"I was sweating it," said McClellnd of the final day, when he weighed only 12-2. It was his smallest bag of the week.
He was sweating because Davis stayed right with McClelland on the leaderboard all day long. He'd end as the runner-up with a too-close-for-McClelland's-comfort total of 61-2 – a mere 13 ounces way from matching the winning total. McClelland entered the final day with almost a 4-pound lead over his closest competitor. He'd need almost every ounce of that cushion.
Sunday's final marked the only day that McClelland didn't weigh at least 15-6, which came Thursday. He caught bigger bags the next two days in building a lead over the rest of the field.
McClelland was basically fishing his roots. The old Storm Wiggle Warts were a key element in his gameplan. So was the suspending jerkbait. Legendary B.A.S.S. angler Rick Clunn told me during Wednesday's registration at Big Cedar Lodge that there was no such thing as a jerkbait until a bunch of anglers in the Ozarks started altering what were then-known as "twitch baits," like the Smithwick Rogue. The jerkbait was born when the Ozarks' old-timers started drilling holes in the twitch baits and filling them with lead, or wrapping lead wire around the base of the treble hooks. It gave the Rogue and other floating lures a neutral buoyancy. Instead of slowly floating back to the water surface, you could crank these altered twitch baits down into or near a submerged cedar tree, and it would sit there enticingly.
After a series of spring tournaments were won on suspending jerkbaits, the fishing industry recognized the need and created jerkbaits that suspended straight out of the package. No drills or lead needed,
The SPRO fishing corporation and McClelland signed an agreement several years ago to create a signature series of suspending jerkbaits. They're called McSticks. There's a McStick 110 and the McStick 115, which is a bigger model of the 110. Both produced key catches for McClelland at Table Rock, especially Thursday and Friday, He used a clear chartreuse color pattern on the 115 to work shallow areas along the bank. He selected a natural herring color in the 110 for catching suspended fish on the outside edge of rock banks.
For the McStick 110, McClelland uses Sunline Reaction FC 12-pound test. For the 115, he goes up 14-pound test in Sunline Reacton FC. He prefers that line for jerkbaits because it's not 100 percent fluorocarbon, so it has a bit of stretch.