Mike McClelland, capitalizing on his best Elite Series start ever, is currently leading the 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race after four events. The Arkansas pro won on the Harris Chain; finished 19th at the Kissimmee Chain; placed 42nd at Falcon; and took 4th at Amistad. (McClelland's Angler Pro File)
"I've been very fortunate this year," says McClelland. "I won one in Florida and have been competitive since then. It's a great feeling and one I'm not familiar with. Usually, I'm slow early on and then get better as the season progresses. This year has been different."
Asked what has made this year different, McClelland's reply is brutally candid. "I made up my mind that I'd fish Florida with a Zoom worm, rigged Texas style this year regardless of what I wanted to do or how I like to fish. That's what they bite down there and I wanted in on the action.
"Sometimes you have to do what it takes to catch fish. Frankly, I've had a problem doing that in the past in Florida. Now, however, I've learned it's not about what you want to do, or like to do. It's about what works. I changed my attitude and that's why I'm where I am today."
But in truth there's more to the story than that. McClelland admits that finances have had a lot to do with his success this year.
"My sponsorship deals are solid, and with an early win I'm not worried about catching a fish to pay the bills. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not rich or anything but I am in a position not to worry every day about the credit cards and the other expenses. That frees up my mind to go fish. It makes a big difference; it has for me anyway."
When it comes to the future, however, McClelland is less straightforward, more philosophical and willing to let life take its course.
He opines that he'll do his best to win every tournament this year as well as the Angler of the Year title but declines to make any predictions. A man of faith, he'll tell you in no uncertain terms that the race is not in his hands. It's a matter of what the Lord has planned for him and that he'll take whatever is offered, and be glad for it.
"Some things are meant to be and others aren't. We'll have to see what the future holds. I think the schedule is favorable but it's really not in my hands, other than doing the best I can every single day on the water. After that, I guess we'll all find out at about the same time."
McClelland might not have a window into his future but that doesn't stop him from speculating on what might be. "It'd be great. I think in the long-run AOY is more prestigious and worth more money than a Classic win," he mused as he considered what it would be like to win his first Angler of the Year title.
"There's more industry recognition and peer respect. That can make a big difference in an angler's career.
"The Classic is one tournament; Angler of the Year is 11. That's a big difference. One bad tournament — for instance, maybe you miss a Saturday cut — and you're most likely out of it. It's really the ultimate achievement of a good year. I've never won one so I can't say for sure, but that's what I think at this point anyway."