Touché POCHE

Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 02/24/2012

Story by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush - Photos by Mark Jeffreys and Matt Pangrac

Shreveport, LA - Friday’s fishing conditions on the first day of the Bassmaster Classic on Louisiana’s Red River closely resembled the leader board at the conclusion of the day’s weigh-in - crowded. 

Alabama’s Keith Poche, competing in his first Bassmaster Classic, led the charge by posting a limit weighing 17-13, but seven other anglers finished the day within 2-pounds of the leader. 

Sitting just a single ounce behind Poche was fellow Alabama pro Greg Vinson, who brought 17-12 to the scales on Thursday.  Dustin Wilks landed in 3rd with 16-9, and David Walker ended the day in 4th after crossing the Classic stage with 16-8.

2011 Elite Series Rookie Of the Year, Ott DeFoe, rounded out the Top 5 with a limit weighing 16-6. 

In a somewhat ironic twist, the current Top 5 anglers on the leader board in what is the most experienced Classic field in history, have fished in a combined 12 Classics, and two angler’s in the Top 5, Poche and DeFoe, are making their Classic Debuts.   David Walker, who currently sits in 4th place, is fishing in his 7th Classic (but first since 2006), Dustin Wilks is making his 6th Classic appearance, and Greg Vinson is fishing in his second Classic.  

1st Place: Keith Poche (17-13)
After a breakout season on the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series where he finished 10th in the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year standings and recorded a career best 4th place finish at Pickwick Lake, Alabama’s Keith Poche started his 2012 campaign off on the right foot.  With a Top 12 finish in the first Bassmaster Southern Open of the season, the third year pro entered the Classic with momentum and an abundance of nervous energy.

Starting the day in an area that produced several small keeper bites during practice, Poche admitted that his first order of business on Friday morning was to just put a few bass in his livewell before moving on to greener pastures.  As it turned out, he had drastically underestimated the quality of bass living in the area. 

Keith Poche

“I really went there just to make one quick stop and get a quick limit because there were some small fish in there,” he explained. “Heck, the big fish just moved in and it was ‘game on.’  I ended up staying there all day.”

As the day progressed, Poche was unaware that he was putting together a tournament-leading stringer.  “I didn’t know that I had almost 18-pounds,” he explained.  “I thought that I just had a bunch of two-pounders, but they were all chunks.”

In a tightly contested tournament where capitalizing on each quality bite is crucial, Poche’s 6-13 kicker, which bit around noon, ultimately pushed him over the top and into the Classic spotlight.  “That big fish really helped out a lot,” he stated. Throughout the day, Poche said that more fish began entering his area and became active. 

Keith PocheWith the tournament lead and a newfound confidence in his area, Poche is optimistic that he could be sitting on enough fish to make things interesting by the time Sunday rolls around.  “I think that I can go in there and catch the smaller fish, because I caught a ton of fish.  I probably caught 20-some fish today,” he explained.  “I had a couple key fish come unbuttoned that were between 3- and 4-pounds, so the potential is in there.”

While the majority of other angler’s in the Top 10 are sharing water with fellow competitors, Poche said that he had the area all to himself, with the exception of one other angler who fished through the area with about an hour left in the day.  “Hopefully, I’ll start off in there by myself again,” he said with a laugh.  “It might take me a little while to go to sleep tonight, but hey, I’m leading the Bassmaster Classic and this is an awesome time.  I never thought that I’d be leading. We’ve still got two more days of fishing, so we’re just going to go out tomorrow and make the most of it.” 

With temperatures expected to drop Thursday night into Friday morning, Poche is well aware of the fact that it could be an uphill climb the rest of the way.  “I don’t know how far (the weather) is going to bring the fish out tomorrow.  I know that it’s going to get down into the 30s, but I don’t think (the fish) are going to leave.  I still think that they’re going to be there, but I just don’t know how active they’re going to be.  They may be a little tougher to catch,” he explained. 

“On a river, anything can happen.  Some of your best fishermen can struggle because it takes so much time to idle back into an area.  You’re banking on one little spot and something can go wrong.  You really don’t know until you get there.  That’s just how it is,” Poche concluded. 

2nd Place: Greg Vinson (17-12)
Finishing the first day of Classic competition just a single ounce behind tournament leader and good friend, Keith Poche, Alabama’s Greg Vinson couldn’t be in better position to make a weekend charge in Shreveport.

“You can make up a single ounce in a hurry, and it may actually take a little bit of the pressure off of me,” he explained after the weigh-in had concluded.  “I’d rather be behind by 1-ounce today and ahead by 1-ounce on Sunday. In the end, this is going to come down to who has the best area and who makes the right adjustments when things change.” 

