Ryan Lavigne Of Louisiana Leads B.A.S.S. Nation Championship On Lake Conroe
CONROE, Texas —

As a nonboater, Ryan Lavigne of Gonzales, La., was not expecting to be leading the entire tournament at the end of the second day at the 2016 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan on Lake Conroe. But when he brought in a 22-pound, 5-ounce five-bass limit on Friday, that’s exactly what happened.


Lavigne also won the title of Nonboater Champion, by being the top nonboater at the end of Day 2.

He will win paid entry into the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens division of his choice, a Skeeter/Yamaha boat package with a Minn Kota trolling motor and Humminbird electronics, and a spot as a marshal in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

However, he won’t be able to serve as a marshal if he is in the Top 3 at the end of Saturday because he’ll be in his own boat as a competitor in the Classic. That honor goes to the best three competitors in the Nation Championship.

“I’ve wanted to go to the Classic since my old man took me fishing when I was 6 years old,” said Lavigne, a member of Louisiana’s Ascension Area Anglers. “I’m going out tomorrow to make the Classic and that’s it.”

Lavigne brought in the biggest limit of the tournament so far, almost double the weight of his Day 1 bag (11-14). He won the nonboater division by 13 pounds; his closest competitor was the Day 1 nonboater leader, Rick Hamer of West Virginia.

Lavigne worked with his boater partner, Naoaki Ishikawa of Japan, to come up with the best places to fish.

“I offered areas, and he decided to try them,” said Lavigne. Ishikawa, however, came in fishless.

The top angler on the boater side is Timothy Klinger of Boulder City, Nev., who has 27 pounds, 11 ounces to his credit. Just behind him is Jason Vaughn of Laurel, Del., who has 26-11.

Klinger’s ambitions are similar to Lavigne’s: He wants that Classic berth.

“This lake is fun,” Klinger said. “I would sure like to be here in March!”

The Classic is scheduled for this same body of water, Lake Conroe, March 24-26, 2017.

Klinger brought in 14-4 on Day 2, including the big bass in the boater division, a 6-pound, 13-ounce bass. On the nonboater side, Michael Lebsack of Duluth, Minn., caught the biggest bass of the day, a 7-3, which tied the biggest bass from Thursday.

Lavigne said he’s not sure what he’s going to do on Saturday on Lake Conroe. On Thursday, he stuck to fishing hard cover in 2 to 6 feet of water. On Friday, he continued doing that, but he also added in some rocks and docks. And he was all over the lake.

“I fished everywhere, from the top of the lake to the bottom,” said Lavigne.

Several anglers tried that tactic today, whereas others stuck to places they had tried to fish in Thursday but hadn’t had success because of the wind. Still, 27 anglers had zeroes on Friday, compared to 41 on Thursday. Many have not had a hard time catching bass; their difficulty is in catching ones that are at least 16 inches, the legal minimum.

The weather on Friday was much calmer in the morning than it was on the first day. However, around noon, a cold front blew in, knocked the temperature down, produced some rain and cloud cover and picked up the wind again.

Saturday will present new challenges. The high is forecast to be 63 degrees, down nearly 20 degrees from Friday, and the skies will be clear.

Only the Top 10 boaters will join the top nonboater, Lavigne, on Saturday. The Top 10 are Timothy Klinger of Nevada; Jason Vaughn, Delaware; JJ Dickens, West Virginia; Darrell Ocamica, Idaho; Michael Boggs II, Kentucky; Danny Grantham, Alabama; Brent Long, South Carolina; Andrew Sams, Maryland; Josh Ray, Arkansas; and Mike Wolfenden, Rhode Island.

The Top 3 at the end of Saturday will earn berths in the 2017 Classic, as well as paid entry into the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens series of their choice, and the B.A.S.S. Nation’s Best prize package, which is the use of a Toyota Tundra truck and a fully rigged, tournament-ready Phoenix boat for one year. A 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series berth is on the line, too.

Competition resumes Saturday from Lakeview Marina, 880 Beach Boulevard, in Conroe at 6:45 a.m. CT when the anglers take off for the final day. The weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. CT at the same place. All events are free and open to the public.

The tournament is hosted by the Conroe Convention and Visitors Bureau.