Cliff Pace strung together a strong Sunday finish to win the MLF Bass Pro Evinrude Stage 8 Championship, and the TFO National Advisory Staff member had a little help from two of his favorite rods.
The reason: Very few, if any, breakoffs or lost fish.
“The SP 6103 fits me,” Pace said. “At the Table Rock event, I caught 179 bass over the course of four days, and I caught the majority of them with the SP 6103. I never broke a single fish off. And carrying that forward, the other rod I used the last several events is the CB 704. I used it at Table Rock throwing jerk-baits and top-water baits. And that’s the rod I used championship Sunday to win. In any format, any lost fish makes a big difference. In the MLF format, any lost fish makes a huge difference. If you lose a giant in a five-fish tournament, that could be a problem. If you lose two or three smaller fish in the MLF format, that’s a huge problem. Over at Green Lake, smallmouth are notoriously difficult to land. I credit .the rod’s design and its parabolic bend that I worked so hard with TFO to build for my success.”
Each rod has a functionality
“I personally saw to that. Working with TFO is unique. They listen to my needs as an angler, not just a face. The final prototype on the CB 704, the day that I got it, I took it to a body of water and caught 30 or 40 bass on it to see what my landing percentage would be,” Pace said. “Before I signed off on it, I did that with every rod in the TFO Family.”
The SP 6103 and CB 704 helped Pace wrap up the victory in the MLF Bass Pro Tour’s final inaugural season’s event; it can also help the recreational angler on any given day.
“Anybody who goes fishing wants to be successful,” Pace said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re a weekend angler or it’s your career. When every fish counts, you can’t miss opportunities. Our rods enabled me to maximize opportunities and bring fish to hand. Their action is definitive to my success. It makes a huge difference. I won by 10.12 pounds. If I had lost a few bass out of my 47, I would not have won the tournament.”
Pace, the 2013 Bassmaster Classic Champion, bagged 47 bass for a total weight of 81.9 pounds to surpass all others in the 80-angler field in Neenah, WI. The victory earned Pace $100,000 and moved him closer to $2 million in career earnings.
Pace now has four major career wins and 31 top 10 finishes.
Thoughts on Cliff’s performance? Feel free to weigh in on one of our social media pages.
Cliff Pace had two objectives this offseason:
And to get better.
After a few months off from the grind of competitive bass fishing, Pace said he feels somewhat rejuvenated as he prepares for start of 2019.
“It helps me from a relaxation standpoint,” Pace said. “I love to fish. That’s why I ended up doing this for a living. I do a lot of inshore fishing, a lot of speckled trout fishing, red fishing and bass fishing as well. It allows me to be home, spend time with the family. It allows for more of a routine lifestyle a few months out of the year, stuff I really look forward to.”
Pace said he has a new boat and more, important, new electronics. The TFO advisor said he switched from Raymarine to Garmin.
“I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to use the Garmin electronics to the best of my ability,” Pace said. “There is a learning curve there. It’s like using a computer, things like that, just trying to get ready. I learned how to use them, learned how to use what they’re telling me. Being more efficient with them was probably what I spent most of my offseason doing. I felt I struggled mostly with the smallmouth tournaments up north, which are very much an electronics game. I felt I was kind of behind the 8-ball with the technology that was available. I went ahead with the learning curve and learned how to use them. I have no doubt that there will be some events this year that it will pay dividends.”
The objective, of course is to evaluate what’s going on underneath the surface to find more fish.
“I spent a lot of time this offseason fishing in different types of water, spending time putting in a manual setting from an auto setting, where you can adjust everything independently on your own, to be able to interpret better what you’re seeing more so than anything else,” said Pace, the 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion.
Because professional fishing is so competitive once the season starts, anglers have to develop their skills in the offseason. The collective skill level from event to event is fierce, as are the changing conditions.
“There’s a huge difference between fishing an area you’re comfortable with to an area you’re fishing competitively,” Pace said. “The anglers that fish like I do have to be very, very diverse and effective with different things. If all I did was fish at home, I could use a couple techniques and have what I needed year-round. If you fish in South Florida and then go fish for smallmouth up north, it’s two very, very different situations. But both events count the same. You need to be dialed into the best of your ability in each respect. That’s pretty much competitive fishing in a nutshell, being competitive and diverse in all the situations that we’re put in.”
Pace spent much of his professional fishing career competing in the Bassmaster Elite series but has taken his skills to a new circuit — Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour, which started its first season earlier this month.
