By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Keith Poche has had a wildly inconsistent season on the 2020 Bass Pro Tour and probably needs a top-5 finish in the season finale at Wisconsin's Sturgeon Bay to qualify for next year's Redcrest Championship. He laid a solid foundation for just such a Cinderella-type ending on Group B's initial qualifying day.

Poche became the fourth angler in the event to exceed 100 pounds in a day as he caught 44 scoreable fish (2 pounds or heavier) that combined to weigh 112-09. He'll go back to the water on Monday with a lead over more than 23 pounds over 2nd-place Alton Jones Jr., with the winner of the group bypassing the Knockout Round and advancing straight to the final on Wednesday.

"I thought I could hit 50 pounds today, but I wasn't thinking about 100," said the 11-year pro who began the event at No. 61 out of 80 anglers on the points list. "It was one of those days you're thankful to have when everything works out."

Jones tallied 89-07 on 31 fish. He's followed by points leader Jordan Lee, who registered 71-12 on 24 catches. Lee can lock up the points crown with a finish of 7th or better in the event.

The remainder of the top 10 consists of Mike Iaconelli (67-09 on 23 fish), Skeet Reese (67-03, 22), Bobby Lane (67-00, 21), Cliff Pace (66-07, 23), Todd Faircloth (64-05, 23), Edwin Evers (62-00, 24th) and Cody Meyer (60-11, 19).

Adrian Avena, who's 11th (57-13, 19) earned a $1,000 bonus for the day's biggest fish a 5-09 bronzeback.

Conditions were much sunnier and calmer than they were for Group A's first qualifying day. Weights were down a bit at the top of the standings sheet, but more consistent throughout the field as it was much easier for competitors to make adjustments that included long-distance moves.



MLF
Photo: MLF

Alton Jones Jr. caught a lot of nice smallmouths from a big shoal.

A stiff breeze is likely to return on Monday as Group A gets back on the water the forecast calls for a mostly sunny sky with a high temperature of 76 and wind out of the north at 12 mph.

Poche, still seeking his first tour-level victory, is yet another Berkley-sponsored angler who's hammering fish on a dropshot rig with a MaxScent Flat Worm (the three 100-pound catchers from Group A are in that group, as is Lee). He got off to a sluggish start, but made a key move early and never had to relocate again.

"I found this deal in 16 to 18 (feet of water) and I was getting bit every cast," he said. "Then when it slicked off they pulled up a little shallower in 10 to 12 feet and I hit 'em again and kept it going.

"Hopefully those fish will get a little rest tomorrow and I can come back out (Monday) and catch another 100 pounds."

Jones is fishing a big shoal and said he made casts on only a tiny percentage of it. He did the vast majority of his work with spinning gear (a tube and a dropshot), but did catch a few on a jerkbait.

"I think it's more about the area than the bait you're throwing," he said. "I'm probably in a position where I don't have to catch anything (Monday) to make the Knockout Round, but hopefully some more fish will get here or some bigger ones."

Lee said the key to his day was locating larger isolated rock formations.

"I hit a couple of flurries and really milked the spot when I caught fish," he said. "It's a great start to the tournament and I'm looking forward to the next round."

Iaconelli spent a portion of the early part of the day atop the standings, then hit a lull that saw him fall into the teens. He rallied late in the day to get back among the top 5.

"When the wind laid down I started fishing marker buoys, which fish are using as staging areas," he said. "You always want to be leading, but it was a good start even though now I have quite a bit of weight to make up."

Weather Forecast

> Sun., July 12 Mostly Sunny - 76/61
- Wind: From the N at 12 mph

> Mon., July 13 Mostly Sunny - 77/65
- Wind: From the NE at 6 mph

> Tues., July 14 Cloudy - 81/67
- Wind: From the S at 13 mph

> Weds., July 15 Scattered T-Storms - 80/67
- Wind: From the WSW at 8 mph

Group B Qualifying Round 1

(Angler's heaviest fish for the round is indicated by figure at far right)

1. Keith Poche -- 44, 112-09 -- 4-03

2. Alton Jones, Jr. -- 31, 89-07 -- 4-14

3. Jordan Lee -- 24, 71-12 -- 4-10

4. Mike Iaconelli -- 23, 67-09 -- 4-02

5. Skeet Reese -- 22, 67-03 -- 4-08

6. Bobby Lane -- 21, 67-00 -- 4-09

7. Cliff Pace -- 23, 66-07 -- 4-03

8. Todd Faircloth -- 23, 64-05 -- 3-12

9. Edwin Evers -- 24, 62-00 -- 3-10

10. Cody Meyer -- 19, 60-11 -- 4-07

11. Adrian Avena -- 19, 57-13 -- 5-09

12. Jason Christie -- 20, 56-12 -- 4-01

13. Gerald Spohrer -- 19, 56-07 -- 4-03

14. Bradley Roy -- 18, 52-13 -- 4-09

15. Britt Myers -- 18, 52-11 -- 4-10

16. Marty Robinson -- 16, 49-11 -- 4-05

17. Russ Lane -- 16, 49-07 -- 4-07

18. Brent Ehrler -- 15, 49-04 -- 4-05

19. Matt Lee -- 15, 48-12 -- 5-01

20. Stephen Browning -- 15, 48-02 -- 5-01

21. Zack Birge -- 13, 44-12 -- 4-11

22. Alton Jones -- 16, 43-11 -- 4-03

23. Chris Lane -- 13, 43-08 -- 5-02

24. Greg Vinson -- 13, 40-05 -- 4-01

25. Tommy Biffle -- 11, 40-04 -- 4-13

26. Michael Neal -- 14, 38-05 -- 3-08

27. James Watson -- 12, 33-05 -- 4-04

28. Ott DeFoe -- 9, 32-14 -- 4-10

29. Luke Clausen -- 12, 31-00 -- 3-00

30. Jeff Kriet -- 9, 30-04 -- 4-04

31. Roy Hawk -- 8, 23-09 -- 3-13

32. Andy Montgomery -- 9, 21-14 -- 3-12

33. Ish Monroe -- 6, 17-08 -- 4-01

34. Terry Scroggins -- 5, 14-11 -- 3-06

35. Wesley Strader -- 5, 13-13 -- 3-05

36. Jared Lintner -- 4, 12-13 -- 4-03

37. Bryan Thrift -- 3, 9-05 -- 3-06

38. Mike McClelland -- 2, 9-01 -- 5-00

39. Randy Howell -- 2, 6-14 -- 3-09

40. Greg Hackney -- 2, 6-09 -- 4-06