GREENSBORO, N.C. — If the prognosticators are correct, it'll be a freefall back to bass fishing reality for the field of 51 anglers in this weekend's Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts.
High Rock Lake has never been known as a hawg trough, but what many consider a classic post-spawn funk has many competitors thinking the first Major of the 2007 season will be remembered as an ultra competitive, grind-it-out derby.
"The lake hasn't been as good for several years now, really," said North Carolina's Jason Quinn, who believes a run-and-gun strategy will be critical to success. "There was a drought several years ago that dropped the water level about 23 feet. It rebounded for a short while when it filled in, but since then it just doesn't have the big groups of good fish."
Quinn said a recent Monday tournament was won with around nine pounds.
"There's a lot of smaller fish and lots of pressure on the lake. And they also seem to suspend a lot more now," he said. "There's a whole lot of things going on right now that should be ideal for this place to be great. You've got fish in a bunch of stages. You've got shad spawning, bluegill spawning, crappie spawning, flathead (catfish) spawning. It's eally strange."
Kevin Van Dam is similarly perplexed by the same, overwhelmingly positive signs without the concurrent bite.
"I'm seeing a lot of the things I like seeing this time of year," said Van Dam as he fiddled with his box of crankbaits. "They should be knocking the paint off of these."
After two days of mainly calm conditions during practice, the wind picked up significantly as anglers filed into the parking lot at the Greensboro Coliseum for the tournament briefing. The forecasted mornings of mid-50s spawned cautious hope that the fish might be jump-started, but predictions of a cut weight in the teens also had anglers like Texan Gary Klein looking forward to the razor-thin margin for success.
"This is a tournament where one four or five pound fish — and they're in there — will make a big difference," Klein said. "I'm looking at 12 pounds a day to make the cut. I caught one five-pounder this week and it would have given me about 13 pounds."
The fortunate dozen making the weekend cut could be rewarded with greener pastures. Lake Townsend, a Greensboro drinking water supply lake located 15 miles north of town, is a 6-mile long,1,500-acre impoundment of Reedy Fork Creek which has been divided into a six-hole course.
Lake supervisor Sue Davis says a half dozen 10-pound fish have come from the lake thus far this year.
"It's an extremely healthy lake, known for big fish, but is also challenging as well," Davis saud. "The lake will be closed to the public for the tournament and because it's a water supply lake, there is no body contact, meaning no skiing, no jet skis, no swimming."
It's also almost completely uninhabited, the only docks being at the launch site. The Parks department owns the 500 feet surrounding the shoreline as a buffer.
Weigh-ins at the Greensboro Coliseum begin at 4 p.m. ET
Editor's Note: Sunday, May 20, ESPNOutdoors.com will have live video coverage in Hooked Up at 3:30 p.m. ET followed immediately by the final day weigh-in where you can see who wins the $250,000 prize!