Like Poche, Vinson stated that he spent his day in an area void of fellow competitors.  “If I was fishing in a crowd, I’d be really worried about other boats and having to share fish.  Being that I didn’t see but one other boat in there today, I think that it will hold up.”

Greg Vinson

Fishing in a protected area, Vinson said that the location of his primary water played to his advantage on Friday.  “It’s protected just about from all sides, and that’s been nice because we’ve had the wind change back and forth from north to south all day,” he explained. 

While Poche was surprised with the quality fish that he caught, Vinson stated that, based on his practice, he expected to connect with quality.  “I spent two of my four practice days in this particular area,” he said.  “They were a little finicky, but everything is there that the fish need, and that’s why I think they’re holding in there and not leaving.  My area actually expanded today because of the weather and clean water.  With the warm nights, the water temperatures are as warm as they’ve been all week.

“I feel like I understand what’s going on, and I feel like I can make adjustments.  It’s really going to come down to how many quality fish are in there.  That’s something that only time will tell.”

3rd Place: Dustin Wilks (16-9)
After a less than stellar practice, North Carolina pro Dustin Wilks was pleasantly surprised with how Day One of the 2012 Bassmaster Classic unfolded.  Basing his strategy on the theory that his areas could only get better, Wilks was able to put things together as the day progressed, and now finds himself sitting in 3rd place headed into Day Two.

Dustin Wilks

“I had a horrible practice, but I had a really good feeling about a particular area that I had looked at last week.  I think I only had two bites there in practice, but knew the area had the potential to be really good if everything lined up the right way.  I won’t say I was shocked by what happened today, but I really wasn’t expecting it either,” said Wilks.

Deciding to stay close and maximize his fishing time, Wilks has chosen to commit to Pool 5, and with that decision comes the reality of fishing in close proximity to many of his fellow competitors.  “I’ve got a bunch of company in the area I am fishing, and it is an absolute zoo in there. I just caught as many fish as I could catch today because the place is getting so much pressure.  I just really don’t know if the area can hold up under so much pressure, even though it has all the right ingredients to be the right type of deal.”

Wilks plans to stick by his guns and roll the dice on his primary area once again on Saturday, if for no other reason than necessity.  “If I had a plan B, I probably wouldn’t even go back there in the morning, but I literally don’t know where else to go.  If I go there tomorrow and things aren’t happening I guess I will just go run some new water and wing it,” Wilks concluded.

4th Place: David Walker (16-8)
Tennessee pro, David Walker, is making the most of his first Classic appearance since 2006.  Walker is making the long run to Pool 4 to avoid the crowds, and the gamble paid off in a big way on day one of the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.

“I’m making a long run and am sacrificing some fishing time, but I am really happy with what I was able to do today.  I ended up catching about a dozen keepers today, and the bite was pretty steady all day long.  I lost a few fish today, but when you are fishing around heavy cover you just have to get used to that sort of thing.  I only had one other boat in my area, but after that I had it all to myself.”

David Walker

The Classic  is a marathon and not a sprint, and Walker knows that a good start is great, but that he’ s going to have to be consistent each day to hoist the trophy on Sunday.  “I can’t get caught up in what I did today.  All I can do is just go out and try to keep myself in position and fish solid tomorrow, and then I can look at where I am going in to day 3.  I don’t even care where I am at right now, it is all about where I am at the end of the tournament on Sunday,” Walker said.

While other anglers seem concerned about the possible changing weather conditions, Walker has chosen to take that mental variable out of the equation and is just taking it day by day.  “Cold fronts are just a part of fishing in the early spring, and for me to sit here and make excuses about why I might not catch them before I even go fishing is just a bad idea.  I’m just going to go out tomorrow and follow my same game plan.  This river is a place where you really cannot move around a lot and fish a pattern, it is notorious for being a place where you have to fish a specific spot.  I really feel like my spot has the potential to hold up and produce what I need if I can make the right adjustments and fish well.”

5th Place: Ott DeFoe (16-6)
Still carrying the momentum from his 2011 Rookie Of the Year title and Toyota Tundra All Star week victory, Ott DeFoe finds himself in a familiar position, near the top of the leader board, after day one of the Bassmaster Classic.  Fishing close and battling the crowds worked out for Ott on day one, and he doesn’t plan on changing the program for day two.

Ott DeFoe

“I stayed close today and shared my water with a lot of other guys.  I’m really not too concerned about it, because I think I am doing something a little bit different than the other guys and have confidence that I can catch them again tomorrow,” said DeFoe.

