McClelland Back on Top

 Mike McClelland is once again leading the Angler of the Year race. His narrow lead — 10 points — over fellow Elite Series angler and last week's AOY leader, Todd Faircloth, will hold for at least the next couple of weeks. There are no other tournaments until the Wheeler Lake, Ala., event, June 5-8.

 Does he see it holding beyond that?

 "I'm hopeful," he says. "There's still a lot of time left this year but it's at least possible as of now. I think the schedule will help me. I hope so anyway. But, you have to remember I was in first place after Amistad and then Todd (Faircloth) moved up. And, there are several other guys within striking distance, so things can change."

 The schedule is, indeed, helpful to the Bella Vista, Ark., angler. Florida bass have long been a problem for McClelland. This year, however, the Florida events were up front. They're behind him now. And this year, unlike last year, he didn't struggle in the Sunshine State. (He finished in 46th place on Toho in September 2007.)

 "Florida has been an issue with me in the past, but this year I got through both tournaments in pretty good shape. ("Pretty good shape" means a win on the Harris Chain and a 19th-place finish at Kissimmee.) I think the rest of the schedule is more to my liking. I've done fairly well on Wheeler in the past, and I really like Kentucky Lake and Lake Erie.

 "And, to be honest, I think I'm fishing as well as I ever have, maybe better. I'm more confident this year, and I'm making better decisions. It's all a package. One thing feeds off another. I'm hopeful as I look towards the Angler of the Year situation, but I don't want anybody to think I'm predicting that I'll win it. I'm not."

 Asked about how he would deal with the honor and the accolades if he does win, he's equally candid — and modest.

 "It's a great honor to be named Bassmaster Angler of the Year. There's no doubt about that. It's something that fixes your place in the sport. But, it's also something that you can only do so much about. A lot of factors have to fall into place before it happens. Some of them are within your control, others are not.

 "As a Christian and a man of faith, I believe it'll happen if the Lord wants it to happen, and if I do my part. Otherwise, I'll deal with whatever He gives me and be glad for it."

 In the meantime, McClelland is clearly enjoying the fruits of his labor and his successes as the season rolls along.

 "I do like being in first place. I have to admit that. The bonus checks come in real handy. I have two kids graduating from high school this Saturday and both of them are headed off to college in the fall. Do you know how much that costs?" he laughs.