From the drive-through weigh-in to the helicopter circling overhead early in the morning, rookie Keith Poche was still riding high from his first Elite Series Top 12 finish.
"I almost can't believe it," Poche said. "I didn't think I was going to be able to make it after weighing only 14 pounds yesterday."
The last few tournaments have been all about the rookies. Poche and fellow first-year Matt Greenblatt made the final day here at Kentucky Lake and Cliff Crochet finished second at Clarks Hill.
Crochet, also from Louisiana, stayed around for the weigh-in to support Poche.
"We feed off each other," Crochet said. "This is normally how it goes: Keith gets on something early in practice and I'm crying."
"I can't believe how much he cries — like a teddy bear," Poche interjected.
The two rookies from Cajun country have been having a blast on their first Elite Series season, and Poche has given himself momentum with one regular-season event remaining.
"I feel like I can catch them again," Poche said. "Now this gives me confidence — it's a big confidence boost. Ending the season with momentum is big. This Top 12 finish is going to help my career and hopefully it will help with sponsors."
Poche ultimately finished in 12th place in the event with a total weight of 65 pounds, 11 ounces.
With his first top-12 finish of the year under his belt, Scott Rook was a happy man after the final day of competition on Kentucky Lake Saturday. With a total of 67 pounds, 2 ounces, Rook finished in 11th place and earned valuable Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points.
"This will put me up in the points good so I can go to Oklahoma and relax," Rook said.
Even though Rook is a known Arkansas River angler, the water near his Little Rock home is notably different than what can be found in Muskogee, Okla.
"It's totally different from what we fish back home," Rook said. "It's got a lot of unproductive water, so I think it will fish small, despite having so many miles of water available to us. I don't like to lock because back home, barge traffic will get you every time. There's a chance it could even cost some guys the Classic."
Those are the risks anglers take when locking, but Rook should be able to find something that fits his style. Of course, river fishing means more difficult navigation, which should keep the service crews busy.
"That place has a lot of shallow water and stumps," Rook said. "There is going to be some stuff torn up there. I knocked the transducer off my trolling motor at the very first place I stopped in practice."
Kelly Jordon brought in two monster stringers on Days Two and Three, but his big fish area dried up and he only caught 10 pounds, 8 ounces on the final day, finishing in seventh place.
"They didn't bite," Jordon said. "I got a little taste of that on the first day. Yesterday, when I had a 4-, 6- and 7-pounder, that's what I thought I could do every day. I had the spot I thought I could pull it out."
His area on the south end of the lake was a big fish spot, as evidenced by the 10-pound, 1-ounce fish he boated on Day Two. He closed the gap on Kevin VanDam on Friday as well with another mid-20s bag and looked to be the biggest threat to unseat the wire-to-wire leader.
"I knew the fish were there to win the tournament," Jordon said. "I was able to get on it even with the other tournament going out there. I was catching those big fish off an area the size of the stage and it just dried up."
Looking back, Jordon had no regrets with his decision to stick with the spot that got him to the top-12.
"I was going for the win, it just didn't work out," Jordon said. "They left me standing at the altar, what can I say?"