LAKE WYLIE -- For one weekend, Charlotte becomes the bass fishing capital of the world for the largest angling organization running. And the biggest event of them all will be returning to Lake Wylie.
"It's going to be awesome," said Dave Washburn, FLW Outdoors spokesman. "It's going to be a mega fishing week."
The Bass Federation, a series of FLW, hosts its national championship Thursday through Saturday on Lake Wylie. Of close to a thousand competitors in each of six TBF divisions nationwide, only 36 boaters and 36 co-anglers will compete in the national championship.
At last April's three-day event on Wylie, David Andrews of Bolton, Mass., a 39-year-old research scientist working in the pharmaceutical industry, discovered a winning pattern early in his practice on Wylie, and went on to capture the Bass Federation National Championship title with a three-day catch of 15 bass weighing 41 pounds, 4 ounces.
"This thing is unlike most big tournaments where you win it and then it is the end," he said last year. "This isn't the end. It is just the beginning."
Washburn says Lake Wylie is worth returning to.
"It was a fantastic fishery and a great host site, so we're coming back," he said.
This year's event will again coincide with the other premier FLW event, the National Guard Open, being held Thursday through Sunday on Lake Norman. Both events will weigh in at the Charlotte Convention Center each day, and special fan activities will be combined with both events.
"Having The Bass Federation and FLW Tour anglers together, at the same event, on the same stage in Charlotte will certainly increase the already intense media spotlight that both tournaments command and both groups of anglers deserve," said TBF president Robert Cartlidge.
For anglers competing on Lake Wylie, the event could be a springboard to even bigger fishing. Along with a top prize of $100,000 and a package including a new boat, up for grabs this weekend are berths in two of the biggest events in the sport -- the $1 million BFL All-American May 29-31 and the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup Aug. 14-17 on Lake Murray in Columbia.
"I am so very excited," said Ron Klys, qualifier through the Florida division. "This is the most I have ever fished for and it is my life pursuit to become a full-time professional tournament angler."
Daily takeoffs at Wylie will be held at Copperhead Island at safe light, followed by weigh-ins at 3 p.m. each day at the Charlotte Convention Center. The FLW series, between its freshwater and saltwater fishing, will host about 230 tournaments for more than 90,000 anglers in 2008. More than $40 million in prizes will be up for grabs in 10 circuits.
Even in areas like Lake Wylie, where the severe drought caused strain on local lakes and boaters last year, the FLW tournaments remained strong, Washburn said.
"You might think it would be down with the conditions, both with the weather and high gas prices, but we haven't really felt that impact," he said. "We hope that speaks to the quality of our events."
Organizers hope the series will continue to grow with exposure throughout the country and around the world.
"We are thrilled to combine the strengths of our two title events into a single mega-event that will be unequaled by any tournament other than the Forrest Wood Cup," said Sgt. 1st Class Frank O'Laughlin of the National Guard Bureau. "It is truly a unique opportunity for competitors and fans alike, and it will make a tremendous week of fishing in Charlotte."
For more information, visit flwoutdoors.com.