Congrats to Scott McGehee for winning this week’s trivia contest! Although he didn’t guess the extra credit question, he still walks away with a $20 e-coupon from Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits. For the answer, read below.
In 1996, Mike McClelland wasn’t the household name that he is in fishing circles today. He was, in the words of Bassmaster writer Tim Tucker, “better known as a 28-year-old wallpaper contractor than an aspiring bass pro fishing just his sixth B.A.S.S. event.”
He quickly established himself that year as a young pro to watch by winning back-to-back Central Invitationals.
The first came on the Arkansas River(out of Pine Bluff) in his home state that October. It was a brutally tough event – in a field of 330, 23 anglers, including stalwarts like Rick Clunn, Paul Elias and Lonnie Stanley, failed to bring a bass to the scales. It took just over 4 pounds a day to get a check. Meanwhile, McClelland weighed 25-02 to beat veteran Tommy Martin by 1 pound, 11 ounces. Martin would have won if he’d been able to weigh all of his fish, but he was 30 minutes late on Day One because he failed to lock back through in time. His 9-03 catch for that day was therefore erased.
McClelland keyed on a clear water section of the pool above Pine Bluff. Tucker reported that in his key grassbeds in the Brodie Bend backwater area “an infestation of the exotic zebra mussels has cleared up the water significantly.”
Just five weeks later, McClelland won another low-weight event, this time at muddy and wind-blown Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi, thus making him the first B.A.S.S. back-to-back winner since Charlie Ingram had accomplished the feat approximately a dozen years earlier. Believe it or not, this one was even tougher than his last win. In a field of 320 bass pros, there were 68 three-day blanks (over 1 in 5 anglers). The weight to get a check was a mere 7 pounds, 8 ounces.
McClelland, entered Day Three in 12th place, but weighed 13-06 the last day to beat out runner-up Stan Gerzsenyi by a little bit over 2 pounds. To put that in perspective, his final day catch alone would have been good enough for 10th place.
While the cover and water clarity were very different at Ross Barnett than it was on the Arkansas River, McClelland used the same brand and style of lure in both events. At the time the company wasn’t well-known, but today they’re an industry standard.
Do you remember what brand he introduced with his consecutive wins?
Furthermore, do you remember the brand of rods that he employed?
Here are the answers.
McClelland used War Eagle spinnerbaits to win both 1996 Invitationals. At the time, according to War Eagle’s site, they “were made in two garages in N.W. Arkansas by two serious bass fishermen, and sold locally in five tackle stores.”
McClelland noted that they were made with “music wire” (elsewhere it was reported to be piano wire), which increased the vibration, and balanced so that they remained upright at a variety of speeds and retrieve cadences.
In 1998, Gerald Swindle further cemented the company’s status by using War Eagle spinnerbaits to win an FLW event on Beaver Lake, McClelland’s home water. “During practice, I had been watching birds feeding on gizzard shad, so I changed to a War Eagle spinnerbait with the biggest blade I could find,” he told FLW.
Both McClelland and Swindle are still sponsored by War Eagle a decade and a half later. In fact, if you look at the products McClelland used in the Ross Barnett tournament videos, you can see that he’s been very loyal to the companies that have helped him along the way – four B.A.S.S. wins later, he’s still with Quantum Reels, Mercury Motors and Champion Boats (although he now runs a Stratos, the Champion line has been folded into that company’s products). He’s now one of the key staffers for Falcon Rods, which is one product he was not using for the two 1996 wins. At the time, he used Bud Erhardt Fishin’ Sticks, best known as one of the few manufacturers to feature spiral-wrapped guides. “They eyes start at the top of the rod and gradually wrap around it,” he told Elmer Anderson of the Beaver County Times, thus reducing line abrasion and increasing casting distance.
Here’s a little bit of video evidence of young Mike McClelland:
ROSS BARNETT VIDEO1:
ROSS BARNETT VIDEO2: