To shake the rust out

Nearly three months after the Bassmaster Elite Series wrapped up its regular season, Keith Poche was feeling restless, itching to get back into a major competition.

He said that’s the main reason he’s competing this week in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on the Arkansas River out of Muskogee, Okla. Competition days are Sept. 8-10.

“I like this body of water,” he said. “And I haven’t fished in a big tournament in a while, and I wanted to stay in shape.”

First prize in the Central Open includes a berth in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. Poche already owns a 2012 Classic entry, earned through the regular Elite Series season by finishing 10th in points, the 30-year-old’s best season yet. So a Classic berth wasn’t a carrot.

And Poche couldn’t end up helping out fellow Elite Series pro Kelly Jordon. Jordon was the first man out of the Classic through the Elite Series points system. If Poche were to win this week’s Open, the Classic seat would not be awarded to Jordon because Poche didn’t compete in the season’s first Central Open. The rules state that an Open winner can’t claim a Classic seat unless he or she competed in all three divisional Opens of the season.

He is in Oklahoma to stretch his competition muscles, mental as well as physical. Tuesday, judging from what he saw after a few practice days, he liked the way the challenge was shaping up.

“When I first was on the water Sunday, the bite was good. Then a cold front came through from the north. But once the bass stabilize from that, I think the cooler water is going to help the bite,” he said.

He said the water level is stable and the water is relatively clear. He’s hoping for some current from generation at the dam, or from a series of barges locking through. And some wind.

“Wind will really help me, I’d be in position then to really catch them,” he said.

He estimated that 13 pounds a day could get him into a Top-12 position for the final day, Saturday.

“A lot of five-fish limits will come in, but the big ones might be hard to come by,” he added.