Pirched for success

Arizonan Cliff Pirch may be the most accomplished tournament angler Bassmaster fans have never heard of — until this year, that is.

After the first two Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens, Pirch sits atop the point standings. He finished second at the Harris Chain and fifth at Lake Norman.

The 36-year-old angler has won the U.S. Open and other major tournaments in non-B.A.S.S. venues. Pirch’s goal this year is to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series through the Southern or Northern Opens. After such a fast start, he looks to be unstoppable.

One reason Pirch hopes to qualify for the Elite series is that these high profile tournaments are likely to attract more sponsors. He has new prospects already. His current sponsors include HPR Ammunition, Ranger, Lowrance, Roboworm and Typhoon sunglasses.

How does a kid from Arizona get hooked on bass fishing and attain the skills needed to become a top-tier tournament angler?

Although Pirch’s father wasn’t a bass angler, he gets kudos for taking his son fishing for trout and crappie. When they fished at Roosevelt and other Arizona lakes, the younger Pirch would sling a lure for bass whenever the boat came within range of the bank.

A pond at a local golf course near home served as Pirch’s initial bass classroom. He fished it countless times from shore with a few of his buddies.

Pirch’s bass fishing prospects expanded at age 10. That’s when he was allowed to fish the golf course pond from his father’s 10-foot aluminum jonboat.

A 12-pound, 6-ounce largemouth set Pirch’s bass addiction in concrete when he was 15 years old. He was on a picnic at a lake with a buddy’s family and caught the bass from the bank.

“It’s one of the most exiting catches I’ve ever,” had Pirch said.

A year after graduating from high school, Pirch bought a bona fide bass boat, a 15-footer powered by a 75 hp outboard. He began fishing local team tournaments with friends and even won a few of them.

This success prompted Pirch to enter local major team tournament circuits. Again, he proved to be competitive.

Pirch continued to fish local tournaments regularly while attending college at Eastern Arizona Community and Northern Arizona University. He earned a degree in zoology from NAU and in bassology from his tournament schooling.

After college, Pirch made a leap of faith into a bass tournament career, supplemented by income earned as a part-time fishing guide. He won four boats in his first two years on tour and has never looked back.

These days, Pirch drives an RV to tournaments with his wife Alicia and his daughters Kailee Grace, 9, and Cassidy, 6. Alicia home-schools the girls when they’re on the road.

I had an opportunity to practice fish with Pirch two days prior to the Lake Norman Open. (Check out my blog.)

I found Pirch to be friendly, humble and extremely capable. He is one of the best casters I’ve ever been in a boat with. He can cast accurately with either hand and skip any lure he ties on under floating docks.

Pirch also has razor sharp bass fishing instincts. He finished fifth at the Norman Open after only two practice days. I suspect that Pirch will qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series and excel when he gets there.