CHARLOTTE, N.C. To some in this 55-angler field, the first annual Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts has a nickname the Jason Quinn benefit tournament. It's not just because Lake Wylie is Quinn's "home lake." That title tends to be more of a jinx than an advantage anyway.
Quinn's perceived edge is the years of bass fishing experience he has on Lake Wylie, where he's worked as a guide as well as competed in tournaments.
"It's his to lose, that's what it comes down to," said Paul Elias. "This time of year, when you know where to pull up and make five casts, then leave, that's a pretty good advantage. He's got 50 places like that."
"I'd love to be in his position," said Denny Brauer, who reclaimed the No. 1 spot on the all-time BASS earnings list with a Bassmaster Elite Series win at Lake Champlain two weeks ago. "It's summertime and he's on his home lake. He knows where all the brush piles are."
But, according to the 34-year-old Quinn, brush piles won't be the key to any success he has here this week.
"I don't fish brush piles," Quinn said. "I don't like getting hung up in them."
The pros were doing more poor-mouthing than usual prior to Thursday's 6:50 a.m. takeoff. It seems that practice hasn't been productive for most of the field.
"I've got about as poor a read for this tournament as any I've ever been in," said Brauer, whose victory at Champlain marked the 16th of his BASS career. "Honestly, I'm just going fishing today."
Midsummer typically presents some of the toughest bass fishing conditions of the year. Further complicating the puzzle of Lake Wylie has been heavy rainfall last weekend that muddied the upper end of the lake and raised the water level slightly. The stained water has started to clear, making anything found in practice early in the week subject to change now.
Quinn said he didn't make one cast in practice. He spent his time looking. One thing Quinn may have been looking for was bluegill spawning beds. That's one of the secrets of Lake Wylie, that largemouth bass concentrate on bream spawning beds during the summer.
In essence, the sight-fishing bite may be the key here. But rather than focusing on bass spawning beds typically associated with sight-fishing, some anglers will be looking for those light-colored round spots on the lake bottom where bream are spawning. And rather than looking for a big bass on that spawning spot, the pros will be looking for several big bass lurking nearby in search of an easy meal.
"These fish move a lot on this lake," Quinn said. "They move in and out of specific areas all the time."
Finding those areas will be the key to winning the $250,000 first prize in this second event of the Bassmaster Majors. The Bassmaster American trophy is named in honor of the late Bryan Kerchal, the only BASS Federation angler to have won the Bassmaster Classic.