PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., earned so many awards Sunday afternoon that, much like a child with too many toys, he’s wasn’t sure which one excited him most. The 37-year old angler claimed the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship title with a four-day total of 46 pounds, 9 ounces. But for McClelland, the $80,000 prize package was just icing on the cake, as he also earned a spot in the 2006 BUSCH Shootout as well as the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., Feb. 24-26.

Rick Morris of Lanexa, Va., finished second with 44-14. He was followed by Chad Brauer of Osage Beach, Mo., with 41-15; Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., with 41-3; and Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., with 30-9.

Most of McClelland’s bass came from a subtle, 125-yard section of the Alabama River channel that even river-reader Mark Twain could have overlooked. “If you look at the river from the physical aspect, you would never imagine that it actually touches this bank,” McClelland said. “It’s past a major bend in the river, so the current funnels off the major bend and actually comes over and touches the opposite riverbank.”

McClelland said he fished the spot each day and caught his Sunday limit near two trees at one bank. He had four bass within two hours of launch and among his baits were a 7/16-ounce jewel jig as well as a War Eagle spinnerbait and a splatter back crankbait. “It was a pressure-packed day – when you fish and you’ve got five in the box and you just can’t improve them, but you know you have a field of anglers like this group behind you.”

Morris, in second place, brought in four fish weighing 8-6, including a 5-pound, 1-ounce largemouth that tied with Randy Howell’s for the Purolator Big Bass award. Like McClelland, Morris went looking for river current and found it in the Tallapoosa River, which joins the Coosa to form the Alabama.

Brauer, meanwhile, pulled another five bass from the backwaters Sunday, adding 7 pounds to his score. “I over-fished my water,” he said. “I struggled to get anything today.”

Howell’s 5-1 bass anchored a limit that was his largest of the tournament at 12-15. “This week has been magical,” he said. “Everything just … worked.”

Menendez, who will fish the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series, weighed three fish totaling 3 pounds and placed fifth. Still, Menendez – also headed to the Classic – said he enjoyed fishing the Open Championship on the Alabama River. “These are the meanest bass that swim and I just love to fish for these spotted bass,” he said.

The Open Championship will air on ESPN2 on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2006, at 10 a.m. EST.

Local sponsors: Local sponsors include the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Bassmaster Open Series sponsors: CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).

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