Mike McClelland is recognized as one of the best jig fishermen ever to wet a line. The Arkansas pro finished third in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings in 2008 and will be fishing his sixth Bassmaster Classic in 2009. His win (by 15 pounds, 10 ounces) on Grand Lake during the 2006 Elite Series season was one of the biggest blowouts in BASS history. Here's how he answered his 20 questions:
1. Where are you from, originally?
Reed Springs, Mo.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
My uncle guided on Table Rock when I was a kid, and he fished at the club level — kind of like the BASS Federation Nation. He's the one who got me interested at first.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Jimmy Houston, Rick Clunn, Denny Brauer. I grew up watching those guys.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
I feel like I started to establish myself when I won the Elite Series event on Grand Lake in 2006.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caugh
I've caught some 10s and 11s in tournaments, but last year at Falcon I had a fish in practice that I don't doubt weighed at least 12 pounds.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
The competition and the unpredictability of it. No two days are ever going to be the same.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
Understanding offshore structure.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
My greatest weakness, though I hate to say it, is when a tournament requires lots of random, fast-paced junk fishing.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
Lake Champlain. There's no other place where you can catch such huge bags of largemouth and smallmouth in the same areas.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
The question I get asked the most is 'How do you get to fish at this (Elite) level?' There's no easy answer, but in general you need to spend lots of time on the water and be completely dedicated to it. You won't get anywhere trying half-heartedly. Also, you need to position yourself right with your family and your finances before you can have a go at it.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
I see a lot of guys leaving fish behind once they find a school. They'll get a fish or two then move on without really expanding on it.
12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
I do have one, yes. I have Jeff Kriet to thank for it. We were rooming at a tournament, and I had a bad day one day and he asked me what color boxers I was wearing. They were red, and he said, 'Ah, there's your problem.' He swore up and down that was why I didn't do good. He believes in it 100 percent. So I don't wear boxers that have any red in them. I even had my wife quit buying red ones, or ones with any red at all.
13. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
My feeling is that it is more fate than luck. God creates our fate.
14. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
At this point, I have a few, all of which happened this past season. I broke the $1,000,000 mark, won my third Elite Series event, and came in third in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
15. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
First, win Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, and second, win a Bassmaster Classic.
16. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
Seeing where the sport is going and the competition. I've always been competitive, and this is the first thing I've found that I can compete at the highest level.
17. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
I really can't say that I have one. There have been a few tournaments that have slipped away from me, but I don't have any real regrets.
18. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
At home with my wife and boys. We're always hunting, camping, or fishing.
19. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
Growing up, I always loved baseball, but I was never too good at it. I think that would have been cool.
20. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?
I want to be remembered in a positive way, as someone who was always willing to help out, and to be someone folks could truly call a friend.