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In a tournament dominated by moving baits, Cliff Pace, of Petal, Miss. spent much of his time meticulously picking apart rocky bottom with a football jig and completed a wire-to-wire victory at the Bassmaster Classic on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. Technically, Pace shared the Day 1 lead with 2003 Classic champ Mike Iaconelli, but he’d break away on Day 2 with a 7-pound lead and seal the deal in the final round with a 3-day total of 54 pounds, 12 ounces and winning margin of 3-4.

“I really wanted to slam the door on this on,” Pace said. “I didn’t want to let this one slip away.”

Pace caught some of his fish on jerkbaits and crankbaits, but he scored several morning bites on a ½-ounce V&M football jig with a 4-inch V&M twin tail trailer in green pumpkin. The fish turned finicky on days two and three, so Pace thinned his jig’s weed guard and cut off about 1/16 inch off the top edge level with the hook. He also dyed the tips of his trailer orange.

“If the water color had been clearer I probably would have just left it alone, but I think in that stained water, that orange on the tails really helped me get a few more bites,” Pace said.

The sensitivity, low-stretch and abrasion resistance of fluorocarbon line also played a key role. Pace said: “The biggest fish I caught today got stuck in a brush pile. That fluorocarbon line is the reason I caught that fish.”

Rounding out the top-6 were Brandon Palaniuk, of Rathdrum, Idaho (51-08); Hank Cherry, of Maiden, N.C. (49-0); Mike Iaconelli, of Pittsgrove, N.J. (48-05); Mike McClelland, of Bella Vista, Ark. (45-05); Tracy Adams, of Wilkesboro, N.C. (45-02).

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