I’m glad Cliff won

I’m glad that Cliff Pace won the 2013 Bassmaster Classic and I’ll tell you why. He’s a regular, hardworking blue-collar kind of a guy. We need that in this sport. It’s what we’re all about when everything is said and done.

Anybody who follows this sport knows that I respect hard work. It’s a part of who and what I am. When I’m getting ready for an event, I launch my boat in the dark and I trailer it in the dark. That’s the only way I know how to win. Doing that gives me an interesting perspective on how the other guys do their thing.

At least half the time when I get to the ramp, Cliff has already launched his boat. And when I come in and I’m looking around for a flashlight, I see his boat still in the parking lot. He’s a workhorse, and his Classic win says something about him and how that works into our sport of professional bass fishing.

You can’t be a professional football player unless you’re big and you can’t be a professional basketball player unless you’re tall. Work as hard as you want. If you’re my size, they’ll run over you like you weren’t even there. But that’s not how it is in bass fishing. You can make the grade with a lot of hard work.

You don’t need especially fast reflexes, big muscles or to be able to run really fast. What you do need is a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. Cliff has that. I’m not saying he doesn’t have natural talent or anything like that. What I am saying is that he’s an accomplished professional through hard work and grit.

The other thing that I think makes his win neat is that he’s a regular guy. He doesn’t come from money and he’s not had things handed to him. He’s a guy who’s earned everything he ever got out of life. You have to love that. It’s a kind of American success story, and that’s a good thing for us and for everyone else.

And I think he’ll make the grade as a champion. I’ve said since I won that what really matters after you win a Classic is how you use the year you’re given. The personal and career stuff doesn’t much matter. If you’re smart you’ll make money and if you’re not you won’t. The test is what you do for fishing.

You have 12 months to make a difference. Each of us has to do that in our own way. There’s no formula. It’s a blend of personality and drive. But it isn’t about opportunity. We all have the same opportunities.

It’s our duty to take advantage of them and make fishing a bigger sport on our last day than it was on our first day. If we can say we did that, we did a good job. If we can’t say we did that, then we didn’t do a good job. I think Cliff will be able to say he did that.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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