Table Rock nearly robbed Mike McClelland of the opportunity he needed, but patience and skillful problem-solving allowed the Bentonville, Ark. pro to post a two-day total of 30 pounds, 4 ounces and take over the lead on day two of the Costa FLW Series Central Division event presented by Lowrance.
After tieing for second on day one with 16-12, McClelland faced a tougher time today, due largely to the lack of wind and post-frontal bluebird conditions. Despite a noticeably slower bite, he was able to sew together a limit of 13-8 that included a big fish that nearly wasn’t.
“I caught one fairly early this morning and then went for hours without catching anything,” McClelland says. “I fished a lot of new water today; that’s one thing I try not to do is fish the same water twice. I fished a lot of stuff I’ve caught them on in the past and finally, about 12:30, I went back to a stretch where I caught four or five keepers on yesterday.
“I caught one on a [Gene Larew] HardHead with a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog and that kind of settled me down a little bit. The wind was hitting the spot pretty good and I thought ‘They’re biting right now, so I’m going to pick up a crankbait and just go.’”
McClelland’s choice was a custom painted SPRO RkCrawler crankbait. Cranking several hundred yards seemed like an exercise in futility until McClelland reached a sweet spot.
“I got to this little gravel gut, heaved the bait up in there and she ate it,” he says. “I could tell it was a big one and I hollered for the net right off the bat. I’m fighting it to the boat and about halfway to the boat, it just pins. I lifted up once and it was solidly pinned.
“I let a little line out, felt the fish move and when I did, I pulled as hard as I could and got her coming back around the limb that she had gotten around. She was hooked pretty good, but she was hooked on the bottom of the mouth, so I’m assuming the crankbait actually came out of her jaw and wrapped around the bottom of her lip. I was just blessed to catch that fish.”
McClelland says that 4-pound kicker settled him down and put him one fish away from his limit.
“I just made up my mind I had to catch five every day, so I picked up the HardHead with the Fighting Frog and just ground it out until I caught my fifth fish,” he says. “I culled one more there and then I ended up running back down-lake and caught one more on the SPRO McStick.”
McClelland says he mostly targeted gravel flats with a line of timber right along a ledge.
“The fish were holding between the ledge and the timber,” he says. “Somewhere between 8 and 15 is where most of these fish are holding. Every now and then, when the wind hits something right, they’ll move up shallower; but they want to be on that gravel/rock bottom close to a deep ledge.”
Top 10 pros
1. Mike McClelland – Bentonville, Ark. – 30-4 (10)
2. Hensley Powell – Whitwell, Tenn. – 29-5 (10)
3. Jeremy Lawyer – Sarcoxie, Mo. – 29-1 (10)
4. Graden Hansen – Lees Summit, Mo. – 28-13 (10)
5. Stacey King – Reeds Spring, Mo. – 28-7 (10)
6. Derek Jenkel – Pinckneyville, Ill. – 27-3 (10)
7. Keith Amerson – Bethel Springs, Tenn. – 26-10 (9)
8. Kevin Meeks – Smyrna, Tenn. – 26-8 (9)
9. Todd Castledine – Nacogdoches, Texas – 26-0 (10)
10. Cody Hahner – Wausau, Wis. – 25-11 (9)
Allison expands co-angler lead
Owning the division’s top two catches, Chad Allison, of Carl Junction, Mo., has positioned himself nicely atop the co-angler field with 31 pounds, 9 ounces and a lead of 6-5. A simple strategy based on opportunistic fishing produced 15-7 on day one and 16-2 on day two.
“I just look at what my pro is doing and try to not hit spots that he’s hitting,” Allison says. “I’m using swimbaits and an Alabama rig. If I’m up on the bank, I’m trying to not cast at the same water my pro has already seined through. I’m just getting lucky and catching some good ones behind him.
“These fish are wanting to move up and bed. I have some experience on this lake, so I’m looking back on where I’ve caught fish before and trying to be there.”
After establishing the lead yesterday, Allison says he entered day two with a conservative goal — one that he’d go on to exceed.
“Today I was just hoping to catch a limit so I could stay in this thing,” he says. “I didn’t have a limit until later in the day, but I ended up with nine keepers today.”