DAYTON, Tenn. — Few men in professional bass fishing have won more Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments than Mike McClelland. The well-recognized blue trophies have stacked up slowly – but really, really, surely – on the mantel of his Northwest Arkansas home. And this week at BASSFest reflects well “Pee Paw’s” slow, methodical, but very successful, approach.
Ten minutes before official blast-off, he finally arrived at the launch ramp. He was literally the last pro to back his boat in the water.
Actually, his best friend and bride of 12 years, Stacy, backed their LEER-covered Tundra down the Lake Chickamauga boat ramp at 6:52 this morning, grinned, and said, “We’re always last; we’re gonna have to get with it.”
McClelland already “got with it.” After a great practice on Lake Chickamauga, Wednesday and Thursday’s derby days weren’t so kind, he missed the cut, and was sent to Nickajack yesterday for the “Second Chance” round. He caught 13-pounds, finished 10th, and secured a chance to continue competing today and tomorrow on Chickamauga.
As a result, McClelland was literally the last angler officially entered into this weekend’s final rounds of competition.
His traveling partner and fellow pro, Jeff Kriet, nicknamed him “Pee Paw” based on McClelland’s highly-organized, way-more-mature-than-his-46 birthdays, approach to life.
Kriet has a point. But know this, McClelland might move faster if his life’s daily travels weren’t slowed by his penchant for taking care of others. McClelland’s nature is to make sure everybody around him has what they need. That takes time. That takes heart.
Heart could lead to a 30-pound limit today too. “He caught a 6-pounder and watched a 10-pounder spit his lure out in practice,” says Stacy. “He had a great practice here on Chickamauga, he just had a horrible day Wednesday, but he loves this BASSFest format, there’s no points to get stressed out about, and by making it back into the cut, we’re assured a check for at least $10,000 – it’s awesome.”
“As soon as he weighed his fish at Nickajack yesterday, a huge storm approached, and we hurried away from weigh-in to drive back to Dayton, so we had no idea that his 13-pounds would make the cut,” admitted Stacy. “Our son Justin was back home watching the leaderboard, and told Mike, “Dad, you made the cut.” Mike’s face just got flushed when Justin told him, and I’m getting goosebumps just telling you about it,” said Stacy, who many now call Mee Maw.
Don’t be shocked if the short on height, big on heart, Pee Paw catches a monster bag today to make a run at another blue trophy. And don’t be surprised if he’s the last one to arrive at the ramp tomorrow either.
“It stresses me out, but it doesn’t stress him out at all,” says Stacy. “He says it’s good to get here last because there’s nobody in line, no standing around listening to dock talk and gossip. Oh trust me, it doesn’t bother him one bit.”
Apparently not – he’s got seven B.A.S.S. wins and $1.5 million in prize money to prove that 'slowly but surely' works just fine.
There's nothing wrong with an old cane fishing pole. And the smell of early spring. Sit down in a fold-up easy chair. On a quiet shady riverbank. Let the world go on without me. Wouldn't have it any other way. Cause I ain’t in no hurry today.” – Zac Brown Band (2012)