Mercury pro Mike McClelland takes B.A.S.S. Elite event on Table Rock Lake
Apr 07, 2014
Mercury Pro Mike McClelland utilized his skill set and familiarity with Table Rock Lake to win this weekend’s Bassmaster Elite Series event in Branson, Mo.
McClelland, who has fished the impoundment of the White River since he was 8 years old, knew Ozark Mountains bass were notorious for their focus on jerkbaits and crankbaits in spring and that played into his strength as one of the best hard-bait anglers on the tour.
McClelland weighed in 61 pounds, 15 ounces of Table Rock bass to squeak past B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year leader Mark Davis (61-2), Greg Hackney (60-15) and Aaron Martens (60-1) in one of the tightest Elite Series events in history. McClelland narrowly unseated Davis with a Day 4 bag of 12-2 to notch his first Elite Series win since 2008.
“It’s pretty special winning this event on Table Rock,” said McClelland, who had racked up six tour-level wins prior to the weekend. “If I never win another tournament, it’ll be cool knowing that I won one here on the lake that I grew up on and learned to fish.”
McClelland had entered the season on a six-year victory drought on the Elite Series, and kicked off the 2014 campaign with average 53rd- and 36th-place finishes in the first two tournaments of the season (Lake Seminole and the St. John’s River). Entering the Table Rock tournament, though, conditions seemed to be lining up in McClelland’s favor.
Changing, hour-by-hour weather systems began rolling through the Ozarks during practice and by the middle of the morning on Day 1, the 108-man field was sent scrambling by a severe thunderstorm watch, tornado warnings and high winds. McClelland dodged the lightning, hail and tornado warnings and capitalized on the blustery wind by battering wind-blown banks with classic Wiggle Warts and his own SPRO McClelland 110 and McClelland 115.
He rang up 15-6, 16-14 and 17-9 the first three days – consistency that the other Top 5 anglers were lacking – and then scrapped and clawed for 12 pounds on Championship Sunday. Fellow Team Mercury pros Martens, Hackney and Kevin VanDam made charges on McClelland – Martens with a tournament-best 8-pounder on Thursday, VanDam with nearly 20 pounds on Saturday, and Hackney with 16-7 on Sunday – but none could match the consistency that McClelland displayed throwing jerkbaits on his home lake.
“I felt like I could fish this lake by the seat of my pants, because I know it so well,” McClelland said. “I chased the wind all over this lake this week, but I felt like I could fish it that way – and had to fish it that way in these conditions.”McClelland banks $100,000 for the win, and more importantly, is now qualified for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell, S.C.