Mike McClelland Looking Forward to Central Opens After His Elite Series Season Ends

DETROIT (Aug. 30) — Cabela’s/GEICO For Your Boat angler Mike McClelland knows his year is far from over despite a frustrating end to the Bassmaster Elite Series season this week during the tournament on Lake St. Clair.
McClelland, a four-time winner in the Elite Series, finished 81st in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings after coming home 70th on Lake St. Clair during the final regular-season Elite Series competition. The top 36 in the points standings automatically advance to the GEICO Bassmaster Classic, but McClelland has two more shots to reach fishing’s biggest event.
Should McClelland win one of the two remaining Central Opens on his schedule, he’ll fish in the 2016 Classic on one of his “home” lakes, Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
“It’s a frustrating year with the Classic coming up on Grand and knowing that I didn’t make the Classic through the Elites,” McClelland said. “But I’ve got two more chances to try to win one of the Opens to qualify for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic.
“The Classic being close to home, it’s a lake I have a lot of confidence fishing, and I think I’ve made the top 12 in every Elite and Classic that we’ve fished there. It’s definitely a place I would like to be competing.”
McClelland finished eighth in the 2015 Classic, making a solid start to the season. He then finished eighth at the Central Open No. 1 and second in the Elite Series event on the Sabine River. He followed those top-10 finishes with a cash effort at the Lake Guntersville Elite Series tournament, but he couldn’t find a rhythm the remainder of the year.
“I really haven’t had a horrible money-winning year when you look at the average of what guys who have fished the full season of events,” McClelland said. “Fortunately, I had a strong couple finishes early in the year, and I almost equaled out money winnings by doing that than had I just drawn a check in all eight events.”
Now, McClelland is focused on Central Open No. 2 on Fort Gibson Lake in his home state of Oklahoma and Central Open No. 3 on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., where he won an Elite Series event in 2014.
“The two lakes are lakes that are right in my backyard,” McClelland said. “I’ve won at Table Rock a couple times before, so hopefully I can get another one down there.”
McClelland remains thankful for the many partners he shares.
“When you have years like I’ve had this year, sponsors like Cabela’s and GEICO and Mustang and Falcon and everybody are really important,” McClelland said. “When you don’t win big money fishing, it’s great to have the sponsors like I’ve got to be able to keep me out here.”
McClelland didn’t have a bad tournament on Lake St. Clair, catching 13 pounds, 10 ounces on the first day and improving to 15 pounds, 4 ounces on the second.
“Lake St. Clair was a challenging event due to the fact that we had really high winds during the course of practice,” McClelland said. “That really made it tough to fish the lake effectively the way a person really needed to fish it.
“I felt like I had a pretty good practice but never caught any big ones. But I thought, ‘Surely, after spending three to five days on the lake, I would get around to some big ones.’ But I had one 4-pounder all week, and that was the difference between having a decent finish and finishing below the cut line. You needed a couple 4-pound bites a day, and I just didn’t get them.”
But he did take some momentum from Lake St. Clair.
“I feel like I fished really well there,” McClelland said. “Even though I didn’t catch big ones and make the cut, I feel like I definitely fished well. I enjoyed the week, and I caught a ton of fish. That’s one thing about Lake St. Clair: Even though you don’t make the cut, if you truly enjoy the aspect of catching a lot of smallmouth, it’s a fun place to go. It was a fun tournament to fish; I just left there with no paycheck in the pocket.”

Should Cabela’s/GEICO For Your Boat angler Mike McClelland win one of the two remaining Central Opens on his schedule, he’ll fish in the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

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