With only Douglas Lake in Tennessee left to fish on the 2017 Bassmaster Northern Opens, Virginian Frank Poirier is third in the AOY standings. This lean, 60-year-old, wood-flooring distributor is poised to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series and determined to make that happen.
Poirier and his wife Rhonda live about 30 miles south of Richmond, a short drive from the James River. The historic waterway is Poirier’s bass fishing alma mater.
A military brat, Poirier started fishing in France where his father, Warren, an Army Master Sergeant, was stationed. As a tad, Poirier and his father fished French lakes that had been stocked with rainbow trout to provide recreational opportunities for the troops.
“Dad told me that when we moved back to the States we would fish for something called a bass,” Poirier said. “He kept his promise.”
When Poirier was about to enter first grade, his family, which includes his sister, Connie, moved to Virginia. They eventually settled in Hopewell.
The family’s first fishing boat was an 18-foot runabout that they often launched on the James River. Poirier claims that he never saw another boat on the James until two years after his family started fishing there. In lieu of an electric motor, Poirier’s father would sit on the bow and maneuver the boat into casting range with a paddle.
“He would paddle us around with and against the current so the rest of the family could fish,” Poirier said. “We used a lot of Hula Poppers and Jitterbugs back in those days. The fishing was phenomenal.”
At that time each angler was allowed eight bass per day. Poirier’s mother still has photos of limits of bass weighing over 3 pounds that were later food on the table.
“I’m not proud of filleting those bass, but that was before catch-and-release was a thought in anybody’s mind,” Poirier said.
It was 48 years ago that Poirier’s father bought the first bass boat in Hopewell. The “God awful ugly” orange Tidecraft tri-hull was powered by a 75 hp Evinrude. This was well before Poirier was aware of bass tournaments. He has fond memories of fishing from that boat with his father, who passed 14 years ago.
Bass tournaments became an addiction for Poirier when he was 20 years old. He had befriended a few older anglers who owned bass boats and fished tournaments. Poirier’s zeal for competitive fishing was unquenchable.
“We really thought we were something,” Poirier said. “We didn’t do well the first few years, but I was a quick study.”
To spend more time on the James and to hone his bass fishing skills, Poirier bought a 14-foot aluminum boat that sported an 18 hp outboard. A few years later he purchased a 15-foot Glasstream bass boat with a 70 hp Johnson outboard. He was soon winning tournaments regularly on the James.
“I was fortunate that I learned how to fish on a tidal river,” Poirier said. “It’s more complex and forces you to pay more attention to details and to fish in the moment. That helps me when I fish other bodies of water.”
Poirier soon expanded his horizons beyond the James River by fishing local tournament trails. He later fished the Red Man trail and has since competed in 95 FLW tournaments and 10 B.A.S.S. events, winning over $180,000.
In 1989 Bassmaster pros Woo Daves and Greg South encouraged Poirier to fish his first B.A.S.S. event, a New York Invitational on the St. Lawrence River. The Invitational format paired boater with boater. Poirier didn’t care for the inevitable confrontation regarding whose boat to use and where to start fishing.
“You had to practically arm wrestle to use your boat,” Poirier said. “I didn’t enjoy that combative attitude. The boater, non-boater concept is phenomenal by comparison.”
Given his age, Poirier is taking his tournament fishing more seriously these days.
“I don’t have 15 or 20 years left in the sport,” Poirier said. “I want to make a little noise before I decide to quit.”
Poirier loves fishing new water and against high-level competition, such as that in the Bassmaster Opens.
“My wife Rhonda is a huge supporter,” Poirier said. “She has been unbelievable through the 40 years of our adventure. Of course, none of this would be possible without Jesus Christ.”
Poirier’s sponsors are Ranger Boats, Mercury, Greentop Sporting Goods, Bagley Baits, Pure Fishing and Mare Marine.