Exclusive interview with Mike McClelland where he talks about tournament tactics and life as a pro! An HD Video.
Glenn: I'm Glenn May and I'm with Pro Elite, Mike McClelland, here at the Bassmaster Classic. It's good to have you on.
Mike McClelland: It's good to be here.
Glenn: Hey, Mike, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started into bass fishing and how it led to where you are today?
Mike: I basically grew up on Table Rock Lake just outside Branson, Missouri. My uncle was a guide there on Table Rock Lake, so I grew up watching him take clientele fishing. He fished local bass clubs, every bass federation and clubs and just seeing what went on with his fishing definitely intrigued me, but Table Rock was always one of the major stops for a lot of different tournament circuits.
Any time a big tournament came to town, of course, I was one down there seeking autographs, and I had the opportunity to meet Rick Clunn, Denny Brauer and Ricky Green and a lot of the big, big names back then. It really just got the interest in me wanting to get involved in tournaments. Having the opportunity to grow up there was probably the biggest thing that got me involved in tournament fishing.
Glenn: Fantastic. Now, at this level, the Elite, the highest you can get, strategy has got to be a huge important factor to your success. I'm curious: what is your approach, your strategy, to fishing the various tournaments, and does it change from lake to lake?
Mike: Probably one of the biggest things that dictates the way I fish is I'm not one of these guys that likes to try to cover the whole lake. I pretty well try to pick out a section of the lake, learn about as much of that section of the lake as I can, and I'm kind of one of those guys that everybody says I fish as slow as anybody out there. And that's just the trademark that works for me. I find an area, try to establish as much water in that one specific area, learn every bit of it as well as I can, so I've got options within that area. That's what works best for me.
Now, there's some guys that strictly fish patterns, they fish by the seat of their pants, and it works for them, but for me I need to get in an area and learn about it as much as I can. With a system like this, I basically pick one pool and try to learn as much water that's fishable in that area as I can to try to do well.
Glenn: Now, for the upcoming season, is your strategy going to change any different than previous seasons?
Mike: It isn't. Last year I really felt like I really got in the zone for me. A lot of the lakes that we are going to and have been going to are lakes that have been on the schedule two or three years now. We're starting to get familiar with them. I try to expand a little bit every time I go to these lakes so I just don't get caught up in that same old deal where I'm fishing the same water over and over again.
That's the one thing that I will be doing this year is trying to expand on the areas of the water that I've learned in the past, making sure I don't miss something. That's one of the things that you really have to be careful of You don't want to be so stubborn that if things aren't working in the area that you pick, you do have to occasionally re-negotiate and pick a different area of the lake.
Sometimes, you establish a pattern in an area of the lake, and then you expand on it during the tournament. That's the one thing that I have really, probably been very successful over the past couple of years doing is even during the tournament making changes and adjustments to go ahead further on with what I've learned through the course practice.
Glenn: Have you ever fished a tournament where you won a tournament or done well in a tournament, where you feel you just weren't quite on top of your game?
Mike: Well, I'm not going to say I ever won where I wasn't on top of my game, but last year the Harris Chain, that was a tournament that I won that was totally unexpected. Brian Snowden, a great angler, was leading that thing by ten pounds, you know. I went into that final day, I felt like I was fishing at the top of my game, but went into that final day ten pounds down, knowing or thinking I was fishing for second place.
So, everything worked out for me. I guess, it didn't for Brian. I mean, I caught what I needed to catch, and he stumbled that final day. That's the only tournament that I can say you don't win if you're not fishing at the top of your game. I don't think I've ever been handed something when it wasn't deserving, and that's the one thing that I think you'll find with any of these guys you talk to. You're not going to sneak up and win one of these things if you're not fishing at the top of your game.
Glenn: Now, what if you have a bad day on the water or a bad tournament? How do you bounce back from that and keep your focus?
Mike: That's one of the biggest things that I've done, and you see a lot of anglers when they lose a fish, they break a fish off, it'll just wreck them for a while. That's one thing that I learned a long time ago that you can't let those fish losses or breaking one off or something of that nature get to you. I can lose one or break one off or whatever it might be, and in the next two or three casts I'm right back in the mode.
That's the thing that you have to do. You have to learn to overcome those things. If you have a bad day on the water, you go back, you sit down, you evaluate what you did to create that bad day and make sure that you do something the next day to keep that train wreck from happening again.
Glenn: Going a little bit now towards just overall being a pro angler and the stigma that goes around it, a lot of people have misconceptions about what you do and what it takes to be a pro angler. What do you think is the biggest misconception?
