TULSA, Okla. — The consistency of Cliff Pace came into sharp contrast with the ups-and-downs of every other angler in the Bassmaster Classic field Saturday. Pace's seven-pound lead over second-place Brandon Palaniuk seems insurmountable.
But Pace knows he's operating on such a thin margin for error that nothing is assured on Sunday, when a new champion will be crowned.
"I've fished all day, every day for six or seven bites," Pace said. "So to think I can do that again would be a lie.
"When you're only getting six or seven bites a day, you're guessing. You try to make your best call, but at best you're guessing."
When you go from tied for the lead on Day One to almost lapping the field on Day Two, you're obviously guessing right. The only hope left for anyone else is the fact that Grand Lake has been wildly inconsistent for all but Pace. If he's been more lucky than good, it might be his turn to stumble Sunday.
As examples of ups-and-downs: 1) Mike Iaconelli went from tied for lead with 21-8 on Day One to third place with 13-11 on Day Two; 2) Kevin VanDam fell from 19-12 to 11-2; 3) Mike McClelland went from 17-15 to 9-8.
That's a list of Day One contenders. The down-and-up swings among the rest of the field were eye-catching, led by defending Classic champ Chris Lane zeroing on Friday and catching an 18-11 limit Saturday. Aaron Martens did much the same, catching 6-12 one day, then 18-13 the next.
But Pace may have one more factor in his favor, besides the big lead. It's the wind, which is expected to go from almost dead-calm Saturday to 15-plus miles-per-hour Sunday.
Yes, it gives the other anglers hope.
"That's what I was hoping for all week," VanDam said. "I'm sure (the lack of wind) was why it was so tough today. It will be totally different (Sunday)."
Jason Christie agreed, saying, "Some of the best days I've ever had out here jerk-bait fishing where when you had to wear rubber boots because the waves were breaking over the boat."
But it could also serve as an insurance policy for Pace, increasing the number of bites for him as well.
"A little wind tomorrow is not going to hurt my feelings as all," Pace said.