SHREVEPORT, La. — Keith Poche spent Tuesday on his knees. This marks 30-year-old Poche’s first Bassmaster Classic appearance, and he is looking for some Divine Guidance.
“I’m scared as hell,” Poche said. “I was in my room, on my knees, praying. I’m just getting my thoughts together, really.”
The Bassmaster Classic begins Friday on the Red River. There was no practice time allowed Tuesday. The 49 qualifiers will get a half-day on the water Wednesday to put the finishing touches on a game plan formed during three days of practice that concluded Sunday.
Poche (pronounced “POE-shay”) grew up in Natchitoches, La., about 75 miles south of here, but he isn’t considered a local favorite. He qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series last year and easily qualified for this Classic through the season-long Elite Series point standings.
“I’ve got confidence in myself that I can catch them,” Poche said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have confidence.
“But I’m kind of worried. I’m a little bit nervous.”
Ott DeFoe, on the other hand, doesn’t think about anything but the immediate task. The Knoxville, Tenn., angler who won last year’s Toyota Tundra Rookie of the Year award, spent the day thinking about his kids, not bass fishing.
DeFoe said it was “my turn” when one of his twins, Parker, woke up at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday not feeling well.
“I held him and kind of rocked him until about eight o’clock,” DeFoe said.
DeFoe attended a required meeting for Classic competitors at the Hilton Hotel at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Then DeFoe went back to the Red River Marina campground, where he and his wife, Jennie, and the twins are staying in their camper this week. Upon his arrival, the family took a long walk.
“I don’t get nervous,” DeFoe said. “I just kind of leave it in God’s hands and go with it.”
It’s that level-headed approach, which DeFoe exhibited throughout the 2011 Elite Series schedule, that has put him on the short list of favorites here, even though DeFoe is fishing in his first Classic.
Taking care of kids was a common theme Tuesday. Chris Lane of Guntersville, Fla., and his wife, Holly, had their fourth child four months ago. Chris took care of the newcomer Tuesday morning while Holly took the oldest kids with her for some exercise. Then Chris joined his brother, Bobby, who is also competing here this week, for lunch. Chris said he didn’t think much about bass fishing on Tuesday.
“I think this tournament is going to depend solely on the decisions that are made each day, not so much an area or a spot,” said Lane, who is fishing in his second Classic. “The guy that makes the right decisions — to move or to stay — that’s going to be the key.”
Bill Lowen picked up his wife, Jennifer, and their two kids at the airport Tuesday morning. He spent most of the day entertaining their newborn son, who arrived on February 1.
“Practice has been really kind of tough,” Lowen said of the three-day, Friday-Sunday practice period on the Red River. “I’m sure somebody has fished through the winning fish in practice. I wish we had a full day (Wednesday), but it is what it is.”
Lowen and the rest of the Classic field will be allowed only a half-day of practice Wednesday.
Fletcher Shryock of Newcomerstown, Ohio, thought of nothing but bass fishing Tuesday. Shryock, 27, qualified for his first Classic by winning the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open last year on North Carolina’s Lake Norman.
“I really worked on my game plan,” Shryock said of his day. “I’ve been looking at Google Earth, I’ve got Post-It notes all over the place, I’m just trying to figure it out. If I don’t do well, it isn’t going to be from a lack of trying.”
Shryock said he has been surprised by the number of people aware of the Classic here. But performing in front of a crowd hasn’t been a problem for him. Shryock competed in the Motocross National and Super Motocross motorcyle racing series before he dedicated himself to bass tournament fishing.
“I qualified for a Super ‘Cross main event in Toronto that was in front of 72,000 people,” he said. “This is definitely a huge event, but I’m kind of used to what’s going on here.
“I just really want to do good in this tournament. I’ve wracked my brain today trying to figure out how to pull this off.”