Expecting his bite to fall off due to the clear conditions and high skies that are predicted for Saturday, Defoe is banking on some subtle details that he figured out about his primary area to weather the storm.  “I think the fish in my area are resident fish that live there, and they are use to the changing conditions that are frequent on this river.  I feel like I learned a lot about the area during practice and really think that I can have another good day tomorrow if things go my way,” Defoe concluded.

Chris LaneT6th Place: Chris Lane (16-4)
“There was one pond that three of us went into.  It was like NASCAR in there.  We were literally three wide on our trolling motors bumping each other and slamming into logs and stumps. The two other guys in there today were first –class acts – Marty Robinson and John Crews.

“I was fortunate enough to get a big bite and all three of us caught a limit out of the area.  We all had a good time in there and worked it out.  As the day went on, I ran some new water and culled with a 4-pounder.

“I lost the first two fish that bit, and I decided that I had to sit back, take a break, and regroup.” 

T6th Place: Bobby Lane (16-4)
“I made a run down to Pool Four today and really feel like it was the right decision for me.  I plan on going back to the same area tomorrow, but know that with the weather changing, I am going to have to make some adjustments.  I feel confident because I know the right fish are there.

“I probably caught about 30 or 40 keepers today from my area, and Greg Vinson was also in the vicinity, so I know it is the right deal.  I actually feel like some of the fish I was on in practice moved to the area that he was fishing, but I have some really good pre-spawn stuff that some big fish are holding on. The potential is there for a really good bag. 

“I didn’t have any other anglers directly in my area, so I don’t expect crowding to be an issue.  I had a limit in nine-minutes this morning, but lost a big one that hurt me a little.  If I wouldn’t have lost that big one, I probably could have had enough to be leading this deal.”

Jamie Horton9th Place: Jamie Horton (14-15)
“I caught a 5-pounder late in the day, so that sort of made my day and I was able to exceed my expectations.  I ended up getting seven bites today, and caught all of them so execution wise it was a good day.

“I’m not making a very long run, and am staying pretty close to maximize my fishing time.  My area wasn’t really too crowded and I was able to have one little corner all to myself and work it over pretty good.  I plan on going to the same area tomorrow, and hopefully I will still have that same area to myself again.  I think the weather change may switch things up a little, so I am expecting to have to make some adjustments in order to do well again.”

10th Place: Bill Lowen (14-13)
“I’m happy with today, but I would have liked to have had a little better weight based on what I had seen in practice. That north wind that blew today was the absolute worst thing that could have happened to my area. It really muddied up some of the key spots.

Bill Lowen

“It was cold in practice and I was catching them really well, so hopefully this cold weather will help my area.  I am making about a 50-mile run, so I am committed to my spot and know that the quality is there to make up some ground and have a shot at winning this thing.”

11th Place: Terry Scroggins (14-8)
“I lost a few key fish today and that really hurt me.  One of them was about a 6-pounder that came off on a crankbait.   There were a few other boats in my area that made it a little tight, but that’s just the nature of fishing the Red River. Everyone is looking for the cleaner water and there isn’t that much of it right now.

“I stayed in Pool Five today and plan on doing the same thing tomorrow.  I really wish it would just go ahead and get cold so the fish could settle down and put them where I want them to be instead of spreading them out.  I’m happy with what I had today, but it is always a little disappointing when you lose the fish that could have you in the lead.  I’m going to start in the same area tomorrow, but have some other water that I may go fish depending on how the day unfolds.”

14th Place: Aaron Martens (13-14)
“There are ten other guys fishing in the same area with me, and it just isn’t going to hold up under that type of pressure. If one of us could have had the area to ourselves then it would be a different story.  This is going to be a tournament that is going to be all about adjustments for me. If I make the right adjustments and the water will clean up in some of my best areas, then I think the potential is there for some good weight.

“Today was one of my top ten worst days on the water ever.  I missed like eight or 10 fish this morning, and I set the hook on like a 3-pounder and somehow caught my finger in the handle against the reel and hurt my thumb really bad and lost the fish.  I just had that feeling all day that nothing was going right. I actually hit myself in the forehead with a bass today.  It felt like it hit me at about 45 MPH.”

T19th Place: Marty Robinson (12-8)
“My day kind of went as planned.  I had an area where I thought I could catch five pretty quickly and calm the nerves.  That’s what I ended up doing.  I probably won’t go there tomorrow and go with a totally different strategy.

Marty Robinson

“It’s overwhelming, but you can’t let the nerves take control of your body.  Catching a few quickly really lightens the load for the rest of the day.”

