On Mike McClelland

Every now and again I like to use this column to talk about one of the other anglers fishing the Elite Series. This week we’re going to take a look at Mike McClelland. In my humble opinion, he’s one of the best out there, and a man who deserves more press and accolades than he gets.

I don’t claim to be a close friend of his, although I do know him. That said, I’ve watched him for years. Do not be fooled by his reputation as a jerkbait angler. He is that, but he’s also about as versatile as a guy can get.

Let’s be honest. Most professional bass anglers have some sort of niche or particular skill that puts them in a position to win from time to time. When the stars align in their favor, they do well. The rest of the time they fish. Of course, some of them are more successful at doing that than others. But you get my point. It’s a rare angler who can win anywhere, anytime, against any level of competition.

McClelland has won four Elite tournaments in his career, one each in the first three years of its existence. I’m not sure if that makes him second or third to Kevin VanDam. Regardless, I am sure it makes a statement about his skills. He fishes against the best and he brings home the trophy.

In that three-year run, he won on Grand Lake, Clarks Hill Lake and the Harris Chain of Lakes. Those are three very different fisheries that require three very different approaches. His latest win on Table Rock Lake was different still. That’s the record of a man who can get it done.

If you doubt what I say, consider his “dry spell” between 2009 and 2013 when he didn’t win. During that five-year span he had three Top 10 finishes in Elite events as well as two Top 10 finishes in the four Bassmaster Classics that he fished. (He’s fished a total of nine Classics and will fish his 10th in 2015.)

Besides all of that he has two Invitational wins and one Open Championship win. Two of them are on traditional river systems, the Arkansas River and the Alabama River. This man can win or place high on any body of water that harbors a bass. It’s extraordinary when you stop to think about it.

Better yet, however, he’s a fine family man. I can honestly say I’ve never heard a bad word about him or his family. His wife is a wonderful woman and his kids are polite and well-behaved. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Kids don’t get that way by accident.

In this age of increasing specialization, I think we should celebrate anglers like Mike McClelland. They set a high bar, for us and for themselves. We need more anglers in this business like him.

Next week, we’ll talk about my trip to Chickamauga Lake. I’m here to tell you that place is unbelievable. I didn’t know bass grew that big in Tennessee.