best spots.

"The water's up so you can get up into some backwater holes now," said Burrell, "and you can get back into the creeks. There's a lot of structure, like cypress trees, and there's buckgrass. You can get into some clear water or you can get into some black water."

She said she caught good numbers of largemouth bass during pre-practice.

"There's so much structure to fish here, so many cypress trees, I love it," she said. "There's going to be a pattern here for everybody — flip cypress trees all day, run a spinnerbait through — whatever you want, you can do that here."

She predicted the winner will have to bring in 10 to 15 pounds a day.

Lila Bass, a WBT pro from Austin, Texas, has not been to the Ouachita to practice, but she has done her homework on the river conditions, which includes monitoring water levels at NOAA Web sites.

"The spawn likely will be over, and the bass will be ready to eat when the tournament starts," Bass said. "It will be an issue of trying to look like food. With the water higher, we'll be able to get to better spots. There's a lot of backwaters, like on the Red River — and lots of stumps. It's definitely a good haven for bass."

Bass predicted 9 to 10 pounds a day will be needed to make the final-day, top-20 cut.

"I think there will be a lot of fish weighed in. Those with the 3- and 4-pounder kickers will win it."

Fans are invited to attend the daily launches Thursday through Saturday at 7:15 a.m. CT at Lazarre Park at Hamilton and Thompson streets in West Monroe, La., and the 3:30 p.m. daily weigh-ins at the Academy Sports + Outdoors store at 111 Constitution Drive in West Monroe. Fans can meet and talk with the WBT anglers Wednesday, April 22, at the Academy store. All events are free and open to the public.

The local sponsor of the Women's Bassmaster Tour stop on the Ouachita River is the Monroe-West Monroe Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Sponsors of the Women's Bassmaster Tour: Academy Sports + Outdoors, Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats and Yamaha Marine, Ramada,Triton Boats, LaserLure and Legend Boats.