North Carolina pro Shane Lineberger had a really bad taste in his mouth the last time he competed in a Bassmaster Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence in 2017.

Literally.

Lineberger vividly remembers buying a Gatorade and a pack of Pop Tarts on the way to the water, launching his boat to begin the first day of practice, feeling terribly sick at his stomach soon after, and returning to the Super 8 in Massena, never to make another cast in practice, and instead kneeling with his face in the toilet for the next three days.

“I called my wife and told her the tournament was probably going to be a disaster. I had never seen this place, and got zero practice thanks to possibly the worst stomach bug of my life,” remembers the longtime Toyota Bonus Bucks participant.

Lineberger’s predictions to his wife Hope were on point. He finished next to dead last and unfortunately lost so many points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings that it cost him a Bassmaster Classic qualification. But worst of all…an invitation back to the 2018 Elite Series.

Perseverance has paid off for the former factory worker who made bearings for 18 years. Lineberger not only returned to the Elite Series, but now sits within easy range of qualifying for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic.

Three official days of practice this week have treated him reasonably well, not that it would take much to upgrade from his three days next to the flusher at the Super 8 two years ago, but really, he feels good and he’s getting dialed-in.

Of course he’ll lean on the standard offering of bottom bouncing lures like nearly every angler in the field, but he’ll also toss-in some shallow running power lures like the 3-bladed compact spinnerbait he spent two years designing for True South Custom Lures, and also a 5” Skinny Dipper swimbait.

“Both of these lures offer a totally different look than what most everybody will be throwing. If it’s cloudy, I’ll burn the little three bladed spinnerbait in the riffles just under the surface, but if it’s sunny, the Skinny Dipper is a great choice for burning just a little deeper in those same riffles,” says Lineberger.

The riffles he’s referring to are much like a trout angler would target in streams far smaller than the massively large St. Lawrence, but the concept is the same. Natural islands splice swift current, and in turn, riffles are formed to carry bait past ambush points where fat smallmouth lay waiting to pounce.

For Lineberger, this week offers a chance to pounce too. It’s a chance to get back all that was lost to a highly unfortunate, career altering stomach bug two years ago.

So be warned, oh smallmouth of the St. Lawrence, the big fella from Lincolnton, NC is coming for you. He’s looking to get back the Classic qualifying points that washed away in your swift currents back in 2017, and he’s got a whole host of people cheering for him.