WAGONER, Okla. (Sept. 10) — Cabela’s/GEICO For Your Boat angler Mike McClelland is aiming for a win at this weekend’s Bassmaster Central Open No. 2 on Fort Gibson Lake.
After a tough Elite Series season left him out of an automatic spot for the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic, McClelland needs to win one of the two remaining Central Opens to secure a spot in professional fishing’s biggest event.
“It definitely is all or nothing,” McClelland said. “There’s no doubt that this week I have not practiced at all to get a check. It’s all been in an effort to find winning-caliber fish. Winning the event and the money that goes along with it would be awesome, but when it comes right down to it, punching the ticket to the GEICO Bassmaster Classic is the most important goal at these next two events, and you don’t do that without winning one of them.”
McClelland has covered a lot of water this week, throwing bigger baits in an effort to land fish that will help him win. Finishing second this week doesn’t help.
“It was very humbling to end the Elite Series knowing that I hadn’t punched my ticket to the GEICO Bassmaster Classic,” McClelland said. “It’s not a guarantee, no matter how good you are in this sport, that you’re going to go to the Classic every year. It was disappointing, especially after getting off to such a good start this year with a second-place finish at the first event. Coming into these Opens, fortunately, I do have a second chance.”
McClelland needs to be in the top 12 after the first two days of fishing to be in a position to win in Saturday’s final day.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it’s been a lot tougher practice than I expected it to be,” McClelland said. “There has been a lot of rain in Oklahoma and Arkansas all year, and I really figured with the lake getting close to normal that these fish would be positioned in a place to really catch them good, but it just hasn’t been as great as I thought it would be.”
McClelland has found lots of fish, but many under the legal size limit, and with more than 170 boats — many with a co-angler — the lake has fished smaller than Elite Series tournaments.
“The lake has definitely got big ones, and I know there are going to be some good bites,” McClelland said. “I’ve got one specific area where I feel like if the time is right and I can work the area efficiently that I’ve got a shot at catching a few good ones, but it’s going to be a grind.”