2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro
Lake Guntersville - Birmingham, AL, Feb 21 - 23, 2014

Pace recovering, uncomfortably

Gary Tramontina
Reigning Bassmaster Classic champ Cliff Pace will be unable to defend his title at the 2014 Geico Bassmaster Classic.

As emergency room personnel were cutting the camouflage hunting clothes off him on Jan. 21, Cliff Pace looked at his wife, Brana, and said, "I'm going to find a way to fish the (Bassmaster) Classic."

Brana, who works as a nurse, probably knew that wasn't going to happen. But she also knew it wasn't the time to share her professional opinion with her husband. Pace's prognosis became obvious the next day, when he underwent surgery to repair two breaks in his lower left leg – to both the tibia and fibula – and a torn left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Pace fell from the ladder of his deer stand on Jan. 21 as he was climbing down from it on an unusually cold morning in southern Mississippi, near his hometown of Petal, a suburb of Hattiesburg.

Pace was released from the hospital the following Tuesday. B.A.S.S. officials quickly decided to extend Pace's 2014 Classic qualification, earned as the defending Classic champion, to the 2015 Classic. Pace was resting – uncomfortably – at home Sunday when he described his ordeal.

"I'm sitting here watching the Disney Channel right now, just because it's too painful to get up and find the remote (control) to change it," Pace said. "But I'm feeling better than I did two weeks ago."

Not only will he miss the chance to defend the Classic title he won on Oklahoma's Grand Lake a year ago, he will miss the entire Elite Series season. (Editor's Note: It's official. B.A.S.S. has granted Cliff Pace a hardship for the 2014 Elite Series season.) One lower leg bone shattered near the kneecap; the other splintered. Pace said it was a bone splinter that severed his ACL.

"I'm on crutches," he said. "I can't put any weight on the leg for six to 12 weeks. The doctors don't know how long it's going to take to heal because there weren't clean breaks."

He's suffering from another "break," too.

"The thought of missing the Classic and the Elite Series this year is just heartbreaking for me," Pace said.

Adding to the mental burden, Cliff and Brana welcomed their first child into the world eight weeks ago, a daughter named Jordan Baylee.

"I can't even pick her up out of the crib," Pace said.

The bright side? He can't change any diapers either.

There is a bright side of this accident, too. It could have been worse, as in deadly. Pace didn't arrive at the emergency room until 2 1/2 hours after his fall.