Whenever Brian Travis of Conover wets a line at Lake Wylie, he can't help but relive the dream that began in April 2008 when he won the Bass Federation National Championship there.

The victory enabled Travis to fish for a living as a pro bass fisherman, a dream he's had since he was a 10-year-old lad growing up around Lake Hickory.

At Lake Wylie, along with fishing buddy Troy LeHew of Charlotte, Travis employs the same techniques that earned him the federation championship; he's sight-fishing the many pockets that hold spawning bass.

"The fish bed earlier at Wylie than at any other lake in North Carolina," Travis said. "From mid-March through early April, the bass move to the flats in the creeks in preparation for the spawn."

This movement is triggered when the water temperature nears the 60-degree mark, which occurs sooner at Wylie than at other state waters because of the lake's geographical location: straddling the North Carolina-South Carolina line southwest of Charlotte.

"I love this lake at this time of year," said Travis, who fishes Wylie religiously each year during the spawning period.

In early March, just before bass go on the bed, Travis said most tournaments are won on spinnerbaits and crankbaits.

If the water is dirty - it commonly is after heavy rains - a square-billed crankbait or a 3-bladed spinnerbait becomes deadly fished around secondary points and near rip-rap banks.

When he's fishing a spinnerbait, Travis uses a 7-foot rod and a Revo baitcasting reel spooled with 15- to 17-pound line. For crankbait fishing, he downsizes his line to 8- to 10-pound test. If he fishes a Shad Rap for prespawn bass, he prefers a spinning outfit and light line for better control and longer casts.

Before the fish move to the shallows, they hold at the edge of rocks and steep banks where they're caught with Shad Raps in four to eight feet of water. Gradually, they'll pull up on the flats as the water temperature warms.

One of the most-heavily fished areas during this period is the South Fork Catawba River because the fish beginning spawning earlier there.

"Despite the good fishing, I stay away from the South Fork because of the heavy fishing pressure," Travis said.

Other productive places in early March include Big Allison and Little Allison creeks, but the warm-water discharges from Duke Power's power plant there are not much of a factor.

Once the water temperature reaches 59 to 60 degrees, the fish move shallow into bays and flats in the creeks to spawn. That's when sight-fishing for bedding bass, Travis's specialty, comes into play.

Ideal conditions include high, slightly dingy water, partly cloudy days in the 70s with just enough wind to position the fish and just enough sun to encourage the fish to move up.

The worst conditions are slick-calm or extremely muddy water and bluebird skies that follow a cold front.

"You might as well stay home and work in your yard under those conditions," Travis said.

Polarized glasses are essential for spotting fish, and a quiet-running trolling motor that won't scare off the fish is another important factor.

Travis scouts for spawning bass by cruising gravel pockets, pausing whenever he spots a bass to determine of the fish is big enough to catch and if the fish is "locked on" the nest so that it can be tempted into striking with repeated casts.

After LeHew and Travis agree that a fish is catchable, Travis makes repeated casts with a variety of small baits, dragging the baits through the bed of the fish. He either lets each bait rest in the bed for a moment, or he "shakes" the bait in the bed.

His baits include 4-inch green- pumpkin plastic lizards, plastic crawfish imitations, and small jigs. He spools a Shimano Stradic spinning reel with "the lightest line" he can get away with, favoring fluorocarbon for its sensitivity and invisibility.

"With light line and finesse baits, I can fish behind other anglers and catch fish," Travis said.

The fish he aggravates into striking range usually weigh from two to 3¾ pounds and favor a lizard.

That was the approach that won him the Federation national championship late in the month of April.