BRANSON, Mo. (Sept. 30) — Cabela’s/GEICO For Your Boat angler Mike McClelland could not have picked a better location to try to secure his spot in the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic than Table Rock Lake.Table Rock is where McClelland won an Elite Series event in 2014, and it’s the site of this weekend’s Central Open No. 3. To reach the Classic for the 11th time in his career, McClelland needs to win here again.
“I feel really, really good about this,” McClelland said. “This lake is one of those lakes where the clear-cut difference between winning and not is getting one or two quality fish. Last April when I won here, the difference-maker was a couple of good bites on key days. It’s going to end up being the same kind of situation, even though this is a totally different time of the year.
“This is a lake that I have a lot of history on, but it’s not a lake that I have fished a lot the last two or three years. I know what the lake looks like, I know what the lake has to offer — if I could just get the right bite or two. I feel like I’ve got a lot of areas I can run around and fish and it be to my advantage.”
After a good start to the Elite Series season, McClelland struggled and failed to clinch a Classic berth through the Toyota Angler of the Year standings, but a win in the Central Open would send him to Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Tulsa, Okla., for the 2016 Classic.
That may seem like a lot of pressure, but an all-or-nothing tournament might be simpler to approach.
“These events are sometimes easier to fish than an event where you are worried about points,” McClelland said. “When you’re 100 percent fishing to win, you really try not to get wrapped up in, ‘How do I go catch a limit?’ There could come a time, if I get one or two good bites, that that is an issue. I’ve got to catch five a day to be competitive.
“I don’t want to make it sound like practice has been easy, but if you continue to fish the right kind of water during the conditions that are presented to you, it’s not been impossible to get a few keeper bites through the course of the day.
“I feel good about catching them early, and I feel good about catching them most of the day.”
McClelland figures the per-day weights won’t be as high as when he snared 61.15 pounds to win here last year.
“That makes a good bite even more critical,” McClelland said. “The lake is full of 15- to 16-inch smallmouth, Kentucky, and largemouth bass. Essentially, you can fish for all three species and pretty much end up with the same kind of weight.”
But largemouth are the kickers McClelland needs.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in practice trying to figure out how to target largemouth and catch a better-than-average largemouth,” McClelland said. “I feel like I’ve got a few Table Rock tricks up my sleeve to try to make that happen.”
A total of 170 anglers will fish Thursday and Friday, with the top 12 fishing Saturday for the Central Open No. 3 title.
Cabela’s/GEICO For Your Boat angler Mike McClelland could not have picked a better location to try to secure his spot in the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic than Table Rock Lake.