Controversy Again on the Red River

By Steve Graf

It never fails, if there’s a bass tournament on the Red River, there will usually be some kind of issue or controversy. But for some reason, with most events on the Red, crybabies seem to come out of nowhere and want to complain about something they heard or saw someone do. Probably every tournament director that’s ever put on an event on this body of water has had to deal with accusations about an angler who THEY think did something illegal. Now they won’t necessarily have any proof, but they will complain hoping it will lead to the angler being disqualified from the event.

This year’s Bassmaster Central Open out of Red River South Marina was no exception and not without controversy, as former Natchitoches, Louisiana, resident and Major League Fishing Pro Keith Poche took top honors and finally conquered the mighty Red River. This was Keith’s first win on the Red River after several top-10 finishes. The Red fits Keith’s style of shallow-water fishing, which is why he’s had great success. But a few years ago in a previous Central Open event, Keith was accused of cutting a pipe in front of a culvert down in Pool 4 to gain access to backwater …. which was proven that he never did. Some anglers just can’t stand it when another angler outsmarts the rest of the field by thinking outside the box. “Outsmarts” may not be the right word, but more that they took a risk another angler would not.

In this year’s 2022 Central Open event, Pro Angler Keith Poche decided to fish out of the same 18-foot aluminum boat with a 90-horsepower engine that he has used all year. While the rest of the field fished out of twenty- and twenty-one-foot fiberglass boats with 250 horsepower engines. These bigger boats limit anglers as to where they can fish, especially when it comes to reaching certain backwater areas that are true honey holes that the Red River is famous for. But this 18-foot aluminum boat did allow him to do just that….get into backwater other anglers could not. There was nothing illegal about what Keith was doing. 

Understand, B.A.S.S. does not restrict what size boat you can fish out of in a Bassmaster Central Open event. However, a rule states, “Whatever boat you start the season out of, you must finish the season in that same boat.” For Keith, that was the case, as he’s fished out of this same aluminum boat in all of his previous Bassmaster Open events.

Here’s the controversy that occurred. With Keith leading going into the final day, someone decide they were going to make it awfully hard for him to win this event. Another angler or anglers (not yet determined) who did not make the final day cut launched their boat at 11:00 PM the night before the final day and went to the rock jetty cut Keith was going through off the main river and placed big rocks at the mouth. This prevented Keith from being able to go through it and get to his backwater area. As Keith arrived at the rock jetty cut on the morning of the final day, he saw that someone had tried to eliminate his only path through the rocks. There is a B.A.S.S. rule that states, “At no time may an angler get out of his boat to gain access to any backwater area.” But a strange thing occurred as Keith called the tournament director and informed him of what had taken place. Two suspicious observers who had followed Keith to this cut on the final morning voluntarily got out of their boat and moved the rocks. At no point did Keith ever ask these guys to do this, and he said they were acting very strangely. So, then he began to wonder, could these be the guys who tried to sabotage the cut in the first place? In the meantime, Keith just had to make sure he did not violate the rule of physically getting out of his boat to gain access.

Now from this angler’s perspective, it would be a great way for these two guys to look innocent by attempting to help Keith out. I mean, who would ever suspect the two guys who got out of their boat to help Keith by removing the rocks? Not sure, but maybe they felt guilty and realized what they had done the night before just was not right. Maybe they wanted to try and make things right by being good Samaritans and moving the rocks. Hmmm, now I don’t pretend to be Sherlock Holmes, but it is something to think about.

For this Central Open event, Keith committed himself to the idea of staying in shallow water and getting into backwater areas that other anglers could not. These were fish that had not been pressured by other anglers during the official practice period. Keith did his homework and found a way to make it happen and got the job done to secure the victory. But some anglers did not approve of the way he secured the win. So rather than going the extra mile as Keith Poche did, they chose to take unadvised action by doing something immoral and unethical. In the end, Keith Poche prevailed and conquered a body of water, that as Keith put it, “has been a thorn in his side.” Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget to wear your sunscreen! 


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