For Mike McClelland and son Justin, fishing has always been a way for the two to come together, whether on camping trips along the White River or bass fishing at lakes around northwest Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.
For years, though, fishing kept them apart, too, as Mike traveled extensively as he built a successful career as an Elite Series pro. This summer, the McClelland boys are back together as Justin gets his first taste of high-level tournament fishing in the Bassmaster Central and Northern Opens. He’d made a deal with his father that before he’d pursue a career in fishing, he would earn his college degree, which he did this spring.
Father and son will travel together, practice together and compete against each other on the pro side. It figures to be a rewarding experience for both.
Justin and Mike have agreed to share their experiences with BassFan through periodic entries in what’ll be called the Open Road Journal. In the first entry, in advance of this week’s Central Open at the Arkansas River, Justin introduces himself and offers some background as to why he’s been looking forward to what this summer may hold.
We all want to follow in our father’s footsteps.
It can be harder for some than it is for others. I feel that my dad, Elite Series angler Mike McClelland, is among the upper echelon of professional tournament anglers, so following in his footsteps will not be an easy task.
I recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Arkansas and I have always joked with my dad about how I hope to never use the degree. I feel, without a doubt, that getting a college degree, then trying to become a professional fisherman was the best route I could have taken and I thank my dad for pushing me through it.
I believe that having a marketing degree will be a benefit to me because it has allowed me to better understand the business side of the industry. I have worked and managed an outdoors store in northwest Arkansas since I was 15 and that has allowed me to make a lot of really good connections inside and outside the industry.
I feel that this is a huge opportunity not only for me, but also for my dad. I know that there will be a huge learning curve for me to deal with when tackling the Opens for the first time, but my dad is just the person I want to be able to lean on.
I have fished competitively since I was 15, but this summer will be the first time I have been to several of the tournament venues. It will make it easier having dad around to bounce ideas off of versus being on my own. I also feel that there are going to be certain things I will be able to help my dad with. One item that comes to mind is all the new Garmin equipment we have on our boats.
I think the biggest fear that I have is not being competitive. My goal is to qualify for the Elite Series and be the father-son duo on tour. To achieve my goal, I feel that I will have to be as consistent on the road in events as what I have been on my home water. I plan to spend a lot of time on the water the next 6 months to achieve my goal.
I truly believe that my father and I will make a great duo on the water. We fish a lot like each other in ways. I believe there are definitely things I will do that he may not and there are things he may do that I might not. We will hopefully be able to establish different patterns together and both have successful events.
The traveling part and getting to stay together will be bittersweet. I am not around my dad a lot due to his schedule and my schedule, so by doing the Opens together it will allow us to get to spend a lot of lost time together.
I’m really excited to get on the road and see how it all plays out.
Additional Open Road Journal entries will be published periodically through the summer.