After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the highly maligned regional qualifier of the California Bass Championship (CBC) to be held at Lake Elsinore, Friday, will pit 39 of the 40 anglers who qualified in Region 1 (Inland Empire/San Diego).

Fortunately, despite the cool reception on some fronts, all that it will take to finish among the top 10, gather $1000 in cash and punch their ticket for the State Finals at Clear Lake is to catch some fish. And maybe only one. But given the qualifiers are among the best non-touring pro level anglers in the area, catching bass is what these guys do.

I’ve lived on the lake for almost 30 years and have fished it for 40, so I’m anxious for Friday to come. Barely 15 percent of the field have real experience here, which presumably led to choosing what is now an excruciatingly “neutral” site.  A low bass population and water conditions unlike those found in the drinking water reservoirs where most of the field qualified, means these guys will have to elevate if they hope to earn a trip to Clear Lake.

But just like the four regional qualifying events that led to this surprise stop–as well as what lies ahead–the game here is exactly the same. Each angler must use his skills to catch enough weight to earn the money and his moment in the spotlight. Catching an unlikely five bass will still be the ceiling score, but unlike other waters, the top finishers at Elsinore will also have to show some grit, exhibit an ability to read water and probably fish techniques they rarely use.

The ancient natural lake is not going to give them anything. Plus, having 39 boats working in close proximity is clearly going to test the mental toughness of each competitor. But isn’t that just like every other highly competitive event? Yes, the margin for error will be thin. Elsinore bassing is like angling on a high wire. There will be no safety net for the missed strike or lost fish.

But, I can’t wait to see who does it best.