WAGONER, Okla. — The most nerve-wracking two weeks of a 15-year career has finally ended for Mike McClelland. Ironically, none of the anxiety stemmed from the nuances normally associated with professional bass fishing.
There were no lost fish at the boat. No mechanical breakdowns. Not even a DQ for a tournament for a rules violation.
McClelland can’t blame himself for anything that could have gone wrong. But it nearly did.
McClelland’s quest to qualify for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic has been thoroughly documented in recent days. He sat uncomfortably on the bubble going into the final Bassmaster Elite Series event held in late August on Oneida Lake. Then a promising pattern blew up late in the game. Even so, McClelland left confident that his Classic ticket was punched for Grand Lake.
Then McClelland read the gut-wrenching article on Bassmaster.com. In order to qualify for the Classic his fate rested on Brent Chapman. All the Kansas pro had to do was show up and fish at the final Bass Pro Shops Central Open. Chapman did show up and so did McClelland. Now, both pros are Classic bound.
Beyond all the drama that unfolded there needs to be credit given where it’s due. McClelland is a top contender and all-around versatile angler. The upcoming Classic will mark his 9th time in the world championship. He’s cashed in more than $1 million in earnings on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail.
And he’s just rebounded from a dismal 2011 season.
“You’ll have peaks and valleys after you do this long enough,” he admitted. “And I had a bad season, to say the least.”
McClelland has been down that road before. And he knows what it takes to get rolling back in the right direction.
“When you’re struggling you tend to start grasping at straws; you try and just catch enough to get by,” he said. “When you focus that way then you’re going to slip.”
McClelland realized that settling for mediocrity would get him deeper into a mental slump.
“After the season ended I talked it over with my wife (Stacy),” he continued. “We prayed about it. Thought a lot about it. Talked more about it.”
“The turning point came when I refocused my mind on fishing for the quality bites,” he continued. “At this level of fishing you’ve got to think ahead of the curve or you’ll find yourself falling behind without even knowing it.”
The self-examination paid off. The 2012 Elite Series schedule played into McClelland’s style of offshore fishing. He survived the complicated algorithm of qualifying for the Classic. Now he’s ready to put that all behind him and get back to a normal life.
That normalcy would be confronting the nuances of life as a professional bass fisherman. The lost fish at the boat. The things that come with the game that is in his control. Anything but what just happened over the past two weeks.