SIDNEY, Neb. (Jan. 3) - Bassmaster Elite Series pro anglers Mike McClelland and Dave Walker will charge into the 2014 season with title sponsorship from two of the most respected companies in the country: Cabela's and GEICO For Your Boat.
The announcement adds a huge level of excitement to the off-season preparation of the decorated duo, who are busy gearing up for the monumental fight ahead.
"We're thrilled to have this exceptional support from Cabela's and GEICO For Your Boat," Walker said. "I couldn't think of two other companies I'd rather represent. I've had a big smile on my face since this new deal was signed. It's a great boost for our program.
"I know from experience that fans of our sport love to support the brands that back us, so hopefully everyone out there will take their business to Cabela's and GEICO."
McClelland was equally excited: "Anglers at every level of the sport know about Cabela's and the incredible line of products they sell at their stores. I'm constantly talking to fans about different things they've picked up at their local store, and I think that's really cool.
"Adding GEICO For Your Boat is a huge bonus. People know GEICO has offered car insurance since 1936, but now it's our job to tell them that GEICO For Your Boat is available as well. In fact, GEICO insures all kinds of things like RVs, ATVs, personal watercraft, and boats, so people should really look into them and sign up."
This sponsorship agreement is big news, but it doesn't detract from the tough work that must be done to prepare for the season ahead.
"That's certainly true," Walker said. "I'd love to go out and do a little hunting, but I know I've got to get everything ready to go because that first event in Florida is creeping up so fast. Once the season gets started, the next thing you know it's June."
McClelland added that although conditions might not be ideal in the winter, getting out on the water and keeping his skills honed remains vitally important.
"The die-hard angler is going to find a way to get some fishing in this time of year," McClelland said. "Any time you spend on the water sharpens your game. I'm going fishing with my son, who is an avid angler as well and has a strong desire to try to follow in my footsteps, so he keeps me on my toes also.
"Off the water, there's a lot of planning that goes on. You've got to get your boat and truck wrapped. You need to update everything. There's a lot to get executed in the couple of months we aren't in competition."
The break from the tournament trail also gives pros time to sort out new equipment and get some of their favorite pieces in top shape.
"You typically add new rods and reels to your arsenal from one year to the next," McClelland said. "The companies we represent are constantly making new and improved products, so we do a lot of testing. I've actually been working on a bait design, so I've been on the dock making sure this new bait I designed has the right action.
"There's a little studying to do as well because we've got to stay up with the latest technologies and techniques."
That influx of new equipment requires meticulous organization because the best equipment in the world does an angler no good if he can't find it when the pressure is on.
"Tournaments are timed events," Walker said. "So anything you can do to save yourself a minute here or there and spend it on fishing instead is important. You want to get as much of that time-saving stuff done ahead of time. You need to know the layout of your boat, where everything is, and how to get to it quickly.
"As the season gets going, you don't have the luxury of reorganizing your tackle. Many times by the end of the season, I've got these buckets of baits that I cut off during various events they end up turning into one giant lure when you try to pull them out. You don't want to start the season with that mess, so there's a lot of prep work for what we do."
Walker added that planning for every eventuality is crucial to success come tournament time.
"You've even got to maintain your clothing," Walker said. "You carry heavier and lighter stuff, gloves and rain gear; you have to prepare for it all. There's so much equipment you need to keep out on the water because if you are cold, wet, and hungry, you are thinking about that rather than catching fish. We can't have that because we plan on doing some winning in 2014."
Walker will get his first test Jan. 23-25 with the Southern Open #1 on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., and McClelland begins his season Feb. 6-9 at the Central Open #1 on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas.