Keith Poche of Troy, Ala., fished for fun as a kid growing up in Louisiana, but he was an adult before he ever thought about becoming a pro angler.
Poche (pronounced “Poe-shay”) is one of the newest additions to the rookie roster of the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series. He moved up to the Elite level through the Bassmaster Southern Open circuit by earning the No. 6 spot in the 2009 Open points standings.
“I had just turned 22 when I realized what bass tournaments were all about and that’s when I focused on fishing and decided I wanted to pursue it as a career,” said Poche, now 28.
He was a 20-year-old college student in his hometown of Natchitoches, La., when he transferred to Troy University in southern Alabama to play football as a running back. His career goal was to become a surveyor. During his second football season, a left shoulder injury put an end to his days on the field. After surgery, he had to wear a sling for six months.
Without football in his life, Poche filled his spare hours fishing local lakes from a small aluminum boat trailered in from Louisiana. His left arm pinned to his chest by the sling, he cast with his right arm (he’s right-handed), then switched the rod to his left hand. He reeled with his right. (Hook-sets were finessed.)
One day in the summer of 2003, another angler invited Poche to participate in a local bass tournament.
“That’s when my fishing took off,” Poche said, marking the day as the origin of his fishing career. “Before that, I didn’t even know what a tournament was. It’s like I fell in love with it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
One tournament led to another. In 2005-2006, he entered the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series operated by American Bass Anglers. He competed in other circuits. By 2008, he had moved up to Bassmaster Southern Open events.
His two 2008 Open finishes of 130th and 176th did not discourage him. He pushed on. In 2009 he entered both the Central and Southern Open trails.
“It’s like I figured something out,” he said. “I really can’t explain it, but I just put it all together this past year. It might be a confidence thing. I feel more comfortable out on the water.”
Poche said he made friends with several Elite pros who were also competing on the Bassmaster Open trail.
“They’ve kind of coached me, told me what the Elites are all about, the kinds of things to expect in competing at that level,” he said. “I’ve asked a lot of questions. I feel joining the Elites is right for me now. I’m not married, I don’t have children — the opportunity is here now, it’s the right time to do it.”
Fishing is his career, but when he’s not competing, he will continue with his job as an independent contractor for a home-improvement retailer, using skills he picked up at summer jobs in Louisiana. Meanwhile, he’s working on building a sponsor base and securing a boat wrap deal for his rookie season.
The 2010 eight-event regular season will begin with the March 11-14 Duel in the Delta out of Stockton, Calif. To hear him talk, it’s hard to believe Poche was ever this pumped for a gridiron kickoff.
“I’m so ready to get to the fishing, I can’t wait,” he said. “I worked so hard for this. I think I’m the luckiest man there is.”
TOP BASS STORIES OF 2008: BASS and its Bassmaster Tournament Trail made the headlines time after time in 2009. The five biggest stories (OK, arguably the top five) in tournament bass fishing of the 2009 competition season included:
* REESE MASTERS CLASSIC: Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., the 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, added the sport’s other top title to his resume by winning the 2009 Bassmaster Classic in February on the Red River. With the victory, Reese became the first West Coast angler to score a Classic title.
The victory in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., earned Reese membership in very select group. Other current Bassmaster Elite Series pros who own both titles are Missouri’s Denny Brauer and Rick Clunn; Arkansas’ Mark Davis; South Carolina’s Davy Hite; New Jersey’s Michael Iaconelli; and Michigan’s Kevin VanDam, a five-time AOY winner (see below).
Davis was the only one to earn both titles in one year, 1995. He was also AOY in 1998 and 2001. The Classic also garnered significant attention for its record-shattering crowds. More than 137,000 people attended some facet of the event, besting the old attendance record by more than 50,000.
* CLASSIC WOMEN: As the 2008 Toyota Tundra Woman’s Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Kim Bain-Moore of Alabaster, Ala., became the first woman to compete in the 2009 Bassmaster Classic. Bain-Moore received non-stop media coverage as the first female Classic competitor (CBS Evening News, Los Angeles Times, USA Today among others), boosting the profile of women in the sport as well as of the sport in general.
Later in 2009, Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., qualified to be the second woman to compete in a Classic when she earned 2009 AOY honors in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women’s Tour. Martin-Wells will appear in the Feb. 19-21 Classic on Lay Lake, with weigh-ins and other activities in Birmingham, Ala.
* MARSHALED IN: The ground-breaking Bassmaster Elite Series Marshal Program was a huge success with both Bassmaster Elite Series pros and Bassmaster fishing fans. The program allowed a fan, for a fee of $100, to ride in the boat during a competition day with an Elite angler as a learning experience. For the first season, the Elite pro had the water to himself; no co-anglers shared the fish or the water.
* POST-SEASON PHENOM: For the first time in 2009, the Bassmaster Elite Series season was divided into eight regular-season events and two post-season events. The format showcased neck-in-neck race for the coveted Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year crown and $200,000 top prize, won by…
* KEVIN VANDAM: In 2009, angling superstar KVD of Kalamazoo, Mich., added a fifth and second consecutive AOY title (1992, 1996, 1999, 2008, 2009).
The standing record is nine AOY titles. It is held by retired pro Roland Martin, whose last was in 1985. In modern times, no one comes close to VanDam’s AOY record.
CHECK: “We play such a mental sport. … I like to call it ‘water chess.’” — Boyd Duckett, 2007 Classic champ on Lay Lake, site of the 2010 Classic, Feb. 19-21, during an interview on The BASS Reporters (http://sports.espn.go.com/espnradio/player?context=podcast&id=4700499)
For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and its expansive tournament structure while championing efforts to connect directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.
As the flagship offering of ESPN Outdoors, the Bassmaster brand and its considerable multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer; comprehensive Web properties in Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com, ESPNOutdoors.com and ESPN360.com, and ESPN2 television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle.
BASS oversees the prestigious Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women’s Tour, BASS Federation Nation and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.
BASS offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
Media Contact: Doug Grassian, 407-566-2216 or firstname.lastname@example.org