Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 04/06/2014

Story by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush - Photos by Dave Rush

Branson, MO – Entering the final day of the Elite Series tournament on Table Rock Lake with a lead of 3 pound, 15 ounce lead over Aaron Martens, Mike McClelland knew that all he had to do on championship Sunday was come to the weigh-in scales with another quality limit of Table Rock bass to have a good shot at closing the deal on his fourth Elite Series victory.  

While the bites came quickly on the final day for the Arkansas pro, the quality keepers that had carried him to the top of the leader board over the course of the first three competition days did not.  As a result, for the first time this Elite Series season, the final day weigh-in was a nail biter.   

In the end, McClelland did enough to get the job done.  With a limit weighing 12-2, he finished with a total weight of 61-15 and won the tournament by 13-ounces.  

After back-to-back 3rd place finishes to start the season, Mark Davis continued to tear through the schedule, notching a 2nd place finish this week on Table Rock with a total weight of 61-2. During the four competition days, the 1995 Bassmaster Classic champion weighed-in limits of 18-8, 15-3, 11-12, and 15-11.  

Greg Hackney climbed up to 3rd place on Sunday after crossing the stage with a 16-7 limit for a total weight of 60-15, and Day One leader Aaron Martens finished in 4th with 14-3 on the day and a total weight of 60-1.  

After weighing-in 19-7 on Saturday to make his first Top 12 cut since the beginning of the 2012 Elite Series season, Kevin VanDam fell to 5th place on Sunday with a total weight of 59-15.  

Over all, the weights were impressive on Sunday, as five of the remaining 12 anglers broke the 15-pound mark and all but one angler weighed-in at least 12-pounds.   

In the Toyota Angler Of the Year race, Mark Davis has opened up a commanding lead after three tournaments, amassing 295 out of a possible 300 TAOY points.  Jared Lintner is chasing Davis in 2nd place in the TAOY standings with 260 points.  

Jacob Powroznik will enter the midway point of the season leading the Rookie Of the Year Race with 227 points.

1st Place: Mike McClelland (15-6, 16-14, 17-9, 12-2: 61-15)
McClelland on his expectations entering the tournament after practice:
“I’m not going to say that I thought I could put myself in position to win after practice, because I really only caught one quality bass during practice that weighed 7-8.  I didn’t catch that fish in a fashion that I wanted to pursue, and I was never able to duplicate that over a span of four or five hours.  

“I really felt like I could catch a limit fairly easily and that 15-pounds would be a really good day for me each day of the tournament.  Fortunately, the quality was a little bit better than I thought for the first three days of the tournament and kept me in this thing until the end.”  

McClelland on weighing-in his lightest limit of the tournament on Sunday:
“I didn’t really feel like I’d lost (the tournament) today, but I didn’t think that I’d done what I needed to do.  I fished as hard as I could fish today and I caught more fish today than I caught all week but the quality just wasn’t there.  I said this morning that what is meant to be is meant to be, and I truly believe that.  If it wasn’t meant for me to win this tournament, Mark Davis or Kevin VanDam would have caught 17- or 20-pounds today.  I just thank the Good Lord for the victory.”   

McClelland on his primary pattern during the week:
“I think that the biggest thing this week was that I was fishing by the seat of my pants.  When the wind didn’t blow much, I chased the wind.  It seems like there’s always a ripple somewhere on the lake, and that’s a big key.  I didn’t try to slow down and finesse the fish into biting.  

“The other key was knowing the lake well enough that I could run around freely.  I actually caught a lot of fish in this tournament off spots where I never threw a bait in practice.  From my past history, I just know how these fish relate and what kind of stuff they get on.  This time of the year, they want to be on the biggest, nastiest, gnarliest rock that you can throw at.   Some people get frustrated trying to fish that kind of stuff.  

“Mixing it up was a huge deal.  On the second day late in the day, I started getting bit really shallow on the crankbait and I was like, ‘Man, I need to pull out my McStick 115.’  I culled a couple fish and realized how shallow the fish were.  I made the decision late in the day to make a pretty good run and throw at one specific brush pile.  I made two casts and caught a fish that was 3 ½- to 3 ¾-pounds.  Those are the little things that make a difference over the course of the week.

“I was fishing windy, rocky banks close to channel swings in the creeks.  I primarily spent all of my time in the creeks or main lake pockets.  I didn’t go back in the big creeks, so smaller creeks and main lake pockets were the key.”  

McClelland on the frustration of only getting one kicker bite during the entire tournament:
“It was especially frustrating on the first two days, because all my fish were between 3 ¼- to 3-1/2 pounds.  If I could have had a kicker on either one of those days, I would have really been able to stretch the lead out.  Today, the quality just disappeared.  I was very disappointed in what I was able to put together.”   
McClelland on when he realized he had a legitimate shot at winning the tournament:
“The point at when I thought I could win was when I caught a bag that weighed almost 18-pounds yesterday.  I knew that to win this thing it was going to take one really big day or four consistent days.  There wasn’t one specific thing that was the eye-opening experience.  I established an area of the lake that I wanted to fish and I established a pattern that I wanted to run.”  