The BPT was formed this past October when 80 of the top anglers from the Bassmaster and FLW circuits left for the invitation-only league, which will offer eight-regular season events, a championship, hefty payouts and backing from Bass Pro Shops.
“I’m probably more excited this season than I have been in any season I’ve competed,” Pace said. “I’m grateful to be in a time in this sport when we have people interested in growing the sport and taking advantage of all the technology to grow the sport and show case the sport for truly what it is. I felt like that was something throughout my career that was lacking. I think Major League Fishing is going to step up and fix a lot of those problems. That’s why I’m excited.”
The format differs from Bassmaster, which counts the top five fish. In the BPT, every fish counts.
“It’s definitely going to be more stressful,” Pace said. “I think all that’s positive. I think it will be much more exciting for the fans and a better platform for us to showcase our talents. You’re never in a sense of comfort and you’re never out of it.”
Regardless of the format, the goal is to improve from season to season.
“I had a good year last year,” Pace said. “I didn’t have a perfect year, but I definitely didn’t have a terrible year. Without a doubt, you want to do the best you possibly can. There’s always motivation to be a better and more competitive angler. The day that I can win every event that I got in, I will quit this sport. There’s always motivation. There’s always motivation, even for a guy that wins Angler of the Year. There’s motivation to continue that momentum. Motivation can come from a lot of different directions.”
Thoughts on Cliff or his change to Major League Fishing? Let us know on one of our social media pages.
TFO Ambassador Tucker Smith helped Briarwood Christian win the 2018 Mossy Oak Bassmaster High School National Championship this past summer. The Birmingham, Ala. resident joined with Briarwood Christian teammate Grayson Morris to prevail in the prestigious Paris, Tenn. event.
Smith chatted with TFO blog editor Mike Hodge about his championship run, his favorite tactics for bass, his mentor Joey Nania and his goals down the road among other things. Below are excerpts from last week’s interview.
TFO: How much did the national title mean to you?
TS: “That (win) meant everything, because the past year I’ve focused on fishing a lot. I quit all the (other) sports. Fishing’s my only thing right now. It means the world to me. I started fishing when I was … I’ve been fishing since as long as I can remember. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s my biggest passion.”
TFO: What was the key to victory for you in that tournament?
TS: “Staying in one spot, focusing in and being patient, waiting for those key bites. We knew we were around fish. We had to keep fishing and not give up, because we knew the fish were there. Basically, it was a matter of being patient.”
TFO: Do you have any tournaments coming up, any more events you’re looking forward to?
TS: “Our high school season just started. Bass Nation, all the tournaments are just starting up. I plan to fish around fifteen team tournaments this year, but with weekend tournaments maybe a little more than that.”
TFO: Do you have any short-term goals you want to accomplish in the next year or two?
TS: “Obviously a goal is to win the (national) championship again. A smaller goal is to qualify for it. Qualifying is hard. It’s a huge deal. Sometimes it’s harder to qualify than the actual tournament. We qualified at Toledo Bend. We had never been there before. It was tough, but we got third in that one, so. ..”
TFO: Any long-term goals, maybe to fish competitively in college?
TS: “I’ve been looking at Montevallo, Bethel and Auburn. When we won the championship, we got a scholarship to Bethel. I don’t know if I want go there or not.”
TFO: Anytime someone competes, they usually get something out of it, whether it’s basketball, baseball or football? What do you get out of fishing?
TS: “It’s my favorite thing to do. You can win money doing it. I think that’s really cool when you do something that you love and can get money out of it. That’s great, especially as a high school angler. I would never think that’s something you could do. That’s really cool.”
TFO: What appeals to you about bass fishing?
TS: “The camaraderie. I’ve gained so many friends from fishing. I know people from different schools that I fish with. All of my buddies. We all hang out on the lake and stuff. It’s good to get together with people and have fun.”
TFO: What’s your favorite way to catch bass? Your favorite tactic?
TS: “In the national championship, I was using a Chatterbait. That’s probably my favorite way to fish. I’m a power fisherman. I don’t like the finesse stuff as much. I’ll do it if I have to.”
TFO: Any advice you’d give to those who want to improve their fishing?
TS: “Time on the water is the most important thing. I fished ponds to start out and fished until I got those techniques down, then moved on to the lakes. Time on the water makes you better. You have to spend time on the water to find the fish.”
TFO: What do you think of TFO’s equipment, the rods?
