|McClelland Catches Up to Win Bassmaster Elite Series Season Opener|
After Saturday’s gusting winds and tough conditions, Sunday proved to be a beautiful, clear day. By the final day of the tournament, the top 12 competitors all had realized that the key to solid fishing was to slow down.
Throughout the tournament, McClelland fished lily pads and grass on and around the Dead River and Lake Eustis, sticking with a Zoom trick worm all weekend. On Sunday he brought in a five-fish limit of 15 pounds, 0 ounces, for a four-day total of 59 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I didn’t have a keeper until 11 o’clock,” McClelland said. “I didn’t panic, went to my secondary area, and that ended up being one of the best areas I had all week.”
McClelland practiced at Harris Chain with fellow Elite Series pro Jeff Kriet, and the two had a lot of successful bites.
“He said, ‘One of us is going to win this thing,’ ” McClelland said of Kriet. “After the first day, I thought, well, the opportunity may be there. He told me last night again, ‘Dude you’re going to win this thing.’ I guess he’s actually called it almost three times, Grand Lake, Clarks Hill and this one. It’s just been one of those weeks of almost flawless fishing.”
McClelland’s first Bassmaster event was at Harris Chain in 1988, when Larry Nixon won.
“I caught the second 10-pound fish I’d caught in my life here,” McClelland said. “This is where I basically started what is now my career. I’ve got a lot of memories of it, I have a lot of good things to say about this lake.”
With the win, McClelland takes the top position in the 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, the seasonlong chase that will determine the top 36 qualifiers for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, with the AOY winning $250,000. The next stop on the Elite Series circuit is the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes out of Lake Wales, Fla., for the March 13-16 Citrus Slam presented by Longhorn.