TULSA — Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., now owns what only 33 others can claim: a Bassmaster Classic title.
On Sunday, Pace won the 43rd world championship of bass fishing, the 2013 Bassmaster Classic presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. His prize for a three-day catch of 54 pounds, 12 ounces, was $500,000 and the most coveted trophy of the sport.
His victory on Grand Lake was wire-to-wire, although he shared the first-day lead with 2003 Classic champ Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J. On the second day, Pace stepped over the entire 53-angler field, surpassing his nearest challenger – Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho – by 7 pounds.
Sunday, Pace took the win with a margin of 3 pounds, 4 ounces over Palaniuk, who had to settle for second with a total of 51-8 when his hard charge proved to be unsuccessful.
Rounding out the top five were Classic rookie Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C., with a total of 49-0, Iaconelli at had 48-5 and Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., with a 45-5 total. Park Hill’s Jason Christie fell to seventh with a three-day total of 43-5 while Wagoner’s Tommy Biffle climbed up one spot to 24th with a total of 29-2.
“This is a gift that I will always cherish,” said Pace who claimed his first Classic trophy in his fifth Classic appearance. “This is the ultimate high of a career, a life-changing moment.”
Pace had to overcome the changing fishing conditions, weighing consistent bags of bass the first two days: Friday he had 21-8, and Saturday he did even better with 21-12.
But Sunday, he experienced a reverse that gave him some uneasy hours out on Grand Lake.
“This 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 p.m.”