TS: “I’m really good friends with (TFO Ambassador) Joey Nania. He’s been my fishing mentor. I grew up fishing with him. He introduced me to (TFO’s) rods. I’ve been fishing them ever since. I love them. They’re not too heavy and they’ve got great action. The 7-3 Heavy, you can throw so many things on that.”
TFO: What about the Pacemaker series? Do you like those rods?
TS: “I do. I just ordered eleven rods from (Bass Category Manager) Collins (Illich). I just got some Pacemakers. I haven’t fished with them a lot yet, but I like them so far.”
TFO: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from Joey?
TS: “How to locate fish. The best thing he taught me is finding fish deep. A lot of people can fish the bank, but not a lot of people can look at their graphs, find fish and catch them. I’m a shallow guy, but catching fish when it’s cold is a real big key.”
Be sure to follow Tucker, Joey, Cliff Pace and other TFO ambassadors/advisors on one of our social media channels.
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.”
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.
It’s winter, too cold to fish, but it’s not too cold to do the next best thing — and that’s talk about fishing.
And what better way to do that than at a fishing show. The 2018 winter show circuit has already started, and Temple Fork Outfitters is scheduled to be on hand at nearly two dozen events with an array of staff, advisors and ambassadors. You can check out the Drift Rod with Jason Randall, get casting tips from Wanda Taylor and Sandi Roberts, talk bass fishing with Cliff Pace, chat about the Axiom II with Blane Chocklett or rub elbows with Chris Thompson, the Virginia Fly Fisherman of the Year.
TFO promises to have something for just about everyone.
“Fly Fishing shows have always been core to TFO’s special connection with anglers,” TFO President Frank-Paul King said. “Whether one of our Ambassadors working with a new angler or Lefty teaching a group class, we all benefit from the relationships fostered at these wonderfully unique gatherings.”
Below is a list of shows that TFO is set to attend in 2018, from late January until July. Please stop by and say hello.
Ever wonder if your tackle box has everything you need to catch bass? At times, we buy more and more and think we’re improving our arsenal, but more is not always better. We asked TFO’s Dakota Jones for his opinion on his top-five bass lures. Here’s what the accomplished guide had to say about his choice of go-to lures.
Look in any bass angler’s tackle box, odds are you will find at least one bag of Senkos or similar brand of this popular soft plastic. A stick bait is simply a straight soft-plastic worm with a thick body. Most anglers rig this bait weightless or weedless, but it is commonly used on wacky rigs, Texas rigs and countless other tackle configurations that require a soft plastic bait. Simplicity and versatility make this bait such a bass-catching machine. Rigged weightless, wacky style or weedless, the stickbait is a go-to in shallow water around docks, stumps, grass edges and laydowns. The Temple Fork Outfitters GTS C 735-1 casting rod is ideal for soft plastics such as a stick bait in and around cover. The 7.3 Medium Heavy will cast a weightless plastic effortlessly and accurately, but still has the power to fight and land bass living in the thick stuff. If light line is a necessity, the Temple Fork Outfitters Pacemaker TPM SP 705-1 spinning rod is a great choice for wacky rigged stick baits.
When bass live in deep water, it can be hard to beat a football jig. This style jig has an oval-shaped head, resembling a football, hence the name. Not surprisingly, it can maneuver through heavy cover, especially rocks, without snagging. Size and weight may vary, but a common choice among deep-water bassers is a ¾-ounce Football Jig and soft plastic craw shape trailer. Most fish a football jig in deep-water around rock piles, ledges or brush. The Temple Fork Outfitters TFG PSC 706-1 is a perfect match for dragging these big jigs around deep structure. With a medium-fast action the Professional Series 7-0’ Heavy will sling a jig across the lake! In addition, the TFO Professional Series is an affordable option, retailing at $99.95.
One of the oldest lures still widely used by bass fishermen today, the spinnerbait is no doubt one of the best bass catchers. Made up of multiple blades spinning on a v-shaped wire with a silicone skirt, a spinnerbait can range in size, color and shape, depending on the conditions. Although the spinnerbait can be fished in any water column and around any sort of cover, most anglers prefer to use this bait in shallow water. The Temple Fork Outfitters Pacemaker TPM SB 705-1 and 726-1 were designed by 2013 Bassmaster Classic Champion, Cliff Pace, specifically for fishing Spinnerbaits. The 7-0 Medium Heavy rod is perfectly suited for casting a spinnerbait in tight quarters. The 7-2 Heavy Model was built with bigger baits in mind, even deep-water applications. Both rods are designed with a spinnerbait action that will cast with ease.
