When did you have an idea that you’d like to fish professionally?
There are a lot of guys that decide late in life they want to get involved in tournaments, but I was exposed to tournaments at a fairly young age—I was probably 12 or 13 years old when I first started seeing tournaments come to Table Rock Lake [near his hometown of Bella Vista, Arkansas]. I was very competitive, good at a lot of things, but I just knew I wasn’t ever going to have the build to be a baseball or football player or any kind of athlete like that. Fishing gave me the opportunity to compete at the highest level without having to have the size to compete.
How would you assess your career so far?
I would say I have had a very blessed and successful career. There are still some goals I want to accomplish, but honestly there are only two or three goals directly in front of me I want to reach: I have not won an Angler of the Year title, I have not won a Bassmaster Classic and I have not won a Major League Fishing event. They are the only three things in my career that I would say I have not put the final dot on. Those things are very hard to accomplish—there are only so many anglers that will ever accomplish all of them throughout their career—but they’re definitely something my goals are set on.
Do you feel confident in your ability to accomplish them?
I really do. I feel I’ve got a number of good years ahead of me. That’s another thing about the sport of professional bass fishing—you’re not limited by age, like a football or basketball player. As long as I take care of myself and continue to have the backing of my sponsors, I feel I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me.
How do you deal with tournaments or events that haven’t gone your way?
There’s no doubt that being able to leave one tournament and go to the next without any reservations about how you performed is a big deal. If you tend to look back at all the things you did wrong, you don’t ever move forward. That’s one thing I have most definitely learned about this sport: the guys that get caught up in what happened at the last event, or last year, are the guys that just don’t ever put it together. That’s the one thing I really feel I’ve done a great job with: when one tournament’s over, I forget about it and move on to the next.
What are some of the places you’ve fished that have really appealed to you?
I have essentially fished border to border and coast to coast in the United States, and I have seen some of the most awesome places [in] this country. There are a couple of places that really stand out as far as beauty. I love upstate New York—places like Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River are just unbelievably beautiful, and so comfortable and quiet. The Ozarks are just tremendous; I feel like Grand Lake is one of the best lakes in the United States, and it holds a spot in our family’s lives because I’ve had two really great tournaments through the Elite Series over the years. It’s just a great place to fish.
Keep up with Mike McClelland and the GEICO angler team by following them on Twitter: @GEICOAnglers.
Want more great interviews from GEICO’s sports stars? Check out our interview with NASCAR driver Casey Mears and crew Chief Bootie Barker, who take you Inside the Garage.
By Chris Powell