Kelly Bostian: Seeking a Bassmaster break
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, December 02, 2012
12/02/12 at 7:44 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Looking for a break
MIKE MCCLELLAND ASSESSED the chunky Grand Lake bass caught on his long, thin blue-ish torpedo-shaped lure, a prototype color for one of his signature Spro McStick jerkbaits.
He smiled big, returned the fish to the greenish-stained water and said, "That does kinda get you fired up a little bit."
And why wouldn't it? Because the Bassmaster Elite pro from Bella Vista, Ark., wasn't at Grand Lake to catch fish on this warm sunny Wednesday afternoon. He just hooked a few for the camera.
He is one of the 53 anglers who will fish the Bassmaster Classic when the "Super Bowl of Bass Fishing" comes to Oklahoma for the first time Feb. 22-24, one for whom Grand Lake becomes "off limits" on Dec. 10.
After next week there will be no more scouting and no more learning secrets about the lake from locals.
"The only thing we're allowed to know after that are things that are already out there, things out in public," McClelland said.
Fishing the lake the first week of December doesn't tell an angler much about how the fish will behave in February, especially as warm as November was this year. The lake conditions likely will be very different come late February, but it's a sure bet many of the pros will be cruising the waters of Grand this week anyway.
Like McClelland, few will be casting lines. "This is a lot of what I've been doing," he said as he ran his boat at idle speed watching closely as features of the lake rolled across the screens of his Lowrance imaging and GPS sonar.
Skeet Reese, the 2009 Classic champ from Auburn, Calif., caught a plane into Tulsa early this week and spent a couple days on a borrowed boat at Grand. He's been on Grand several times, but he still brought a memory card and went to the lake.
"I didn't fish at all; I just drove around and looked and graphed and tried to find what I think will be potentially good areas," he said. He will plug the card into the sonar on his boat when he comes to the tournament and hopes it will make him more efficient in the practice sessions, he said.
"It was good. I'm glad I did it," he said.
Four-time Classic champ Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Mich., won't be coming to the lake. He also is familiar with Grand, having fished it several times. He won an Elite tournament on Grand in 2007. Going to the lake in advance makes sense for rookie Classic anglers, especially those who have never been to the lake, he said. But he usually doesn't practice before a Classic venue goes off limits.
"I haven't practiced for one for a long long time," he said. Sometimes practicing months ahead of time can put things in an angler's mind that work against him. He may get an idea stuck in his head that is no longer relevant. "For me, fishing in the now is better. I'll have three days for practice; that's plenty."
Wagoner Elite pro Tommy Biffle wasn't at the lake this week. He was on a deer hunt in Illinois. Then again, when other anglers were occupied with the Classic at Shreveport, La., last February, Biffle was fishing Grand as much as he could.
Jason Christie of Park Hill, the FLW pro who is fishing his first Classic but is favored to win as the guy who has the most recent and plentiful experience on what he calls his "home lake," has been looking around Grand recently. He said he doesn't really expect to gain much from the experience, "it's just one of those things where I don't want to look back and be sorry I didn't," he said.
Then there's McClelland. He lives only about an hour's drive from the lake and came up fishing in regional championships there. He won an Elite series tournament on Grand in 2006, and his affinity for jerkbait fishing puts him in the realm of those whose favored method fits the waters.
Still, he has put in a fair amount of time on Grand lately.
"The Classic is coming at a different time of year than I've fished here," he said. "As far as the offshore stuff, I'm pretty familiar with it, but when it comes to the shoreline, the creek channels, key secondary points and staging points, that's what I'm learning about."
As much time as he has on the lake, McClelland said he is picking up on some new things, some characteristics of the lake that escaped him previously, some new structures he thinks may come into play with colder weather and colder water. All are things he can add to his mental inventory and, perhaps, give him an edge in February.
Bassmaster Elite pro Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., hefts a meaty Grand Lake bass on Wednesday while scouting the lake before it goes off limits to Bassmaster Classic competitors on Dec. 10. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World
Bassmaster Elite pro Mike McClelland monitors lake structures. He said he was putting in time to learn about shoreline, the creek channels, key secondary points and staging points. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World