MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Without any prior knowledge of Fort Gibson Lake, Mike McClelland found the fish on Day One of the AutoZone Sooner Run to secure third place and has high hopes of duplicating that feat on Day Two.
"The biggest thing about it is we're on an impoundment rather than a river, so I feel good and I like my chances," McClelland said. "I mean I found some fish on the river, but the stability of this is a lot better. If you get around and do the right thing you should catch some fish in the course of the day."
With only a short time to practice for the tournament, McClelland found one or two spots that were the keys to getting him in the top of the standings.
"I'm going to have to rely on those places, but beyond that I'll probably do some more practicing today," he said. "I do like the fact that we didn't get a lot of practice on this place."
McClelland relied on his electronics and maps to figure out where the fish were throughout the lake.
"There's no doubt that it's really fun to do it that way," he said. "A lot of places we go we get shown around and get some preconceived notions. It seems like a lot of guys end up in the same area a lot of times and yesterday there were some areas that had people in it, but it seemed like they spread out a lot more as the day progressed."
When all was said and done on Day One, Jami Fralick happily found himself in sixth place.
"The water changed a little bit and they didn't bit as well," Fralick said. "I thought I might catch 10 or 12 keepers and I caught six and lost a good one, but I got an area all to myself and that's pretty nice."
Finding a place where he could fish by himself paid more dividends that even he expected and he hopes his luck will continue.
"I thought going in that I could have had as much as 15 or 16 pounds, but I caught 18," he said. "If I can get another big bite, I can have another 16 to 18 pounds today."
Gary Klein best summed up Day One of the AutoZone Sooner Run in one word: interesting.
"You know with one day of practice, I spent most of my time running around the lake trying to get familiar with what this lake has to offer and how it was laid out," Klein said. "I'm just fishing the conditions. I don't know the brush piles or the local stuff. Really, I'm just fishing by the seat of my pants and I guess the only good thing about it is I caught all my fish on one bait. It's been interesting."
Klein ended the first day in 17th, but he wants a top 12 finish after "train wrecking" at Kentucky Lake last week.
"Kentucky dropped me from fourth to 12th in points and now I'm a bubble boy for the post season events," he said. "The way I've got it figured, I have to be in the top 30 here to have a shot, but then again, I've got some good anglers around me."
Even then, Klein says he won't be satisfied with coming in ninth, 10th or 11th and believes it will take a supreme effort to get what he wants.
"I enjoy the competition from these guys and hopefully I can fish all four days, but I still don't have them figured out," he said. "I'm still searching. Today is another practice day for me, too. Hopefully I can get a little stronger each day."
Matt Greenblatt is second in the Rookie of the Year standings, but on Day One of the AutoZone Sooner Run, he caught only four fish.
"There are a lot of fish being caught with only one day of practice and I've been surprised about the quality of the turn out in the fish," Greenblatt said. "There are some big bags being caught. Some guys got on them real well, but some of us didn't get them. This is a heck of a fishery and I'd like to come back and spend more time here, that's for sure."
Mechanical issues have taken Greenblatt out of contention for the Bassmaster Classic tournament, but he hopes his second day on Fort Gibson will propel him into this weekend's cut.
"You have to take some of the good with the bad," he said. "This lets me know I can hang with these guys and next year is going to be a different story."
Derek Remitz had a decent day of fishing on Fort Gibson Lake for the first time with 12 pounds, 13 ounces, but on Day Two, he thinks he's found the key.
"You have to keep fishing and run winding or dragging," Remitz said. "There are little key deals here they get on. I fished my first spot for an hour before I got a bite, then I caught a 3.5-pounder. From experience, they are supposed to be there, but they are not schools. They are just coming through."