Notes from Table Rock


Steve Bowman

BRANSON, Mo.— When a pattern clicks for a pro angler success hinges on lures, techniques or seasonal conditions. Much more is happening for Mike McClelland at Table Rock Lake.

Today McClelland caught 17 pounds, 7 ounces to make himself a strong contender in tomorrow's final round of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open. The Arkansas pro goes into the championship round in second place with 30-15. He is less than 2 pounds behind leader Randy Sullivan.

Lures do the work but the mind motivates the body to win. McClelland's mind is emotionally connected to his areas.

"Yeah, I do have an emotional connection to my spots and that does make a big difference," he said.

The connection is family history. McClelland's grandparents developed property near his fishing areas. He spent his teenage years fishing the same creeks in an aluminum jon boat.

Being on home turf also adds to the motivation

"When I'm performing in front of family and friends I always find another level to take it," he said. "Call it hometown pride or whatever you want, but it does motivate me even more."

A case in point happened here just two years ago. McClleland won the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Table Rock. The Arkansas pro always is a strong contender to win any tournament held in his native Ozarks region.

Martin on the mend
Tommy Martin just keeps on fishing while his heart keeps on ticking.

Less than four months ago the 1974 Bassmaster Classic champion suffered a heart attack while deer hunting in west Texas. This week, Martin, 76, is casting for bass at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open underway at Table Rock Lake.

"I feel better than I did all last year and I thought it was just because I was old," he said.

Anyone acquainted with Martin knows otherwise. He started guiding on Toledo Bend in the early 1970s before he launched his B.A.S.S. career. He only gave up the guiding business last month to stay rested in between tournaments. Martin has fished consecutively for the past 13 days.

The outcome of the heart attack could have been much worse. Martin was transported by air ambulance from his lease to Lubbock, Texas, where he underwent a procedure to place three coronary stents in blocked arteries.

A few days later he returned home, rested, and was deer hunting again the next week. He followed doctor's orders and completed his cardiac rehabilitation. Now, he's gradually back to his active lifestyle.

"Better diet, taking medicine and staying fit," he said. "That's what I plan to do."

What else he plans to do is fish the remaining Central Opens and get back to guiding.

Looking to be legendary
The 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series marked the return of legendary angler David Fritts to B.A.S.S. competition. Fritts is fishing the series using the "Legend Exemption." Another veteran B.A.S.S. pro is hopeful to be considered for the same opportunity.

The Table Rock tournament marked the return to B.A.S.S. competition of Charlie Ingram. The veteran Tennessee pro is fishing the Central and Northern Opens this season. Ingram is back after leaving B.A.S.S. competition in 2011.

"What brought me back is the goal of qualifying for the Elite Series," he said. "David is doing really well and proving us old guys can still play the game."

Coincidentally, his roommate on the FLW Tour was Fritts.

Ingram, 70, has eight Bassmaster Classic appearances and four B.A.S.S. wins. He fished his first B.A.S.S. event in 1980.

"I feel really good and want to make another run at it," said Ingram, who is fairing well after shoulder replacement surgery last year.

How I spent my off-season
Many pros trade rods and reels for bows and rifles during the off-season. Not Charlie Hartley.

The upbeat pro from Ohio took his rods to Lake Conroe, site of the upcoming GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods. Hartley is fishing his second Classic after winning the Northern Open last August on the James River in Virginia.

"We are going to catch them really well," he said. "I spent a lot of time getting to know the lake."

Hartley arrived before Thanksgiving and stayed until Christmas. Then he returned and fished until the lake went off limits just before Southern Open #1 on the Harris Chain.

He spent more than 30 days on Conroe getting to know the lake, feeling good about the experience.

"The last time I fished late in the scouting period I did really well in the Classic," he said.

Indeed he did. Hartley was Day 1 leader at the 2008 Classic on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina.

Wacky winter
One of the top-rated fisheries in the Ozarks is Table Rock Lake. This week it's not shown it's best side.

The fish are running small with a majority caught below the 15-inch minimum size limit. The evidence is on the scoreboard. On Day 1 a collective 134 anglers failed to bring a keeper to the scales and much of the same occurred today.

"Mostly what we are catching are the smaller male largemouths," said Stacey King, a veteran pro and former guide on Table Rock. "The fish basically don't know if it's winter or spring."

Mild weather prevented the bass from migrating into deep water and forming into winter patterns. King caught largemouth in shallow water all winter. Spotted bass and smallmouth were even harder to catch. Fish were generally scattered throughout the water column.

All that should change soon.

"After this mild winter all it will take is a week of continuous warm weather to stabilize the fishing," said King.

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