Mike: The biggest misconception is everybody thinks we're just out here on a big joy ride, just fishing every day, loving life. There's a lot more to it. We have a behind the scenes, our every day life with the sponsors. The business side of this is far more detailed than a lot of people realize. Every one out here is not making these big dollar figures that everybody thinks we are. We're struggling, we're kicking, we're scratching, we're just trying to make a living.
It's not to say some guys are making good money, but it's been a struggle, and I think that is the biggest misconception that the general public has is what we as anglers are truly making. A lot of us really depend on our tournament winnings over the course of the year to make things work out to provide for our family. We don't go to a job every day that whether you catch them or not you get paid. You have to catch them. You have to perform to get a paycheck at the end of this day.
Glenn: Oh yeah. Definitely. I understand that. Now, some of the things you're also involved in off the water is creating different products and working with the manufacturers to create new lures and maybe, there's a specific product line that you're interested in. How much involvement does that take, and really how much input do you have on the design of these products?
Mike: I just recently this year, well, we actually introduced it last year at ICAST. I designed the stick baited, jerk baited, stick baited for SPRO Bait Company, and basically the time that's involved in that is far more than I never realized. The thing that cool about SPRO is the input section of it. We basically tell them what we want from start to finish.
It's not one of those deals where they send us a bait and say, "Look, let's make this work." I basically told them exactly the body size, the body shape, what I wanted the bait to do and refined it through a long period of time. We actually started working on that project; it's been two years ago this January and didn't actually release it until ICAST this past July.
It was, basically, a year and a half process, and that's going through the whole prototyping stage to the final product being ready to go to the shelves for the consumer, but the input that SPRO allowed me to have was just phenomenal. Another company that I'm involved with is War Eagle spinner baits. I'm been involved with them my whole career.
There's always bait ideas that I have that I go back to Keith at War Eagle with, and he makes up different prototypes. This past year we introduced a spinnerbait called the Finesse spinner bait. It's basically a turtle back, a smaller profile bait, 3/16 and 5/16 ounce sizes. It's one of those limit getter. When you need to catch five, it's a small profile, small bait to get the job done in a hurry.
We have a lot of involvement in things like that. As the tackle industry changes and our bait needs change, the companies we work with actually give us the opportunity to try to help them stay on top of the curve.
Glenn: So, it's a lot of input then. Awesome. You've got a lot of involvement. Awesome. You spend a lot of time away from home, away from your family. If anything, a lot of these pro anglers are your family. It seems like. You spend so much time with them. I'm sure there's a great camaraderie that goes on and, maybe some joking around. Arethere any really good practical jokes that you've been involved with, or do you know of any that happened you'd like to share with us?
Mike: Yeah. I've been pretty fortunate not to be in the midst of some of those practical jokes, but there have been a few that have gone on over the past couple of years, things like guys' windshields off their boats being missing. There's some guys that really get their feelings hurt over stuff like that.
Gerald and some of these guys that have their windshields all wrapped up and then all of a sudden it's gone. They're fixing somebody stole it. Yeah. There's been a number of different things that have gone out here, and all of them don't come to mind. If you'd have given me an opportunity to stop and think about it, there's definitely some things that happen out here amongst the anglers.
They are your family, and you've got to learn how to have fun out here on the road. If everybody was all tense and tight all the time, nobody'd be successful out here, so it's a lot of fun, and being away from our families is probably one of the hardest parts of this job as well, knowing that I'm going to be gone 200 plus days this year, not being home with my wife and my boys. The family support that you have to have to be successful as an angler is just one of the biggest things we all look for.
Glenn: Well, Mike, I'm going to give you a moment, it's what I call the shameless plug moment. Now, you can talk about your sponsors, or if you've got an upcoming new product coming out, DVD, book or if you just want to say hi to your friends and family out there, here's your moment, whatever you want to say.
Mike: The thing about it is all of the sponsors have been with me through the course of my career. That's one thing that I take great pride in is most of the companies I've been involved with, it's been a career deal. Mercury and Champion have been phenomenal, War Eagle spinnerbaits and the new involvement with the SPRO Bait Company the past couple years, but I've got some involvement coming up with Zoom. We're actually working on some baits; you were talking about baits that I get influence on.
I'm talking to Zoom right now about designing some specific trailers to go along with my Jewel football jigs that is going to be huge. I've been cutting things up and dressing them up over the past couple of years, but being able to do that to make a trailer specific for a Jewel football jig is going to be awesome.
Jewel and I have a new little bait that we're working on actually. It's a weight that kind of falls into the football deal. I can't go into a lot of detail on it yet because we haven't quite released it, but basically football season now might be open for Carolina rigging, too, is about what I can say.
Glenn: Awesome. Well, Mike, it's been a pleasure to have you here today. Good luck on the upcoming season. We hope to see you on the winner circle more often than not.
Mike: I appreciate it. Thanks a lot.