It was a big week for Cliff Pace, marking his first tournament since shattering both bones in his lower left leg in a fall from a deer stand last January. Pace qualified for Saturday's final by finishing 9th after two days at Lake Norman with 22-3.
He dropped one place to 10th Saturday, but the main point was that he now knows his still-healing left leg can withstand the rigors of a tournament.
"It's good to be here and fish all three days," Pace said.
Each year the Bassmaster Classic champion earns an automatic berth in the next Classic. Since Pace's injury kept him from competing in 2014, B.A.S.S. extended his invitation to the 2015 Classic at Lake Hartwell.
Pace will be considered one of the favorites there because he finished second to Alton Jones in the 2008 Classic at Hartwell. He isn't buying that line of thinking.
"If I fished the same way I did last time, I'd do terrible," Pace said. "It's a totally different lake.
"I don't take yesterday and try to turn it into tomorrow. An open mind serves you best in this sport."