Cliff Pace wins Bassmaster Classic in Tulsa
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Monday, February 25, 2013
2/25/13 at 7:46 AM
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Cliff Pace had every reason to belt out an earth-shattering scream of joy on Sunday afternoon.
But the cheers of 12,000-plus fans at the BOK Center, the handing over of bass fishing's most prestigious trophy and a $500,000 check didn't ignite emotion from the all-business angler.
It wasn't a surprise. Pace stayed steady both on and off the water during his championship week at the Bassmaster Classic presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
"It takes a lot (to get excited)," Pace said, before slightly joking. "I don't like to get too fired up and excited. When that happens, normally I break stuff. It's much better for me to be calm and mellow."
And how was Pace on Saturday night, just hours before his biggest victory?
"Relatively calm," said Brana Pace, his wife of 13 years. "What you see is what you get."
What bass fishing now sees is its newest world champion.
There was little intrigue going into the final day of competition. Pace took a commanding seven-pound lead into the final eight hours of fishing at Grand Lake O' The Cherokees.
In a theatrical weigh-in ceremony before a capacity BOK Center crowd, Pace ended 3 pounds, 4 ounces ahead of second-place finisher Brandon Palaniuk.
Pace was buoyed by a good-luck text by fellow angler and good friend Gary Klein on Saturday night.
But his rock-steady persona was tested a bit early on Sunday. Knowing all he needed was a good day of fishing weighed on him.
"I knew (Sunday's weigh-in) was going to be a lot closer than I wanted it to be," Pace said. "I didn't know if I won or not. I wasn't sure. The chance was still there. I left the door open.
"When I went out (Sunday) morning, I wanted nothing more than to slam the door shut and be done. You only get tremendous few opportunities like this in your life. I didn't want to let this one slip away."
After producing day-high bags of five fish on Friday (21-8) and Saturday (21-12), he had his most challenging day on the water.
Sunday "was probably the hardest day I've ever spent on my boat," he said. "I caught two in the first hour and didn't get another bite until about 1:30."
Back-to-back casts led to two keepers. He didn't reach a limit, but his four fish weighed 11-8 to provide the winning margin in the 43rd Classic.
Pace's winning lures were Jackall jerkbaits (a squid minnow and a soul shad) and a Jackall DD Cherry crankbait that was crawdad-colored. He also threw a half-ounce B&M Football Jig with trailers dipped in orange dye.
Pace worked deeper in the mornings, using the football-head jig on channel banks and on the inside of main-lake points. Later in the morning, he used a jerkbait in shallower water on shelves.
Pace, 32, became the second-youngest angler to reach the $1 million mark in BASS career earnings. The only bass fisherman to hit seven figures faster was Talala's Edwin Evers. Pace is also the 39th angler to hit $1 million in bass fishing earnings.
Kevin VanDam has won four Classics. Over the weekend, he said Pace's life will greatly change.
"Cliff's a great guy and he's had a really good career," said VanDam, who finished eighth in his pursuit of an unprecedented fifth Classic title. "He's been really strong the last few years. Winning the Classic (will) change his life."
Pace said he understands the importance that comes with being a Classic champion.
"The Classic win comes with a lot of responsibilities," he said. "It puts a lot of eyes on you and a lot of eyes on the sport. You don't want to represent any part of that in a bad way.
"For me, it's just going to be a learning curve for sure and I'm ready for it. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to represent us all."
The 2013 Bassmaster Classic, presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa will be aired on ESPN2-26 the first two weekends of March.
Classic Day One: 9-10 a.m. Saturday, March 2
Classic Day One: 6-7 a.m. Sunday, March 3
Classic Day Two: 7-9 a.m. Sunday, March 3
Classic Championship: 10-noon Sunday, March 3
Classic Day Two: 5-7 a.m. Sunday, March 10
Classic Championship: 7-9 a.m. Sunday, March 10
BY THE NUMBERS
won by Cliff Pace.
Pounds and ounces
of the largest bass
caught this weekend
Anglers who caught
an overall limit of 15
fish (three days of five
Daily 5-fish limits
bagged by anglers
during the three-day
Pace, who have
topped the $1 million
career earnings mark.
Percentage of bass
returned to lake alive
after two days.
spent daily on fuel for
boat and truck by Ish
Total weight in
pounds of bass
caught at Grand Lake
Dollars guaranteed to
28 anglers who didn’t
qualify for final day.
Dollars won by
Dollars won by
champion Cliff Pace.
Original Print Headline: Grand champ
Eric Bailey 918-581-8391
Cliff Pace celebrates as he is announced the winner of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic at the BOK Center. In the background is runner-up Brandon Palaniuk. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Bri Palaniuk (left), Donny Wojtila, Elisa Stamm, Tiffanie McCall and Mark Diaz watch Brandon Palaniuk (not pictured) fish on Sunday. Bri is Brandon's sister, and McCall is his girlfriend. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Cliff Pace unhooks a fish on the final day of the Bassmaster Classic on Sunday at Grand Lake. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World