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Pace Qualifies for the Bassmaster Classic, but hopes for a Better 2019

The 2018 Bassmaster Elite series is nearly over. For Cliff Pace, it’s time to take inventory of the season, what went right, what went wrong and what could have been.

Bottom line: There were some good tournaments, just not enough of them.

“I had some bumps in the road,” Pace said during a phone interview from his Petal, Miss. home earlier this week. “I didn’t have the year I wanted to have. I definitely fell short (of my expectations).”

The TFO advisor logged two top 10 finishes, but clearly left the water wanting more. Even though Pace didn’t string together enough quality catches to win an event, he did grind out enough placements to finish 26th  (out of a field of 110) in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, which propelled him to a coveted spot in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, an affair that’s considered the Super Bowl of competitive bass fishing.

Fifty of the world’s premier anglers will gather in Knoxville, Tenn. next March to compete for $1 million in prize money. The winner of the 2019 Classic earns $300,000.

Pace won the 2013 Classic. So far he’s competed in seven Classics. Knoxville will make No. 8.

“That’s something we always look at all year long,” Pace said. “It’s always a goal. To qualify for the Classic is always a big deal. That’s always a goal going in.”

Pace finished a respectable 25th at the Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship last month in Hiawassee, Ga. Other 2018 highlights were a third-place effort at Texas Fest and a seventh-place showing at the Bassmaster Elite/Mississippi River.

His primary weakness, in retrospect, stemmed from a lack of consistency. Competitive anglers often have to make quick decisions during the course of a weekend tournament. If Plan A doesn’t work, what do you for Plan B and equally important, how long do you wait before implementing Plan B?

“The tournaments I did well in the game plan, played out the way I planned it,” said Pace, who helped design TFO’s Pacemaker series. “Where I struggled this year was where I had to scramble. I didn’t scramble very well this year. Same thing happened at Lake Oahe. Same thing at St. Lawrence Seaway.  The good tournaments are easy. Everything goes to plan. The bad ones are the ones that are hard. If I could have scrambled in the tournaments I did bad in and figure out how to get from the back of the pack toward the middle, that would have made a huge difference in the (Angler of the Year) points. To me going into next year, (scrambling) is what I need to work on. Knowing when to throw away (what you saw) in practice and start over and being able to piecemeal together (a solid tournament) is something we all face as fishermen.

“Every day we fish, there are always changing conditions. I have to be able to put two and two together faster and get something going; it’s critical to the success of the tournament fisherman. I had some opportunities to accomplish that this year and I didn’t.”

With several months before the start of the 2019 Bassmaster Elite season, Pace, 38, will use the downtime to recharge, get organized, wrap up some off-water commitments and maybe find a little time to hunt.

“At the end of the season, my tackle is in disarray and scattered all over,” Pace said. “I need to reorganize my boat and things of that nature. And I like to spend some time away from fishing. I love to archery hunt. I may get some fishing in there, too. I may not always bass fish. We’re close to the gulf here in Mississippi. I love to saltwater fish for fun. I love to catch redfish. That helps with the competitive grind of professional fishing.”

As the months pass and the start of the professional tournament circuit draws closer, Pace will be prepping for what he hopes will be a more productive 2019.

“Any new equipment I’m going to fish with, I like to get that in my hands as soon as possible and fish with it,” Pace said. “I want to be ready and satisfied with everything. Also, it’s a time to work on something that I’m struggling with, a technique or whatever. That’s pretty what I like to do. Sometimes I’ll travel to a body of water that I know is on the schedule next year to familiarize myself with it.”

TFO Helps Set the Pace at Texas Fest

A few days after his finishing up the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, TFO advisor Cliff Pace took inventory of his performance.

Third place isn’t too bad. Not at all.

“Any time you give yourself an opportunity to win on our level, (it’s good),” Pace said. “I did that. I just came up a little short in total weight. All in all, it was a good week to finish third and get the big fish of the weekend. That was a neat deal. Given that, it’s hard to complain, but yes, you do always want to win. Third is better than fourth.”

It was Pace’s first top-three Bassmaster finish since 2013.  He will head to his next tournament with an extra $30,000 and a new Toyota Tundra after landing the event’s biggest bass during the May 17-20 affair.

“Momentum creates confidence, and confidence is good in anything from a competitive aspect,” Pace said.

Pace totaled 61 pounds, 12 ounces, trailing only Drew Benton (67 pounds, 15 ounces) and Jacob Wheeler (64 pounds, 8 ounces).

The key to his success? Versatility.

“I fished smarter,” Pace said. “I have multiple different patterns that will work, depending on the weather scenarios. You see a lot of guys who will have a really good day and then a really bad day. I had enough different things going on where I could be consistent each day. A lot of guys will catch fifteen pounds one day, then eight the next. I was able to stay in the teens every day. Over four days, you add up the numbers and it etches you up the list. A lot of guys they had the deep pattern going, then we had the overcast skies, and they weren’t as successful. I had enough things going on with the event to make it work with the changing conditions.”

Pace’s biggest bass weighed 10 pounds, 5 ounces. He caught it using a TFO Pacemaker 747 with a Carolina rig and a Drop Shad in about 25 feet of water. He boated it within the first 10 minutes of fishing on the first morning.

