He’s made appearances or given a seminar in every state in the Southeast and even been to California, yet Yamaha Pro Cliff Pace has only been the Bassmaster Classic® champion for two months. Literally, since claiming bass fishing’s most prestigious title in late February, Pace has been a fisherman on the go.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s really been fun,” he emphasizes. “If I’m not actually on the water fishing, my next favorite activity is talking about fishing, and I’ve been able to do a lot of that.”
Unlike some previous Classic® winners, Pace did not fly immediately to Bristol, Conn., to be interviewed on various ESPN® television programs. Instead, he was able to drive back home to Petal, Miss., and spend time with family and friends who had not seen him at the Classic® in Tulsa. Then, the travel began.
“One of the things I’ve always enjoyed doing is giving seminars and helping others try to improve their fishing,” says Pace. “Since February, I’ve given dozens of seminars in stores and shops and I get requests practically every day to do more of them. I hate to refuse any of them, but sometimes I have to simply because there isn’t enough time in my schedule to fit them all in.”
One aspect of being a Classic® champion that surprises many, including Pace, is the recognition factor that comes from winning that single tournament. He has been stopped in airports, restaurants, motels, and gas stations and asked for his autograph.
“The only thing that has changed about my fishing is that the demands to make personal appearances have taken away some time I would normally use for pre-tournament preparation,” he notes. “Because I drive to each tournament, I have been leaving one or two days earlier than usual to be able to schedule an appearance or a seminar. “It just goes to show how big the bass fishing audience really is,” the Yamaha Pro points out. “It’s much larger than we think it is, and the fans are extremely knowledgeable, too. Some of the questions I’ve been asked about specific techniques or equipment I use have been quite technical, and some of the experiences the fans describe show me they’re really observant about water conditions and fish behavior.
“I have met some really interesting people, and made a lot of new friends.”
Naturally, one of the most obvious parts of being the Bassmaster Classic® champion is signing autographs, and Pace has certainly been signing his share, including caps, shirts, and canoe paddles, which Pace guesses later become wall decorations. He has also received dozens of lures in the mail to autograph.
Pace’s busy schedule thus far has also included competing in the 2013 Bassmaster® Elite Series, which began shortly after his victory in Tulsa. Even though he has an automatic entry into the 2014 Classic® as the defending champion, he insists he has not changed his fishing attitude or his style of fishing. For example, he finished 7th at the recent Elite event at Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas.
“One of the things I decided immediately after winning was to use the Classic® victory in a positive way, especially in trying to get others involved in our sport, and I think this is one way I can do that.”
The Yamaha Pro believes his schedule will become even busier after the Elite season ends in late August at Lake St. Clair in Detroit. Thus far, Pace has had few requests for television show appearances, but that will likely change, simply because television filming normally takes several days in succession, which he doesn’t have available now.
Additionally, two of Pace’s sponsors are tentatively scheduling a trip to Japan for the Classic® champion, which may include a chance to fish Lake Biwa, the large reservoir where in 2009 fellow Yamaha Pro Manabu Kurita caught a bass weighing 22.3 pounds, tying the world record.
“That would be the trip of a lifetime for a bass fisherman like me,” smiles Pace. “Right now, I don’t speak a word of Japanese, but even with my busy schedule I think I can start practicing.