McClelland’s primary baits and tackle:
- 4” paddle-tail swimbait (unnamed) fished on either a 3/8-ounce or ½-ounce jighead.  
- SPRO McStick 115 (Clear Chartreuse).
- SPRO McStick 110 (Natural Herring).
- Storm original Wiggle Wart (crayfish pattern).
- 6’8” Falcon Rods Mike McClelland Signature Series Jerkbait Rod.
- Cabela’s Prodigy 6.3:1 baitcasting reel (used when fishing jerkbaits).
- Cabela’s Verano 5.4:1 reel (used when fishing crankbait).

McClelland on the importance of the three different baits:   
“I really fished three primary baits over the course of the week.  All three of them were huge as far as what I ended up catching.”  

“The (SPRO McStick) 110 is a suspending stickbait that will dive 6- to 8-feet deep.  When the fish get up in that shallow zone, it really gets down to quickly.  The (McStick) 115 is a bait that I designed for SPRO to fish shallower.  It’s actually a floating bait. I put #4 2X Strong Gamakatsu hooks on that bait to make it less buoyant.  It wasn’t quite suspending, but as long as I kept pressure on the bait, I could keep it in a suspending manner.  

“All the Wiggle Warts in my box are baits that I’ve had for 10 or 15 years.  In fact, I pulled one out the other day that was brand new in the package that was probably 20-years-old.  When a company finally develops a bait that will truly work like that (original Wiggle Wart), it’s going to be phenomenal.  The old original Wiggle Wart is like no other.

“Something that I never really liked to do on this lake over the years growing up here was swimming a grub or swimming a small swimbait.  That was a real player for me this week.  Yesterday when it was slick and calm, I picked that swimbait up and started throwing it on the ends of docks or out over brush and pole trees.”

McClelland on earning his fourth Elite Series trophy:
“It’s humbling and it’s a huge milestone to be in that elite group of anglers (with four Elite Series wins).  I’ve worked so hard at this for so many years, and I’ve been without a win since 2008.  To finally get another Elite Series win is a phenomenal experience.  It makes you realize that the opportunity is still there to achieve what I want to achieve in this sport, which is to win a Classic and win the Angler Of the Year.”

2nd Place: Mark Davis (18-8, 15-3, 11-12, 15-11: 61-2)
Davis on his final day thoughts on Table Rock:
“I really felt like I was going to win this tournament today all day long. I mean, I kept the pedal to the metal all day long and caught a ton of fish.  I basically had my stringer caught early today, and I knew that a 4- or 5-pound fish would give me enough to sew this thing up.  I picked up a Strike King 3XD looking for a bigger bite and probably caught 30 more fish on it, but could never get a good one.  I had a few pull off that may have helped, but I guess I will never know."

Davis on his primary pattern:
“I was just swimming that Strike King Menace Grub on that swing head that Cliff Pace makes. I would swim it around until I found the fish, and then I would slow down and start dragging it more like a jig.  Basically I was fishing new water each day, and looking for new fish.  It is a great way to fish because you can cover a lot of water, but then you can slow down also when you need to."

Davis' primary baits and equipment:
-Strike King Menace Grub (Green Pumpkin)
-Strike King KVD 1.5 Flat
-Team Lew's Rod 7' Heavy Action
-Lew's BB1HZ Reel
-17lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon

Davis' overall thoughts about why this week set up for anglers with experience on Table Rock:
“This lake has certain tendencies that some anglers tend to understand better than others.  Although our styles may be different, we can all stay on top of the fish.  The group of guys that are good at fishing these Ozark lakes shined this week, and it is obvious by who made the top 12 and who ended up winning this thing."

Davis on his hunger to win again:
"When you finish with two 3rds and a 2nd, and you are getting that close and sitting in that seat, it makes you hungry for the win.  Fishing is so mental. I don't care if your name is Joe Lunchbucket or Kevin VanDam, when you get that confidence and get in the zone that is what makes the difference.  I am fishing good enough right now to win a tournament, so we will just have to see if we can keep it going.”

3rd Place: Greg Hackney (16-0, 14-10, 13-14, 16-7: 60-15)
Hackney on his overall performance on Table Rock:
“It was basically just a pure power fishing deal for me all week with the exception of yesterday.  I ended up having to pick up a finesse worm when it got really slick yesterday, and that helped me cull a few fish.  I knew this tournament was going to come down to ounces, and the difference was going to be the big bite.  I fished pretty much perfect this week, but that big fish just eluded me, and that is obviously the difference maker."

Hackney on his primary pattern:
“I was concentrating on gravel bars to catch my smallmouth, and running channel banks catching largemouth and spots.  I have thrown 70 zillion times this week. I have never made more casts over a four day tournament than I did at this event.  I was basically throwing two different crankbaits - one for when the fish would move up shallower and one when they were out a little deeper."

