After Serious Injury, Jamie Laiche Gets Back to Pro Competition at Central Open Finale in Louisiana
July 29 injury almost put an end to Jamie Laiche’s bass fishing career. Ironically, it was the therapeutic effects of fishing that got the Gonzales, La., angler back into shape and competing in Bassmaster events.
Laiche will return to the Bassmaster Opens this week at the Bassmaster Central Open, Nov. 5-7 on his home waters of the Atchafalaya Basin out of Morgan City, La. However, the Open wont be his first taste of Bassmaster competition since the injury as Laiche fished in a Bassmaster Federation Nation event recently.
It’s been more than four months since Laiche incurred his freak injury, which happened while detaching a 4-by-4 plate glass mirror from a bathroom wall in his Gonzales home. As he lifted the mirror, it slipped out of his right hand, hit a vanity countertop and cracked in two. The top half of the mirror slid sideways and sliced deep into his left wrist. Laiche wrapped his bleeding arm with a towel and called 911.
Three days later he had surgery to repair a severed artery, the tendons to his thumb and middle finger and the nerves of his hand. His left arm was immobilized in a cast and after two weeks, the arm was put in a splint for another six weeks.
He was on the disabled list for weeks at his job at a chemical plant. What cut hurt Laiche was when he had to withdraw from the Sept. 3-5 Central Open on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Without a shot at earning points at Rayburn, his hopes were gone for one of the Central Open’s two 2010 Bassmaster Classic berths and for one of seven invitations to join the Bassmaster Elite Series next season. All will be awarded Nov. 7 at the circuit’s season finale.
“When the doctor told me the timeline for my recovery, and I realized I’d miss Rayburn, I was pretty distraught,” said Laiche, 34, who qualified for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic through the BASS Federation Nation. “But I had a Federation Nation fall qualifier on the Red River at the end of September. I knew if I could just make it to that, that I would be able to try to make the state team again, get some redemption for not being able to fish Rayburn.”
At stake in the Federation qualifier was his chance to advance to the Federation Central Divisional event, one more step on the road to the 2011 Classic. That’s a Classic for which he particularly wants to qualify because it will be out of New Orleans on the Louisiana Delta — more or less, that’s home water for Laiche.
Not exactly defying his doctor’s orders, but not following them to the letter, he took off his splint and ducked into his workshop. Rod in hand, he worked a few self-prescribed physical therapy exercises.
“I tried to pitch and flip a little bit, tried to get that movement back. It hurt like crazy,” he said.
Finally, he got the splint off and doc’s blessings to try fishing. Just before cutoff for the Federation event on the Red River, he put in a weekend of practice.
“It was extremely painful to hold a rod, to set the hook,” said Laiche, a left-hander who casts with his right, then switches the rod to his left hand. “I was getting kind of discouraged. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to fish the tournament.”
Back at home, he stepped up formal physical therapy sessions to three times a week. He practiced casting in his yard. His therapist and doctor were amazed at how much his injury improved in two weeks. Come tournament time, he felt good and finished third overall and second on his state team.
“So goal No. 1 is accomplished: I made the state team and I’ll go to the divisional,” he said. “Now I’m looking forward to the Open on the Atchafalaya Basin.”
His hand may never be the same. He said it is 25 percent numb, and the thumb does not have full range of motion. Overall strength of the hand isn’t what it used to be either.
“I’m not 100 percent, but my physical therapist can’t believe that I’m as far along as I am,” said Laiche, who continues with therapy treatments. “I didn’t want to tell her it is because I didn’t listen and did more than I should have.”
“The doctor told me that fishing is probably one of the best forms of physical therapy that I can do now. The movement of the wrist, casting, everything about fishing is awesome therapy.”
WEEKEND QUALIFIER: Saturday, the final three qualifiers will be determined for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.
Two will emerge from the Bassmaster Central Open circuit (see story above). The third will be the winner of the Championship event for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series operated by American Bass Anglers.
The ABA event will play out on Lake Dardanelle out of Russellville, Ark. It offers a first-place boater prize of $100,000 as well as a berth in the 2010 Classic. The top non-boater prize is $50,000.
The event’s 195 boaters and equal number of non-boaters qualified by advancing through layers of local and regional events. The full field will compete the first three days. The top 25 in each division will move on to the final day of competition Saturday.
Among the boaters on the roster are three-time Classic qualifier Jeff Coble of Manson, N.C. His first Classic qualification, in 2002, was through the Bassmaster Open circuit. His other two, in 2006 and 2008, came by winning Weekend Series Championships.
Weigh-ins are set for Dardanelle State Park at 3 p.m. CT on Nov. 4-6 and at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 7.
THE FEDERATION SIX: Six of the annual 51 Bassmaster Classic qualifiers carry the honor of being BASS Federation Nation qualifiers. For the 2010 Classic, three of those six have at least one other attribute in common.
They’re Classic repeaters.
Bryan Schmidt of Olney, Texas, Jeff Freeman of Max Meadows, Va., and Brent Long of Cornelius, N.C., made Classic appearances in, respectively, 2009, 2008 and 2007.
Of the three, Schmidt was the most successful Classic angler; he finished sixth on the Red River in February 2009. Freeman posted a 28th place finish on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell and Long, a 49th place, on Lay Lake, where the 2010 Classic will be.
The other three who qualified Oct. 30 at the 2009 Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha Outboards and Skeeter Boats in Tavares, Fla., by winning divisional honors were Randy Phillips of Oxford, Mass., who won the overall championship title as well as topped his division; Don Hogue of Pasco, Wash.; and Jody Adkins of North Canton, Ohio.
SUPER SISTERS: Sierra and Shauni Voisin of Mildmay, Ontario, possess four of the world’s hardest-to-win, not to mention most unusual, trophies.
Between them, the sisters own four Bassmaster CastingKids first-place awards.
Three of the trophies belong to 10-year-old Sierra. Her third was earned just days ago in Leesburg, Fla., at the Oct. 30 Bassmaster CastingKids National Championship in the 7-10 age division. The fourth trophy in the Voisin family was won in a previous year by Shauni.
To get them, they had to cast, pitch and flip to targets, just as they did at the local, regional and divisional competitions over the past year to qualify for the annual finals.
Shauni, who competed this year in the 11-14 age group, almost collected a first-place trophy again this year. She ended in second place after a cast-off against Jared Raymer of Brandenburg, Ky.
Raymer, like superstar Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin VanDam, said he munched on lucky cookies prior to taking his first win.
DOUBLED UP: Johnny Duarte, 14, of Middle River, Md., had quite the day on Oct. 30. He competed in the Bassmaster CastingKids Championship in Leesburg, Fla., finishing fifth, then hit nearby Lake Yale East for the Junior Bassmaster World Championship.
For Duarte, the second one was the charm. He won in his age group, 11-14, taking home the trophy for four bass that weighed 5 pounds, 0 ounces.
COOKED UP: Jake Cook of Kennewick, Wash., hauled 13 pounds, 1 ounce, from Florida’s Lake Yale East to win the 15- to 18-year-old age division of the 2009 Junior Bassmaster World Championship.
He won a Triton boat rig.
Cook’s recipe for success included dragging a crankbait over the tops of submerged trees in a deeper area that attracted bass.
NEW CHAMP: “I never thought I’d have a chance to win this event. …There are a lot of great anglers here. … I’m ecstatic.” — Randy Phillips, 2009 Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship champion and one of six Federation anglers to qualify for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic
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