Welcome to the closest Bassmaster Classic in history. Never before have the top two anglers been separated by a single ounce. And never before have the third through eighth place anglers been separated by only six ounces. It's a tight race that almost has to take shape on Saturday.
Atop the leaderboard is 30-year-old Keith Poche, originally from Louisiana, but currently living in Pike Road, Ala. Poche is a Classic rookie, but he's not here just to have a good time. He's determined to win. His five bass weighing 17-13 lead Greg Vinson by the slimmest possible margin, one ounce.
Poche's catch was anchored by a 6-13 largemouth that was the best fish of the day for the entire field. That bass could be both a blessing and some foreshadowing. No Classic angler in his right mind would turn down a bass that weighs almost seven pounds, but it brings up the question, "Can he do it again?" Without the seven pounder, Poche is likely back in the pack — out of the top 10. Unless he can catch at least one more really good bass, he could be in trouble.
Another factor that Poche will have to deal with today is spectator traffic. He had no boats following him on Day One and shared the area with Dean Rojas, but all that will change today for two reasons — he's in the lead and he's a local favorite. Rojas is currently 43rd and completely out of the hunt. He backed away from the area he shared with Poche during practice because Poche got there first Friday morning. He'll likely relinquish it entirely to him today since Poche has a great chance to win. That helps. The spectator boats that will likely trail Poche could be a problem, though.
Greg Vinson, on the other hand, is a 34-year-old Classic veteran — if having fished one previous Classic makes you a veteran. He's only one ounce behind the leader and he has his top area all to himself. He caught five good bass — no giants, like Poche, but five solid tournament keepers. And since his productive is large, it has time to rest and recycle as he works his way around it.
Vinson will have spectator boat issues, too, but says his area is so tough to get into that it'll discourage too much company. He's happy to be the hunter rather than the hunted on Day Two.
Seven times in Classic history, the eventual champion grabbed the lead on Day One and caught the biggest bass of the day. The last to do it was Boyd Duckett in 2007. Just like Poche, Duckett was a Classic rookie.