A Pro's ApproachMike McClelland on Clarks Hill Lake


Pride of Georgia follow-up: What happened with McClelland?

Clarks Hill Lake, known officially as J. Strom Thurmond Lake and site of the fifth Elite Series event of the 2008 season, is massive. At normal pool it covers just over 71,000 acres and has 1,200 miles of shoreline.

Not surprisingly, given its size, Clarks Hill offers bass anglers nearly anything they want — shoreline cover, shallow bays and cuts, miles and miles of creek and river channels and tons of offshore, main lake structure. Along with all that there's plenty of rock, wood, and weeds. In short, there's something for everyone.

Mike McClelland, Elite Series pro and winner of last year's Pride of Georgia event on the same body of water, is optimistic about the 2008 event.

"It's a little different this year," he says after two days of practice. "The water's down 5 to 7 feet, and the bass are at an earlier stage this year. But, Clarks Hill is still Clarks Hill. Based on my practice I think the same things that worked last year will work again this year."

"A little different" means there are fewer postspawn fish this year because of a later spring which caused the bass to delay their reproductive cycle.

"Most of the bass are postspawn, but there are still some bass on the beds and even a few prespawn females roaming around. That'll open up a lot of opportunity for anglers to fish the way they like to fish. That can make for an interesting tournament."

McClelland reports good catches in the main lake and in some secondary areas. His weapons are the same, too.

"Based on what I know tonight (Tuesday) I'll leave the dock with a topwater plug and a jig ready to go. And, I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up tossing something with a spinning rod, maybe a drop shot, a shaky head or even a Zoom Finesse Worm.

"I think most of the guys will do the same thing, but a few might sight fish for bedding females. The water's clear enough to do that in some places."

Weather will be a factor in this event. Monday was overcast and rainy. Tuesday brought a cold front with north winds and clear skies. And, that's only the beginning. After an unusually cold Tuesday night it's supposed to gradually warm over the course of the four day tournament.

Those changes, according to McClelland, will create the possibility of heavier than expected catches. "I think it'll take about 20 to 22 pounds to make the Friday evening cut and fish on Saturday. And, in my opinion it'll take 45 to 47 pounds to launch on Sunday. I think 60 to 65 pounds will win it.

"But, the weather could make a difference. Water temperatures were in the 63-degree range on Tuesday morning. By the end of the tournament they could climb to 70 degrees. If that happens the fish will probably turn on and the weights could go through the roof."

Asked about his chances of repeating, McClelland is positive but realistic. "I feel pretty good. I know the right places to fish and have a good idea of how to fish," he candidly says. "But it's still a tournament. I've got to keep my rotation going if I'm going to fish on Sunday and be competitive."

"Rotation" to this Angler of the Year contender is defined as not staying on one spot too long and changing lures immediately when the bite slows. He considers it to be an absolute necessity.

"I've got to make myself move quickly — this isn't a lake where you can stay put — and change lures immediately when something isn't working. The biggest thing for me is to avoid sitting on one spot and getting into a routine. Like I said, if I can keep my rotation going, I think I'll be all right."

He is quick to remind us, however, that there are 108 other anglers fishing and that any one of them can win on any given day. "Everyone fishing the Elite Series is good. We can all catch fish. Anybody out there can win on any given day. I try never to forget that when I'm fishing. If you do you'll get beat.

"At the same time though, some anglers worry me more than others. Derek Remitz is one of them. He finished fifth last year and can really cover some water. He's a guy to watch carefully this week.

"Jeff Kriet is another angler to keep your eye on. He's real good at mixing it up with baits and locations. That's what it'll take to win this one. And, Casey Ashley's another one. He's good, knows the lake, and it suits his style of fishing. He'll have some big bags and could win it."

Pride of Georgia follow-up: What happened with McClelland?