On Thursday, 1,400 miles away from home, three Lake Wylie men will begin something that could change the rest of their lives.
Jason Quinn, Todd Auten and Britt Myers will be motoring their boats off the shores of Lake Amistad, a body of water known for its big fish, in Del Rio, Texas.
"All my equipment is there already. Ever since the end of last year, I've been ready to go," Quinn said.
The local trio is competing in the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series, considered by many to be the premier fishing series in the United States. Out of the 101-person field from around the world, there are a few pairs of competitors from the same location.
Lake Wylie, however, is an anomaly, sending three competitors from the same area to the series.
The group will follow an eight-tournament trail, opening at Lake Amistad, then winding its way around the country before finishing up in Syracuse, N.Y., in August.
"It takes a lot of dedication," said Quinn, who is fishing in his fourth Elite Series. "It's not something you can halfway mess around with."
Quinn, who has three children with wife Taffi, said he spends about 290 days a year on the road fishing in tournaments or promoting his sponsors, which include Evan Williams Bourbon, Champion Boats and Bass Pro Shops, among others.
"Promotions are about 75 percent of the business. It's nice when I can actually get in the boat and fish," he said.
A grueling schedule at the professional level may be a full-time job for anglers like Quinn, but it does have its rewards. Quinn's career winnings from tournaments are close to $625,000, an average of nearly $6,000 per event.
At this level, every tournament presents an opportunity to hit the jackpot.
Auten, who has fished with the Elite since 1998, came close in an earlier tournament this year. The last weekend in January, Auten finished in seventh place in the first tournament of the Southern Open Series, a smaller Bassmaster tournament, in Tavares, Fla. He earned a little more than $9,000 for his finish, which comes before the more serious competition begins.
Auten is keeping his plate full this season. In addition to the elite series, Auten will finish out the Bassmaster Southern Open Series, which runs through October, and will compete in the Professional Anglers Association Tournament Series, a newer series he says is "beginning to catch on."
"It's probably a little more than I want to do, but it's a good way to make money -- something to fill in the gaps," Auten said.
He said he plans to come home on weekends between tournaments, since he can't really prepare for the upcoming week's event. Lakes that are part of the Bassmaster series are closed to all anglers 30 days before tournaments.
Auten's wife, Susan, runs a wallpaper hanging business in York County, and his two children, Nick, 14, and Grace, 9, have both been fishing since they were young -- just like their dad.
"Just being outdoors, the challenge of trying to catch something -- it's a lot of fun when you figure out how," Auten said. "That's what pretty much hooked me."
No pun intended.
Myers handles his schedule a little differently.
Myers is a rarity in the business because he has a separate full-time job outside of fishing.
He owns and operates CS Motorsports in Gastonia, N.C.
"I opened my company when I was 19," Myers said. "We do auto customization, stereo, navigation ... we work with both cars and boats."
Three years after opening CS Motorsports in 1994, Myers bought his first boat and has been fishing ever since.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Myers said about entering his fourth Elite Series. "Experience is everything in this sport, but you can't be too confident. A lake can be different every time you're there. You have to be ready to adapt."
Myers said he would fly home between tournaments to work and spend time with his wife, Missy, and two sons, Britt, 9, and Carson, 5.
It may not be as enjoyable as fishing with their dad, but Myers' sons will be able to watch him after each tournament on TV -- if he does well. ESPN places cameras in the boats of the top 12 competitors for the final rounds of each elite series tournament, and broadcasts a recap of the event the following weekend.
Myers also has been featured on the ESPN2 fishing series, "A Day on the Lake," where professional anglers teach how to adapt to new lakes.
"It's going to be fun. I can't wait to get out there," Myers said of this year's season.
For Quinn, this season is all about taking the final step.
He has competed in four Bassmaster Classics, earned a second-place overall finish in 2007 in the Elite Series, and won a 2005 Bassmaster Regional Tournament in Columbia, Miss., in 2005.
"I hope to fish in the Classic this year. My goal is to win Angler of the Year," Quinn said.
If not this year, he's going to keep trying.
"As long as I'm physically able -- I'll be out there," Quinn said. "There's guys 60 going on 70 that are still out there competing on a daily basis."
Fans can listen to Quinn on the radio the day before each tournament. He will do a call in to the nationally syndicated talk show "John Boy and Billy," which is broadcast locally on 99.7 FM.
For more information about Bassmaster fishing tournaments, visit espn.com and look for the Bassmaster page.
2009 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule
March 12-15: Lake Amistad, Del Rio, Texas
March 26-29: Lake Dardanelle, Russellville, Ark.
April 2-5: Wheeler Lake, Decatur, Ala.
April 23-26: Smith Mountain Lake, Moneta, Va.
May 7-10: Lake Guntersville, Guntersville, Ala.
June 3-6: Kentucky Lake, Paris, Tenn.
June 11-14: Mississippi River, Fort Madison, Iowa
Aug.13-16: Oneida Lake, Syracuse, N.Y.