If you thought Cliff Pace wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard on the Bass Pro Tour, you were right — til the last 3, when he finished 7th in #6 on Table Rock, then 23rd at #7 on the same lake, and then 1st last week. Here’s how he won the last BPT of the year, held on 3 different lakes in WI.
> “My whole deal was just trying to find areas with the best groups of fish. Because we were up north, I felt like the fish could accept the pressure a little better than other places we fish. …just be around the most fish and just stay put — I would re-fish stuff more here than I would on a southern lake.
> “The fish up here are normally easier to catch — I caught fish other competitors caught…hook marks in their mouth. [So his plan was to] stay out on the best population of fish and grind it out…different baits, approaches, going down banks in different directions, just swapping it out.
First 2 lakes
The first round was on Winnebago, the second was on Butte des Morts, a lake in the Winnebago system. Cliff says he fished both lakes the same:
> “Day 1 I ran to what I think was the best area, and decided to cover as much water as I possibly can. Other competitors were in there but they were fishing slow [finesse-fishing] — I fished fast for the 1st period using 2 different crankbaits: my own Black Label CBS 1 (red craw, 1= 2″), and a Jackall Aska (squarebill, brown craw). I covered as much water as I could to catch the aggressive fish…enabled me to have a really good round.”
> Crank setup: 7′ MH Temple Fork Outfitters Pacemaker 704 Rod (not a glass rod), Savage Gear Finezze Reel, 15-lb Hi-Seas fluoro.
> “After that, I fell in with everyone else’s finesse-fishing approach…did catch some swimming a jig and even flipping some willows. The swim-jig was a 3/8-oz [signature] V&M Pulse Swim Jig (b/b) with a V&M Wild Thang Craw (b/b), and my flipping bait was a V&M Flat Wild (gp, 1/4-oz Elite Tungsten weight, 5/0 Mustad Straight Grip Pin Hook).”
> Swim-jig setup: 7′ 3″ H TFO Pacemaker 736 Rod, same reel, 20-lb Hi-Seas fluoro.
> Flip: 7′ 6″ XH TFO Pacemaker 767 Rod, same reel, 20-lb Hi-Seas braid.
> “When things got real hard in the 3rd period — really no wind — I switched to Jackall soft-plastics. …a Yammy Fish (gp fish) rigged on a 1/8-oz Boss Screw Cap head (1/8)…like a Ned Rig mushroom head with a screw-lock keeper. When I’m fishing shallow docks and whatnot I can skip, that bait never gets out of line or gets messed up.
> “…fished shade, boat docks, isolated cover. The main thing was doing it from a distance, really long casts. The fish had so much pressure so I kept my boat further away [than other guys]. I felt that with longer casts and light line I could get more bites than the other guys.”
> Ned setup: TFO Pacemaker 6103 Spinning Rod, Savage Gear Spinning Reel, 15-lb Hi-Seas Grand Slam Braid to 6-lb Hi-Seas fluoro.
Last lake: Green Lake
> “This lake was totally different…gin-clear water. …I knew it had a population of both [species]…felt like I’d have better odds of finding a group of smallmouths. …can catch quality [largemouths[ but you need to cover a lot of water. I felt like maybe the smallmouths spawned first and [post-spawn] had a chance to get grouped up.
> “I idled a place in the ride-around [a pre-fish without fishing] and saw some fish on the bottom and breaking on the surface. I chose to start there. [He saw the bottom fish] and suspended fish with Garmin LiveScope and used it to pick them off.
> “That dried up at the end of the first period. We had a big system come through…hour and a half weather delay…pouring down raining, and the wind was blowing real hard. When they let us back on the lake, I fished a Jackall Rerange 110 jerkbait — matte white and one I scraped all the paint off and made clear. I used those 2 baits for the remainder of the day on wind-blown main-lake flats in 8-12′. …getting reaction bites — that’s how I ended up catching the majority of my fish.
> Jerkbait setup: Same rod and reel as the crankbaits, line was 12-lb fluoro.
> “The main thing was I didn’t overanalyze things. I didn’t have to. I had one of those events that when I saw I needed to do something it worked really quick. That’s what you have to do to be successful — you need to figure things out fast. Every adjustment I made worked, and that’s what led to me winning the event.
> “Garmin Livescope helped a ton on Green Lake when I was fishing offshore.
> “Also SkeeterYamaha — I’ve never weighed a bass in a different boat.”