SW Strategies – Cliff Pace

SW Strategies – Cliff Pace

Feb 24, 2013

SWF Weighs in on 2013 Bassmaster Classic

By Mike Pehanich

Small Waters Fishing founder Mike Pehanich looks at some of the headliners in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake of the Cherokees near Tulsa, Oklahoma – from a personal and distinctly “small waters” perspective.

Cliff Pace

2013 Classic Story

Cliff Pace was tied with Mike Iaconelli after Day One of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake of the Cherokees with a catch of 21 pounds, eight ounces. As I write this, Pace has returned to the top of the Day Two leader board with a total of 21 pounds, 12 ounces and two-day total of 43 pounds, four ounces – seven pounds ahead of Brandon Palaniuk and eight pounds ahead of third-place Iaconelli.

Bassmaster Classic competition sometimes compels even top anglers to reach well outside their comfort zone and favorite techniques to find that special bait and pattern that will lift them to a win and a half-million dollar payday!


Few if any on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour produce the consistent catches that this angler from Petal, Mississippi, has.  In 89 Bassmaster tournaments, Cliff Pace has finished in the money a whopping 65 times, including 21 finishes in the Top 10.

The 32-year old pro has performed like a veteran since the start of his professional angling career, and he is still cashing checks with the regularity of a bank teller.

The only knock against him is, well, that consistency! His reputation is:

Always in the money…Never in the big money!

Despite his second place finish to Alton Jones on Lake Hartwell in the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, his only two Bassmaster wins have been in the Bassmaster Opens competition. Last year, he posted back-to-back second place Elite Series finishes, too – the kind of results that have a guy wondering what he has to do to climb to that oh-so-close but seemingly unreachable next rung.

After two days at the top of the leader board, you know he has to be getting hungrier – and probably more nervous — by the minute. Whether that seemingly unflappable demeanor can hold up and enable him to fish at the top of his game for one more day…well…we will know very soon!

SWF insight – “Cliff Notes”

The last time I worked with Cliff was when I interviewed him in May of 2011 for a feature on “Advanced Flick Shake” technique for Bass Times magazine. Pace is on the pro staff of Jackall, the lure company founded by Seiji Kato and headed by Kato and Japanese pro angler Ty Ono, so I was hardly surprised to discover that Pace was a quiet but dedicated practitioner of Flick Shaking, a Japanese finesse technique that the Jackall leaders, and Ty Ono in particular, pioneered.

Cliff Pace got off to his typically consistent start in the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series season by weighing in bass caught on the Flick Shake technique and Jackall Flick Shake Worm in every tournament.

Pace and I haven’t talked a lot, but I have felt a certain kinship with the Mississippi pro. I wrote the very first feature on the Flick Shake technique for Bassmaster magazine, and, over the years, it has become the most consistent producer in my bass fishing arsenal. (Note to SWF readers: learn to fish the Flick Shake technique effectively, and your success rate will go up exponentially, especially on small waters where the need to cover water quickly diminishes.) That Pace has made Flick Shakin’ one of his bread and butter techniques makes complete sense to me in light of his consistent performance, tournament after tournament, season after season.

During our conversation around Memorial Day in 2011, Pace mentioned that he had leaned heavily on the Flick Shake technique – including Jackall Flick Shake worms and jigheads – that entire season to date and particularly in some really tough tournaments, adding, “I weighed fish caught flick shakin’ in every event!”

Pros like Pace, Mike Iaconelli, DaveWolack, Kota Kiriyama and Jared Lintner along with Shin Fukae and others in the FLW ranks have discovered the deadly consistency of Flick Shaking due to the “natural unobtrusive character of the bait, its subtle and seductive action and its uncanny knack for drawing strikes when nothing else seems to work,” to borrow my own phrase from that Bass Times piece.

Incredibly effective as Flick Shake fishing has been for me to date, it has not produced any of my largest fish to date. The truth is, I have had to set the Flick Shake rod aside at times because it was TOO GOOD, TOO PRODUCTIVE, catching countless good fish and the occasional big fish but not catching me enough of the true giants that we need to highlight a season.

Like fishing Senkos, it’s a technique that one can fall so much in love with and become so dependent upon that you can fail to grow in angling knowledge and versatility – something neither a top-level pro nor a writer like myself who makes a living learning about new baits and techniques can afford to have happen.

Lipless crankbaits often factor into the patterns of Bassmaster Classic competitors, particularly when they encounter cold water and pre-spawn fish. How well did lipless baits work in the 39 to 42 degree water temperatures of Grand Lake?

Pace on stage

Those thoughts were already passing through my mind when Mark Zona spoke with Pace during the post-weigh-in interview after Day Two of the Classic.

“You said you needed to ‘commit’ to what you are doing on Grand Lake.” Explain to me what you mean by that, asked Z.

“To me, it’s been committing to ways that I can catch a big one,” replied Pace. “There are ways that you can get bites right now, but I don’t think that they have the potential to get you a 20-pound stringer. Sometimes it is easier to get those bites. I took a big big risk the last 2 days to catch what I have caught.”

What exactly was Pace doing? With Cliff Pace in the best position in his career to hit the big payday, I can’t wait to hear, especially if he is able to hang on to victory.

We may not know for certain until tonight, but that 7-pound-plus fish he weighed in – which amounts to almost exactly his lead over Brandon Palaniuk after two days, by the way – tells me that Pace took off his safety belt and allowed himself to freefall for this tournament…that he may even have gone to a bait or technique he doesn’t even feel that he has quite mastered yet.

“If you get an opportunity in a tournament like this to figure out a way to win, you need to go and do it!,” summed Cliff Pace after following his tournament-leading Day One performance on Grand Lake of the Cherokees by four ounces and taking a seven-pound lead going into the final day.

“I’ve fished all day, every day for six or seven bites,” Pace told one reporter. “So to think I can do that again would be a lie…When you are getting six or seven bites a day, you are guessing.”

Is that just a stone cold, honest assessment of his performance and the vagaries of a cold Grand Lake, or is there a hint of shaky confidence in that statement?

Pace didn’t catch his first bass on Day Two until 10 o’clock. But he went on to catch the biggest bass of the day and top his tournament-leading Day One total by four ounces.

“If you get an opportunity in a tournament like this to figure out a way to win, you need to go and do it!,” summed Pace, sounding like a man who had spent a good deal of time analyzing himself and his career to date. “I have not done it in the past and regretted it. I’ve done it for two days now and it has worked. And I hope I can do it for one more day!”

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