2013 Elite Series West Point Lake Battle West Point Lake - LaGrange, GA, May 2 - 5, 2013

A change of Pace

Don Barone

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.


“It seems like only yesterday

I didn't have a clue…”

Dateline:  LaGrange, GA

I have always wanted to be,

a quiet man,

who lived on a noisy street.

I have always wanted to be,

where I don’t,


I have always wanted to be,

with those,

not like me.

“…they call it understanding…”

I went into this story to learn more about 2013 Bassmaster Classic winner, Cliff Pace.

But in an open apology to Cliff, I have to say, I actually learned more about me, and about us.

Especially us, us in the media.

So this is about Cliff, an angler I call a friend.

But it is also about me, and what it is I do for a living, because I will call myself out, and not my colleagues, when I cut this deep.

First, Cliff.

At the end of this year I will present a vintage, beat up metal lunch pail to the hardest working stiff on the Elite tour.  If the year ended right now I would proudly hand it to Cliff.

And the dude would proudly take it and get the meaning of it all.

Cliff Pace, is a construction worker, in a bass boat.  “After high school I went to work in construction, would work 65 hours a week, I was a tool belt guy, brought up in a blue collar family, it was a big part of my life.”

To know Cliff, you need to know of the three most important things in his life:




“All of those are tied together in everything I do.”

Out of high school Cliff got an academic scholarship to college, “but it just wasn’t for me.”

Fishing was. 

“My dad, my dad Leo, died when I was young.  He, he was a friend, a good friend and father to me, he is a big part of what I am today.”

So Mom, “she would set her alarm at 4am on days I would fish tournaments so that she would get up to make something for me to eat, was always there to help me.”

What is it that we ask of the athletes we watch.  I believe all sports are a waste of time unless we can take something from it with us in our lives.

My son Jimmy one time when he was young asked me why if I don’t care much about sports, why is it I cover sports.

I told him, reporting, writing about people you don’t know, in situations you may  be uncomfortable in, has taught me two things, two of the most valuable lessons I have learned in life.

It taught me, tolerance.

It taught me, understanding.


What is it we want from our athletes when they win, quiet dignity, or chest slides across the floor.

Both forms of expression, will be mocked.


“db I treat bass tournament fishing as a business, as a job, a job I love to do, but as a job.”

And Cliff has a passion for this business.

“Dude I won half a million dollars a couple of months ago and I’m out here on this lake killing myself, up Monday at 5am, on the water until 8:15pm, sat in the boat doing tackle until 10:45pm, went in the hotel room and looked at the lake on Google Earth until midnight, got up the next morning at 5am and did it all over again.”

And then he said the one word that best describes Cliff Pace, “…wholeheartedly.”

Think about that…wholeheartedly.

I smiled when he said it because I have heard that word before, not a lot, but Cliff is the 3rd athlete to tell me that in an interview.

The first was Larry Bird.

The second was Jerry Rice.

Quintessential working stiffs, hall of fame, all business…athletes.

“My Grandfather used to tell me that the best way to kill time, was to work it to death.”