In the days of big, shiny bass boats that routinely cost north of $100,000 fully-rigged, a breath of fresh air (and hope for those of us whose budget would never include a six-figure boat) came from Keith Poche last week in the MLF Bass Pro Tour on Cherokee Lake, Tennessee.
While Poche's aluminum boat could hardly be described as a "beater", it's a far cry from the big, sleek and very fast fiberglass and carbon fiber wonders most top pros ride today. No heated seats, no heated steering wheel, no 250-hp outboard to jet it at better than 70 mph to distant locations. And it rides on a bottom that's not scared of rocks, period.
After spending two grueling days running over an hour up the river before making his first cast, Poche weighed a five-bass limit in the finale totaling 19 pounds, 2 ounces to earn his first Bass Pro Tour win and the top award of $100,000 at the Major League Fishing (MLF) competition on Cherokee Lake. Poche’s two-day total of 10 bass weighing 35-6 earned him the win by a 1-pound, 1-ounce margin over the second-place finisher.
Poche worked his way back and forth below the bottom of the spillway, casting a 4” Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly on a 3/8 ounce jig head into the boiling water and letting the current carry it to smallmouth (and occasional largemouth) holding just below.
“Fish were sitting right on the edge of that wash,” Poche said. “That water would boil back on itself, and made a little bit of an eddy. Smallmouth like that current. I had to throw right into the wash, or just above it. If I threw it anywhere else, the current would just take it right out. I’d throw it up there and let the current move the bait – fish would come out and grab it.”
With more than an hour run to his area up by the dam both days, in a boat that tops out at 46 miles per hour, Poche said he knew he would win it or lose it in that spot.
“I caught three scorable fish in the first period, but they really turned on and started feeding in that second period,” Poche said. “When you’re fishing current, the fish typically group up, move in and feed, and then move out, so you just have to stay with them and keep casting. Eventually you’ll hit a stretch and boom – you’ll catch them one after the other.”
Poche said at the end of the day, it’s really all about putting in the work, having the right boat and knowing that eventually, it will pay off.
“The Gator Trax boat floats really shallow, so it’s great when you have to maneuver through the rocks and try not to tear anything up, but that’s just what it takes,” said Poche. “You have to get in there and get where they live. A lot of people don’t want to go the extra mile and put in the extra work to find these places off the beaten path – and they can’t always get to them in their bigger boats – but that’s my style and that’s what I look forward to.
“It was a journey, each day, but I’m so happy we got it done,” Poche continued. “To have a day like this and to beat these other fantastic anglers – it was just my week.
Several companies make affordable aluminum bass boats—I owned and loved a 17’ G3, the Yamaha brand, for years, and Bass Tracker sells thousands of their brand from the BPS empire with Merc power as well. Show up below any dam with rocky approaches on well-known bass waters and you’ll see a variety of aluminum brands in there mixing it up. Here’s the link to Gator Trax: https://gatortraxboats.com.
— Frank Sargeant