The Professional Anglers Association will throw out a line on Fort Loudoun and Tellico Lake Thursday as part of the 2013 Bass Pro Shops PAA Tournament Series.
It's the first time the series has made its way to Loudon County, and PAA President Dave Mansue said the anglers could be in for a challenge.
"I was out all day yesterday and it was pretty tough," he said. "I did not catch a keeper all day yesterday. I kind of felt my way around Fort Loudoun, and then this morning I went into Tellico and actually caught a couple of pretty nice fish. I'm pretty excited to get back out there."
PAA Tournament Director Randy Knight said many of the anglers have echoed Mansue's sentiment about the lake being a tough one to fish, but said he believes the professionals will break through in the end.
"These guys are so good, somebody is going to find them," Knight said. "The fish are doing different things, it's just a matter of those guys finding out what's the best way to catch them. Whether it's to intercept them as they're moving out toward their summer patterns, things like that.
"The one good thing is there is so many different ways, this time of year, that you can catch them," he said. "There's some fish shallow, some fish medium depths, some fish deep. There's just so many different ways that you can catch them."
Organizers expect about 85 professionals, which means 85 boats and 65 co-anglers on the water for the tournament.
Mansue predicts lake conditions will keep the event competitive.
"With the water levels the way they are right now and the water temperature being so much cooler than it usually is this time of year, it's really going to level the playing field," Mansue said. "The fish are kind of spread out right now. They're really not locked into any one particular structure or depth.
"The local knowledge, although they might know where some of the better fish typically are, some of that's going to play out a little bit," he said. "You're going to see some great bags coming in probably from a lot of people that have never been here before."
This could prove important as anglers compete for a top finish on Saturday, but also for a spot in the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, which is held Oct. 4-6 in Conroe, Texas.
"They'll take the top 15 pros from the PAA, the top 15 pros from the FLW and the top 15 pros from BASS, and they'll all fish at Lake Conroe for a first-place prize of $150,000," Knight said. "And all of them get a check. The last place check is $3,000, no entry fee. It's the only tournament where all three circuits come together and compete against each other."
"It's a big feather in an angler's cap who wins it because of the competition in that field," Mansue said. "It's quite an honor to win that thing and everybody here is working really hard to qualify for it."
The tournament will be the first for the PAA since late March when the tour fished Lake Douglas in Dandridge. Mansue said he is happy to be back in the state.
"We've heard many great things about this lake," he said. "The fact that you can catch good large mouths and good small mouths this far south is pretty unique. It's pretty special. We're excited to see what's going to come in Thursday, Friday and Saturday."
The full field will fish Thursday and Friday with weigh-ins held at the Tellico Canal Ramp. Top co-anglers will be awarded Friday and the top 15 anglers will go on to compete Saturday, when the weigh-in will take place at Bass Pro Shops in Kodak.