27th Place: Kevin VanDam (11-0)
“I’ve got a lot of confidence because nobody is out of it.  I had a pretty decent practice.  I just dug myself a little bit of a hole this morning.  It’s just so hard to move and change locations here.  That’s the big challenge.

“I really didn’t have much go my way today, but at least I had the bites.  If I went out there and didn’t get any bites, then I’d be really concerned.  I had plenty of bites and I’m looking forward to giving them another shot.

Kevin VanDam

“I knew that this front would affect the fish, but I think the wind was bigger factor than the front itself.  You just have to idle a long ways to get to the best water.  If you go back there and find out that the wind has muddied it up, then it’s a long idle back out.  I spent a lot of time in dead water.

“Tomorrow is going to be completely different, and I think that you’ll see the leader board really change.”

31st Place: Mike Iaconelli (10-7)
“I am surprised I didn’t get any female bites today. They are there, but all I could catch were smaller fish.  I have been fishing a long time and it still baffles me how you can catch 14 fish and not have any big ones when you know they are in there.  I really don’t see the point in going back to the same place and catching 10-pounds again, so I will probably make the run down to Pool Three in the morning.”

34th Place: Jeff Kriet (10-6)
“I am really disappointed in how things turned out today. I really thought I could have caught 15-pounds or better today, but it just didn’t happen.  The area was crowded, and that didn’t help, but honestly I just fished really poor today. I lost several 3-pounders that would have had me right in the thick of things.”

49th Place: Brandon Palaniuk (0-0)
“I stayed in Pool Five today, but with the way things went I may run all the way down to Pool Three tomorrow just to give myself a chance to fish on Sunday.  I’m going to get on Google Earth when I get back to the room and just look at some stuff and go fishing.  I turned right and everyone else turned left.  It was just one of those days.”



PlaceNameDay 1Total FishTotal Weight
1 Keith Poche 5 17-13 5 17-13
2 Greg Vinson 5 17-12 5 17-12
3 Dustin Wilks 5 16- 9 5 16- 9
4 David Walker 5 16- 8 5 16- 8
5 Ott DeFoe 5 16- 6 5 16- 6
6 Chris Lane 5 16- 4 5 16- 4
6 Bobby Lane 5 16- 4 5 16- 4
8 Edwin Evers 5 16- 3 5 16- 3
9 Jamie Horton 5 14-15 5 14-15
10 Bill Lowen 5 14-13 5 14-13
11 Matt Reed 5 14- 8 5 14- 8
11 Terry Scroggins 5 14- 8 5 14- 8
13 Greg Hackney 5 13-15 5 13-15
14 Aaron Martens 5 13-14 5 13-14
14 Takahiro Omori 5 13-14 5 13-14
16 Alton Jones 5 13-13 5 13-13
17 Keith Combs 5 13- 9 5 13- 9
18 Davy Hite 5 13- 8 5 13- 8
19 Marty Robinson 5 12- 8 5 12- 8
19 Andrew Upshaw 5 12- 8 5 12- 8
21 John Crews 5 11-15 5 11-15
21 Stephen Kennedy 5 11-15 5 11-15
23 Brent Chapman 5 11-14 5 11-14
24 Randy Howell 5 11-11 5 11-11
25 Stephen Browning 5 11- 3 5 11- 3
25 Josh Polfer 5 11- 3 5 11- 3
27 Kevin VanDam 5 11- 0 5 11- 0
28 Allan Glasgow 5 10-15 5 10-15
29 Timmy Horton 5 10-11 5 10-11
30 Fred Roumbanis 5 10-10 5 10-10
31 Michael Iaconelli 5 10- 7 5 10- 7
31 Tom Jessop 5 10- 7 5 10- 7
31 Chris Price 5 10- 7 5 10- 7
34 Jeff Kriet 5 10- 6 5 10- 6
35 Fletcher Shryock 5 10- 3 5 10- 3
36 Ishama Monroe 5 9-10 5 9-10
37 Todd Faircloth 5 9- 9 5 9- 9
38 Kevin Wirth 4 8-15 4 8-15
39 Denny Brauer 3 8-13 3 8-13
40 Gerald Swindle 5 8-12 5 8-12
41 John Diaco 4 6-12 4 6-12
42 Jared Lintner 3 6- 8 3 6- 8
43 Dean Rojas 2 6- 0 2 6- 0
44 Mark Tucker 2 5- 7 2 5- 7
45 Shaw E Grigsby 2 4- 5 2 4- 5
46 Matt McCoy 1 1-14 1 1-14
47 Kelly Pratt 1 1-13 1 1-13
48 Casey Ashley 1 1-11 1 1-11
49 Brandon Palaniuk     0 0- 0