Heeding the words of a veteran touring pro has helped Mike McClelland refine his most productive tactic for big bass.
"Stacy King told me a long time ago that the majority of anglers fish too fast to catch big ones," says McClelland. "He said big fish are generally the laziest fish there are, and the suspending stickbait is the ideal bait to catch big fish because you can fish the bait so slowly.
"I look back over my years of fishing and I can't think of many other methods that I have caught as many big fish as I have on a stickbait."
The suspending stickbait catches trophy fish because it produces best during late winter warming trends when prespawn heavyweight bass move up in the water column. McClelland's ideal conditions for throwing a stickbait are a sunny day with a light wind on a lake with slightly stained to clear water (visibility between 1 1/2 to 10 feet).
The 2011 Bassmaster Classic qualifier favors a suspending stickbait because he can effectively work it over any type of structure. "You can catch a lot of fish on a stickbait over open water. It's great when you have an isolated target such as one standing tree on the end of a point, but it is also a bait that you can take off with down a bank and cover a lot of water whether it is deep or shallow."
Getting his lure to suspend properly is the key to McClelland's success. "Every stickbait you take out of the package isn't going to suspend perfectly at every water temperature every place you are going to fish the bait," he says. "There are too many outside variables that affect what that bait is going to do once you put it in the water. You have to make sure that bait is truly suspending when you put it in the water."
McClelland's favorite suspending stickbait is the McStick 110, a lure he designed for Spro. He opts for the Blue Bandit hue most of the time but will switch to Old Glory when he wants a flashier lure, or ghost hues on the sunniest days.
Before casting his lure, McClelland tosses it in the water next to the boat and pulls it slightly under the water to check the McStick's buoyancy. If the lure is floating up too fast, he will add weight by upsizing a treble hook from a No. 5 Gamakatsu to a No. 4 or add a split ring or two to the eye of the treble hook or the hook hanger. He also occasionally adds a split ring to the rear hook if the lure becomes too nose heavy and needs to be leveled.
"I always like my bait to sit slightly nose down (30-degree angle at the most)," says McClelland. The Arkansas pro believes he gets better hookups with a nose-down lure because bass tend to attack the front of the McStick more often.
The McStick has a maximum diving depth of about 9 feet, which can be reached best on a long cast. McClelland notices many anglers make a mistake on the next step of this presentation. "Ninety percent of the people I have fished with start twitching and jerking the bait as soon as it hits the water. What you want to do though is when that bait hits the water, just take eight or 10 winds of the reel handle to get the bait down 3 or 4 feet." Then McClelland pauses his retrieve, pulls the bait a few inches and resumes with sequences of twitch-twitch-pause. He works his stickbait with a 6-foot, 7-inch Falcon Cara Weightless Worm rod or prototype 6-foot, 9-inch Falcon McStick rod and Quantum 5.1:1 reel filled with 8- to 12-pound clear Sunline Super Natural monofilament.
Patience is a virtue with this tactic since it sometimes requires prolonged pauses. "I don't feel like you can ever let the bait sit too long," says McClelland. "If you have the bait in a prime target area, the longer you can let that bait sit there the better your chances of catching that fish that is not really in that good of a mood to eat."
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