Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
TULSA, Okla. - While a great deal of attention at this year’s Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake has been focused on Oklahoma anglers Jason Christie, Edwin Evers and Tommy Biffle, an angler from a different state has made his way onto the radar: Major League Fishing pro Mike McClelland.
McClelland, from Bella Vista, Arkansas, lives a mere hour away from Grand Lake. Adding intrigue to McClelland’s growing status as “one of the favorites” is his love of jerk bait fishing.
“The people that have got the patience to throw that jerkbait are going to be favorites,” said Major League Fishing pro Edwin Evers.
That said, most anglers don’t want the pressure of being categorized as a favorite. Who needs the added attention? Who wants to deal with interviews?
But that’s conventional wisdom, and McClelland has never embraced convention. And he didn’t sneak his way onto the radar as a favorite. He came in practically screaming.
“Yes, it seems like lately I’ve been mentioned a lot as one of the strong contenders. That must mean I’m doing some things right. And really, I don’t mind the attention,” McClelland said.
In fact, McClelland believes that when the spotlight is shining in his direction, he’s a better angler. He points back to the first Major League Fishing tournament at Lake Amistad. Entering the event of his worst professional year, he fished his way to the finals.
“There’s something about having that kind of pressure, with cameras catching your every move,” he said. “I just fish better.”
McClelland reached back a few years to describe when he discovered that he likes pressure.
“As funny as this is to say, even in my previous occupation – I hung wallpaper – I liked the attention,” McClelland said.
“I was a damned good wallpaper hanger, and I used to have people stand around and actually watch me. It always seemed that I could perform. Really, job superintendents used to bring workers around to watch me hang vinyl. I was good at it, and I got better when the pressure was on. I always feel like when the attention is on, it actually raises my level of competition.”
McClelland said it doesn’t hurt that the Classic could be won on effective use of a jerk bait.
“The one thing about this is I’m going in with as much confidence as I’ve gone into any tournament. I’m going to get the opportunity to throw baits that I truly love to throw,” McClelland said.
“There is no secret; I’ll be throwing a jerkbait. The thing that comes into play for me is that I’ve got to concentrate on a pattern and not get hung up on spots. I’ve never fished this lake in late February. I will try to fish a pattern and go for new water every day. I might backtrack some, but I think the guy that’s going to do well here is the guy that’s willing to fish by the seat of his pants."