Hackney's primary baits and equipment:
-Strike King KVD 1.5
-Strike King KVD 1.5 Flat
-Strike King 4” Finesse Worm

Hackney's overall thoughts about this week:
“I caught seven or eight limits of keepers on the first two days of the tournament and that isn't even counting the short fish.  I bet you I had close to 300 bites during this tournament, but that is the way you want it because it keeps you in tune because you are constantly catching something.  Believe it or not, I think I caught more smallmouth than anything else this week, it was a fun event to fish."

4th Place: Aaron Martens (18-11, 14-5, 12-14, 14-3: 60-1)
Marten's on his final day performance on Table Rock:
“I caught like 15 keepers today, but could never get a good one to bite.  I got a really good spotted bass bite going today, but got off of it pretty quick because I needed largemouth to win.  I finally had a big one come up on my jerkbait today, but she turned on my bait and never got it.  That is the only big fish that I even saw today."

Martens on his primary pattern:
“I was just fishing broken rock like everyone else basically.  I had like a 15 mile stretch of stuff I was fishing all over the lake.  Mainly I was throwing a jerkbait and a Wiggle Wart, and sometimes I threw a shaky head.  All the fish I weighed in were on the Wiggle Wart and the jerkbait.”

Martens’ primary baits and equipment:
- MegaBass Vision 110 Jerkbait (Pro Green & Elegy Bone)
-Storm Original Wiggle Wart
- 8lb. test Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon line
-10lb. test Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon line
-MegaBass Orochi X4 Casting Rods

Martens' overall thoughts about this week:
“I mixed it up a lot this week between spots, smallmouth, and largemouths.  I probably averaged 30 to 35 fish a day over the tournament, and most of the fish I caught were keepers.  I was fishing in the clearer water and a lot of the guys that were catching more numbers were in the dirtier water.  I probably should have gone out a little bit deeper and spent more time concentrating on the deeper trees.  I did some of that this week, but probably not quite enough so that is why I came up a little bit short.  I made some good decisions this week, but it is a little frustrating knowing that you are only a 5-pounder away from winning a tournament."

5th Place: Kevin VanDam (14-0, 12-0, 19-7, 14-8: 59-15)
VanDam on his overall performance this week on Table Rock:
“I knew that on the first day when I had 14-pounds that it was a bad sign. You need 15-pounds to be your bad day here and it has always been that way. If the conditions are good, you need more than that.  I had it judged pretty well on what it was going to take to win here this week, but I just couldn't make it happen.  You just can't afford to have one bad day here and expect to come out on top.”

VanDam on his primary pattern:
“I was mainly throwing a jerkbait on main lake points that had some wind and timber on them.  I was trying to cover as much water as possible and stay fishing where the wind was blowing if I could.  I also caught a lot of fish cranking this week when I was concentrating on the dirtier water."

VanDam's primary baits and equipment:
- Strike King KVD Jerkbait (Crystal Shad)
- Strike King KVD 1.5 Flat (Crawdad)
- Storm Original Wiggle Wart (Crawdad)

VanDam's overall thoughts about this week:
“That big fish on day three was the difference maker for me this week.  After I caught that one, I was on the move and was able to cull out everything else I had.  I was fishing some isolated trees and had another one that I think was even bigger barely eat my bait and come off.  That fish is going to be one that haunts me for a long time to come.  I didn't catch near as many fish as some of the other guys, but I would say that I caught over 150 bass during the tournament."  


PlaceNameDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Total FishTotal Weight
1 Mike McClelland 5 15- 6 5 16-14 5 17- 9 5 12- 2 20 61-15
2 Mark Davis 5 18- 8 5 15- 3 5 11-12 5 15-11 20 61- 2
3 Greg Hackney 5 16- 0 5 14-10 5 13-14 5 16- 7 20 60-15
4 Aaron Martens 5 18-11 5 14- 5 5 12-14 5 14- 3 20 60- 1
5 Kevin VanDam 5 14- 0 5 12- 0 5 19- 7 5 14- 8 20 59-15
6 Edwin Evers 5 17- 4 5 13- 9 5 13- 1 5 15-13 20 59-11
7 Jeff Kriet 5 14-10 5 14- 4 5 15-13 5 14-10 20 59- 5
8 Brandon Palaniuk 5 16-13 5 13-10 5 12-10 5 16- 0 20 59- 1
9 Cliff Prince 5 9- 6 5 19-10 5 12-15 5 16- 0 20 57-15
10 Bill Lowen 5 11- 6 5 14- 2 5 18-13 5 11- 8 20 55-13
11 Kevin Hawk 5 10- 6 5 16- 3 5 15-11 5 12- 7 20 54-11
12 Jared Lintner 5 12- 6 5 17-15 5 11- 2 5 12-11 20 54- 2