Over the past couple of years, there’s been some controversy with a certain professional angler having an unfair advantage. Today we’ll look at this particular angler who is at the root of this controversy. He’s a guy who is not a cheater, but an angler who takes advantage of how the rules of the game are written. He’s an angler, fishing at the highest level with both B.A.S.S. and Major League Fishing, who has had a lot of success doing it his way.
The angler we’re talking about is Keith Poche. Keith was raised in Natchitoches, Louisiana, attended Natchitoches Central High School, and after graduation went on to play football at Troy State University. After a knee injury, Keith decided to walk away from football and pick up a rod and reel. Even though he grew up fishing the banks of Cane River, he decided to take his fishing to another level and pursue a career as a professional angler.
In 2014, Keith qualified to fish his first Bassmaster Classic, held on the Red River out of Shreveport, where he finished 3rd overall. To say Keith has had “a little success” is an understatement. He’s had 46 top 50 finishes, 21 top 20’s, and 7 top 10’s, with a few victories mixed in.
So, a few seasons ago, Keith made a decision to fish out of a custom-built aluminum boat that allowed him to get into areas that other anglers could not. He did not want the fully wrapped fiberglass boat that 98% of the professional anglers fish out of. But his competition was not happy with him having such an advantage with his custom boat. After several events, protests were made and there were many attempts to have him disqualified for the way he was accessing backwater areas. This special boat, built to his specifications, allowed him to gain access into backwater areas holding bass that had zero pressure and, in some cases, had never seen a bait before.
As I’ve illustrated in past articles, anglers are a fickle bunch and hate it when one guy figures something out they did not. Keith figured out quickly that this was his niche, and how he could have success without breaking any rules. Now he obviously pushes the envelope, but he never violates a written rule. Still, anglers and officials knew something had to be done to “level the playing field.” One rule implemented a couple of years ago was that whatever boat you start the season with, is the same boat you must fish out of in all the tournaments.
But here’s what is amazing…these same anglers complaining are not recognizing that Keith is at a huge disadvantage when tournaments are held on large bodies of water like the Great Lakes. His small custom boat with a 90-horsepower engine is not conducive for fishing the larger bodies of water, putting him at a distinct disadvantage. Keith is restricted on how far he can go compared to the guys running 20 to 21-foot boats with 250 horsepower engines. Now Keith has never complained about him being at a disadvantage when the tour reaches these massive lakes. He just puts his head down and tries to make the best of it. Not sure if it’s just a coincidence, but no one is complaining about Keith’s small aluminum boat unless he is at or near the top of the leaderboard.
The most recent issue came last week at the Toledo Bend B.A.S.S. Open Series where Keith ran up the lake and gained access into an area other anglers could not go. He finished 29th in this event, but a protest was made on the area and how Keith gained access.
This is a continuing story that I will make sure to monitor as Keith and his lawyers, along with B.A.S.S. officials, are working together to try and come to a mutual agreement on what’s allowed and not allowed. One thing is for sure…look for some major rule changes at B.A.S.S for the upcoming 2024 season to take away Keith’s advantage. Till next week, good luck, good fishing and make sure to wear sunscreen and good protective clothing. No one is immune to skin cancer like Melanoma.