“What it does is it gives you confidence in what you’re doing,” Pace said. “It makes you believe what you’re doing is the right thing, so I could settle down and fish and fish more effectively and efficiently. That’s what you want to do — find the right thing. But if you settle on the wrong thing, there’s danger in that. Catching a big one like that gives you faith in the area of the lake that you’re fishing.”

Lake Travis, located near Austin, is known for its water clarity and its stout population of bucket-mouth bruisers.

“That lake has a lot of big fish in it,” Pace said. “There were four fish over eight pounds in the tournament.”

Next up for Pace is the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite in Orange, Texas on June 7-10, as he tries maintain momentum for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year honors. He currently stands in second behind Brent Chapman

“To win that would be a very big deal,” Pace said. “It’s something I’ve worked for my whole career. I’ve gotten close a couple times. I’ve never been able to pull off winning it. It’s a little too early in the year to be thinking about it. I’ve gotten off to a very good start. It definitely feels good to be in position the rest of the year.”

Check out the TFO blog for more info as we follow Cliff on the Bassmaster circuit.

Fifteen minutes with TFO’s Cliff Pace (Part 1 of 2)

Cliff Pace is one of the best bass fishermen in the world. The Petal, Miss. resident has banked more than $1 million in career earnings and logged 25 top 10 finishes during his 15-year professional run. The 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion recently took a few minutes away from his busy schedule to chat with TFO blog editor Mike Hodge. Here’s what Pace, a TFO national advisory staffer, had to say during part one of a two-part interview.

TFO: What are your earliest memories of fishing as a kid?

CP: “I really feel like I lived a very fortunate childhood in the sense that I did get to spend a lot of my childhood in the outdoors. I had a dad who loved to fish, as well as friends of the family and uncles, people of that nature, who loved to fish as well. I really truly don’t remember fishing being a part of my life. … I grew up fishing with my dad and friends of my dad all up and down the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And we did a lot of different types of fishing. I grew up bass fishing, but I also did a lot of inshore saltwater fishing, so I was exposed to a lot of things (in the outdoors) at a very young age, and that continued throughout my entire life.”

TFO: When did you realize you wanted to be a pro fisherman?

CP: “For some reason it always struck me. I remember watching the Bassmasters on TV with the commentators years ago. It was on TNN. That was the Nashville network. Not even sure if that’s on or not anymore. I was always drawn to that being a career choice. That was before collegiate fishing tournaments and high school fishing tournaments. I grew up prior to that. For me, it was something I was drawn to do at a very, very young age. It was something that I always wanted to do. My parents thought I was crazy thinking that I would be able to make a living fishing. Somehow, through the grace of God, it’s all worked out.”

TFO: Was there one point in your pro career that you realized, ‘Hey, I can make a living doing this?’ I know there has to be a learning curve in the process? I know that’s got to be fairly steep because you’re going up against some pretty good competition, right?

CP: It is (steep). I was very fortunate in my fishing career that I managed, somehow, to win one of the first big tournaments that I fished. It was always something that I really wanted to do, but it’s also something that you never really know if it’s all going to work out. I just took the approach to work hard at it diligently. I still have that same approach now that I did then. Once I got out there and kind of got my feet on the ground competing in the tournaments against guys who were making a living doing it, I felt like it was something like I could for sure accomplish. I really devoted myself to trying to do so. Over time, I started fishing more and more events, I got more comfortable to where I am today. The struggle is the same now as it was then. That’s the thing about any competitive sport, you are never at a comfort point when it comes to the competition side of things. Our competition is better now than it’s ever been in our sport, because of some of the things I mentioned — the addition of high school fishing and collegiate fishing. People are fishing (competitively) at younger ages than they ever did before. People are taking it more seriously and looking at as a career choice and option, and therefore you have people who are getting better faster, which makes for a stronger competition field. I expect that field to get stronger throughout my career.”

TFO: Who was your mentor? Was there someone you tried to model yourself after?

CP: “I had a lot of guys who helped or coached me. I wouldn’t call it coaching. I had a lot of guys I could discuss things with and guys who helped me feel comfortable with what I was doing and gave me a sense that I could be successful with it. I was fortunate to meet Gary Klein and Mark Davis who helped me with things that I didn’t have answers to. Sometimes they didn’t either, things that you’re asking (about the learning curve). When it comes to the fishing side of it, typically you’re kind of on your own with that. It’s like a pitcher in baseball. He’s got to go out and throw the ball. You kind of have to take care of that on your own. I really think that with this sport or any other sport, that if you focus your time and effort on to that. … People ask me, ‘What’s the best way to get sponsored?’ Sponsors, yes, are a big part of making a living doing this. If you just take care of the fishing, the rest will take care of itself.”

TFO: That said, if someone wanted to take pro fishing as a career path, what advice would you give them? To focus on the fishing?

CP: “That would be my advice. And to put themselves out there and build a name for themselves. That’s what sponsorship is all about. Step one is being a person that sponsors would want to look at.

TFO: What’s your favorite way to catch bass? I know as a pro you have to be versatile, but what’s your preferred method when you get an opportunity to fish?

CP:  “My favorite way to catch a bass is however they’re biting.”

 

Be sure to check in next week as we conclude our two-part Q&A with Cliff Pace!

In the meantime, you can checkout our Cliff-designed series of bass rods, the Pacemaker!