Square Bill Crankbait
The 4×4 of all bass baits, the Square Bill is a standby for every bass angler. Easy to recognize with its short square-shaped bill, most Square Bills have two treble hooks and are designed to plow through heavy cover —- shallow rocks, stumps or laydown trees. The square-shape design allows the crankbait to deflect off cover rather than roll over and snag like a bait with a round- shaped bill would. A Temple Fork Outfitters Pacemaker TPM CB 704-1 is the perfect match for fishing Square Bill cranks around shallow cover. Its long, slow action will increase your odds of hooking and landing bass in any situation.
The Whopper Plopper
This offering started a phenomenon in the bass fishing world almost overnight: Larry Dahlberg’s Whopper Plopper is now a must-have for any hardcore bass angler. This topwater–buzz bait/walking bait hybrid has been catching loads of big bass across the country the past two years. Fish it over grass, around boat docks, bluff walls or shallow points. The Whopper Plopper is an extremely versatile topwater bait that can cover water fast. The retrieve can be as simple as cast and reel it in or add some pauses to mix it up. The 130 size is most popular among bass anglers, but is also available in sizes 90 and 110. Monofilament or braided line is best. We recommend our Professional Series PSC 765-1 casting rod for the 130-size plopper. Rod length is the key to control at long distances. If you have yet to fish a Whopper Plopper, you may be missing out on the action! Larry, by the way, is a TFO advisory staffer.
This the second part of our interview with TFO advisory staffer and pro bass fisherman Cliff Pace. You can find part one here. Enjoy.
TFO: Back to your favorite way to catch bass, can you elaborate a little bit more on that?
CP: “A lot of people say topwater, and that is a very exciting way to catch them. If I had my druthers, I really like to fish structure out deep. Just because when you’re fishing that way, there’s the potential to find big groups of fish at certain times of the year. I like the bite. It’s pretty fun to me when I can catch fish and know that I can go back out there and catch another one. And another one. And another one. And another one. To me that’s the most fun you can have fishing that there is. If I had to pick one way that is my preferred preference, that would be it.”
TFO I’m sure you fish with people who are not professional anglers — friends, relatives, etc. — if you have to give someone like that advice on catching more fish, what would it be?
CP: “To improve on anything, and it’s not just fishing, you’re going to have to work on where your weaknesses are. As I just said, my favorite way to catch a fish is on deep structure. That type of fishing doesn’t even exist here. When I started fishing tournaments, I would actually drive after getting off work on a Friday afternoon north of here four, five hours away to where (deep structure) did exist, so I could work on it, practice on it and learn how to be successful doing it. It’s the same way with any sport. It’s no different from golf. If you can hit an awesome tee shot, but if you can’t putt, then you’re going to have to work on your putting and not concentrate so much on your tee shot. It’s the same way with fishing. The only way to get better with anything is to practice. The best way to become a better fisherman is to fish more. At the same time, if you feel like you’re a very good flipper, don’t pick up your flipping stick every time when you go fishing. Try to work outside your comfort zone. The whole purpose of doing that is your comfort zone will grow.”
TFO: Talk about the Pacemaker series of rods with TFO. I’m not asking you to brag on yourself, but now that you have a finished product with your name on it, what are you most proud of? I know I would be.
CP: “I am, too. That’s the first series of rods I’ve done in my career. It was good working with TFO. They didn’t put any time restraints or number restraints on it. They turned me loose working with their builder. … We have a very comprehensive series of rods in the TFO bass series. I truly believe that anywhere in this country that you’re going to bass fish, or no matter what technique you intend to use, I believe that there is a rod in this line that will fit that need perfectly. We don’t have any missing links. We don’t have any gaps. It was a well-thought-out project, one that we spent a lot of time on. You see a lot of rod builders and companies in general, I think they rush their design phase just to get a product on the shelf and the product ends up not being what it should be. I know I never experienced that working with TFO. TFO, I truly believe, builds one of the best fishing rods that there is, from a durability and value standpoint and also from a customer-service standpoint. From a customer-service standpoint, nobody can touch them. From a durability standpoint, I’ve fished an entire season with my rod and never broke one. I can’t say that about any rod company that I’ve ever used. Am I saying that TFO rods are unbreakable? Absolutely not. Am I saying that they are more durable than other rods on the market? Yes I am. They are more forgiving. And they still perform. There are a lot of things about that line that I’m very proud of and very impressed with.”
Thanks for reading! Be sure to checkout our Cliff-designed series of bass rods, the Pacemaker!
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!