Tournament Fishing

McClelland Goes 11 for 11 in Tournament Checks

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If you’ve ever seen “This is Spinal Tap,” you know about the stereo that “goes to eleven.”

But on the 2008 Elite Series season, Mike McClelland was the only angler to achieve that feat. Eleven tournaments, eleven checks.

No one else did it. Not KVD, not Todd Faircloth, not Skeet. No one.

But what’s cool about the non-flashy Arkansan is that he gets the job done so many ways. Other anglers have a signature bait. Dean’s got a frog, Kevin’s got a spinnerbait, Denny’s got a jig. That’s not to say that they can’t catch ‘em on anything else – certainly they’re all much more versatile than they let on – but they tend to make a sizeable percentage of their tournament winnings via their bread and butter lures.

McClelland, on the other hand, is a tactical bigamist.

His signature changes day to day.

You can’t pin him down, you can only hope to contain him.

He’s definitely excited about the SPRO McStick that’s about to hit the market. He didn’t have a hard bait sponsor when the company approached him and it seemed like a natural fit. A suspending jerkbait is a pre-spawn staple in the Ozarks (after all, one of the most popular color patterns is typically referred to as “Table Rock Shad”) but even before the lure hits the market he has already used it as part of his top twelve recipe at the season-ending derby at Oneida.

The McStick is going to earn its praise, but Mike is equally proud of his longstanding relationships with two other companies, both of which he has helped go from regional superpowers to national movers and shakers.

“One thing I pride myself on is the long-term relationships I’ve had with my sponsors,” he said. For example, “Champion Boats is the one and only brand I’ve run since I started fishing BASS. Anybody who looks at my records can see I’m not just in it for the quick dollar.”

He said that anglers who move from sponsor to sponsor hurt themselves in the long term and may do lasting damage to their credibility. “The guys who jump around, when they do well it doesn’t mean as much,” he said. “When I do well, I believe in my heart that 99 percent of the public believes that I really did it with what I said I caught them on.”

His sponsors seem to understand and appreciate his Opie Taylor earnestness.

This year at Lake Murray, he got on a strong bite with a Sebile Magic Swimmer, as did many of his peers. SPRO didn’t have a comparable bait, so they gave him their blessing to use it and strong encouragement to tell the truth.

Hard baits aside, McClelland has provided his imprimatur to several wire and lead lures that have been instrumental in putting money in his pocket.

First is the War Eagle spinnerbait. While War Eagle may be a household name today, it wasn’t a dozen years ago when a young McClelland used their lures to win back-to-back Central Invitationals. He’s been with them ever since, and last year he signed his name onto a finesse spinnerbait that is dynamite in a 3/16 and 5/16 ounce package.

He’s also been working with Jewel Bait Company for most of this decade.

They’re developing some new top-secret stuff that he couldn’t talk about, but to tell the truth he’s made well into the six figures the past few years with their basic football head jig, so the idea that he’ll have some additional arrows in the quiver should scare the competition.

His deal with Jewel owner Gayle Julian is old school. “We started developing a relationship in ’03 or ’04, then after I won the Open Championship we made a strictly verbal agreement and that’s all it’s ever been. I know that he means what he says.”

That makes two of them.

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There’s no such thing as a magic lure, and we here at Wired2Fish can’t guarantee that any lure will allow you to earn eleven Elite Series checks in a single year, but if you would like to capture a little bit of Mike’s mojo, here’s his advice on how to build a McClelland starter set (batteries not included):

•     War Eagle: Start with a 5/16 ounce finesse spinnerbait and add some

½ ounce Screaming Eagles, mix in a few ¾ ounce blades for when you need a bigger profile. Colors? He dotes on the “mouse” shade, a grayish-shad color that he used for his first BASS win. And you can’t go wrong with a basic chartreuse and white. The finesse bait comes with a mid-sized turtleback blade paired with a small Colorado. All the rest should be dual willows.

•     Jewel: “You have to have some 5/16 and 7/16 ounce flipping jigs.

Football jigs in ½ and ¾ ounce sizes give you the option to fish in everything from ultra-skinny water (McClelland used them under shallow docks at Oneida) all the way out to 20 or 30 feet. “You can’t go wrong with Peanut Butter and Jelly and Green Pumpkin with Orange,” he said.