SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. – Keith Poche is considered by more than a few to be one of the top young guns on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He had two top-10 finishes on the circuit in 2011 and then, in 2012, he finished third in the Bassmaster Classic and collected a handsome $42,500 in that event alone.
That Classic was held right here on the Red River – the same site of the 2013 Bass Pro Shops Central Open which started Thursday.
But when Poche arrived at the Red River South Marina Thursday morning, he wasn’t launching his usual FX Skeeter 20 with the Yamaha 250 motor on the back. No, Poche was in a 17 ½ foot aluminum boat with an 88 Evinrude powering it. It was a rig he borrowed from his uncle for this tournament, and this tournament alone.
He said it had to do with one simple inch of clearance he needed to reach a secluded spot way down river that might have held the keepers he sought. From the launch, Poche said the spot is a two-hour run – one way.
“I was just trying to get in a tight, narrow spot,” Poche said. “(It was) a pipe actually. I hadn’t really fished it (before.) I went on instinct and went in there and they were there. I had a four pounder. I lost some good fish. I hadn’t practiced there, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had some missed opportunities. But I think if I can get back down there tomorrow, it might be game on.”
That might be problematic, however. Poche said his uncle’s borrowed ride began giving him trouble later in the day, which eventually led to him having to get a ride to the weigh-in with another boater. That was, however, after he caught a five-fish limit of 10 pounds, 10 ounces, which puts him in 46th place heading into Friday’s competition. He had one dead fish in that limit, which cost him a slight deduction in weight.
“(My uncle’s boat) didn’t’ run as good as it needed to today,” said Poche, who was born and raised in nearby Natchitoches before moving to Alabama when in college. “I had to stop and clean the sparkplugs and it broke down on me about two miles before I got in today.”
If his uncle’s boat can’t run on Friday, Poche said he’ll return to the trusty boat and motor that has helped establish his presence on the Elite Series. But right now, he’s more worried about winning the first Central Open of the year.
And he said whichever boat he’s in, he won’t be fishing the spot that helped him to the third place finish in the 2012 Classic.
“When you almost win a Bassmaster Classic, people tend to go check it out,” Poche said of the pressure on the spot that nearly won him the sport’s most prestigious tournament last year. “And of course, I went and checked it out, and there’s some decent fish in there, but it just wasn’t set up the way I wanted it to be. So I elected to do something different.
“I’m trying to find untouched water right now….I found it and I’ve just got to go out and execute. I have to put them in the boat. There was a possibility of me having 16 or 17 pounds today….But I feel like I should be able to go in there tomorrow and catch them and make a run for the top.”