MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Tommy Biffle knows that he needs 20 pounds to stay in front of a charging top-12 field of Bassmaster Elite Series anglers on the final day of the AutoZone Sooner Run on his home lake.
And for Biffle, who leads by 12 ounces over Pat Golden entering the final day at Fort Gibson Lake, a victory on Father's Day would be his ultimate conquest of the regular season.
"I'd be pretty neat," he said. "It's a special thing to be fishing on Father's Day."
His father Matt, who is now deceased, moved his family to nearby Wagoner, Okla. when Biffle was four years old.
"We fished here all the time," Biffle said. "We'd catch a lot of crappie and go cat fishing and I'd fish for bass off our old pontoon boat. We were at the lake nearly every weekend."
Reese relates to being on the road
It's never easy to be away from family, especially on Father's Day for Skeet Reese.
"That's the biggest draw back of our profession is being on the road so much and being away from my girls," Reese said. "There's a part of me that wants to be home with them today and they want to be with their daddy."
First though, Reese has to concentrate on overtaking the three anglers ahead of him to capture the AutoZone Sooner Run championship. In fourth place entering Day Four, he is less than three pounds behind leader Tommy Biffle.
The fact of the matter is, I made the final 12 and I'm happy that I'm here with a shot to win a tournament and getting the points I need to keep the points lead," Reese said. "All in all it's good."
Monday morning Reese will fly back to California so he can spend some quality time with his daughters Leamarie and Courtney.
"The good news is that I will be there for a while," he said. "My situation is similar to those in the armed forces with them being overseas. They don't get to see their families for eight or nine months and I feel for them. I could complain about what I'm going through, but it's nothing compared to them. I want to thank them. I can somewhat relate by just being off two or three weeks at a time, so happy Father's Day to everybody out there."
Like father, like son
Mike McClelland has an outside shot to win the AutoZone Sooner Run if he gets a break during Day Four and finds those quality fish that he's been known to do.
Currently in 11th spot, McClelland wishes he was in a better position to win it all, but knows that he will have the support of his father, Rodney, who taught him the art of bass fishing.
"The cool thing about fishing on Father's Day is that my father is here with me," McClelland said. "He road over here with me and the fact that he supports what I do means a lot. It's special to fish on Father's Day. I wish I was in better shape to win, but anything is possible. If the good Lord intends for me to win today, I'll win."
Rodney McClelland has always supported his son's dream of being a professional bass fisherman and has been a constant source of encouragement.
"It's exciting to see him in the final 12 and having a shot to win it," Rodney McClelland said. "It's a long shot, but you never know what can happen. It's a special day for both of us. All I can say to those out there, is take your kids fishing. It's one of the cleanest sports you can do and anybody can do it."
When the younger McClelland was 14, he and his father would rebuild old boats during the winter months to have a craft to fish from during the spring.
"We didn't have a lot of money to go out and buy new boats, so every winter we'd buy an old pontoon boat or an aluminum boat and fix it up to go fishing in the spring," Mike said. "It was always kind of a project in the works for us. We spent a lot of time fishing together. He'd take me fishing before daylight for two or three hours, then take me to school. We've done it all my life. I don't know anything different than spending time on the water with my dad."
Recently, McClelland's father brought Mike's first tournament championship aluminum boat back to life.
"He caught a lot of fish out of it," Rodney said. "We plan to go back on the river someday and fish some of those places we used to fish. I still fish those spots where he first caught fish when he was a kid, so we sit around and reminisce about those times a lot. I am so proud of him."
Father's Day is special for VanDam
Kevin VanDam recalls how his father Richard inspired him to become a professional fisherman.
"My dad helped me a ton to get started," VanDam said. "He really gave me the opportunity to begin with. I would have never had a boat if it wasn't for him, so being able to fish on Father's Day is a big deal for me."
VanDam enters the final day of the AutoZone Sooner Run in fifth place only 2.5 ounces out of the lead and started his day with a call from his own children, Jackson and Nicholas.
"I always call them 10 minutes before blast off," he said. "It means a lot to me just to have them talk to me. It's one of those things that it's hard being away from your family. They know that I'm here to work though. It's not the best case scenario, but there are a lot of sporting events on Father's Day and that's part of it. I think they are used to it, but it doesn't make it easy."