Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 06/07/2012

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac

Many, LA - On a day when six Elite Series anglers crossed the stage with limits of at least 20 pounds, Mississippi’s Cliff Pace led the way with an impressive 23-2 effort on Thursday at Toledo Bend.   

Even with an abundance of shallow water cover on the 185,000 acre fishery that last saw Elite Series competition in April of 2011, the vast majority of competitors stated during practice that the tournament would most likely be won offshore, targeting schools of Toledo Bend largemouth. 

Cliff Pace had the Toledo Bend tournament circled on his calendar for that exact reason.  “I like to fish deep and I like to fish structure,” he explained after weighing-in.  “I was really looking forward to this tournament because I knew that style of fishing had the potential to do really well here.” 

After two-and-a-half days of practice on Toledo Bend, Pace was anything but enthusiastic about what he had found.  “I just couldn’t make anything happen in practice,” he admitted.  “I actually started on a spot this morning that I only had two bites on during practice – it was the best spot that I had. I didn’t find a magic spot or anything.”   

Cliff Pace

Pace’s starting spot surrendered a limit, which included a 12 inch spotted bass.  Despite the lack of size, Pace said that he was “tickled to death” to have five keepers in the livewell.  For the rest of the day, the soft spoken pro went to work, culling throughout the afternoon. 

Even after checking-in, Pace had no idea that his Thursday effort would best the field.  “I never really thought about it during the day,” he said.  “I just kept fishing hard and I honestly didn’t think that I had over 18 pounds.  Every time that I opened the livewell, I just couldn’t believe what was in there. All I can say is that it was a gift from above.” 

Fishing multiple spots, Pace said that he relied on two different baits to amass all of his weight.  Entering Friday with a lead of less than a pound over 2nd place finisher, Denny Brauer, Pace said that he hopes what he learned on Thursday will carry over. 

“You always think that you’re learning more each day that you spend on the water, but it wasn’t easy,” he reiterated.  “It wasn’t like I pulled up on a spot and caught 23 pounds and then stopped fishing – it was a grind all day.  I just got really fortunate and got a few big bites.

“Today is a day that I’ll remember for a long time in my career,” he concluded. 

Denny Brauer2nd Place: Denny Brauer (22-8)
If day one leader, Cliff Pace, described Thursday on Toledo Bend as a “grind,” then Denny Brauer’s day on The Bend went about as smoothly as coarse grit sandpaper.   That may seem to be a contradictory statement, considering that he finished the day in 2nd place with a limit of largemouth weighing 22-8, but the Missouri veteran said that his bites were few and far between. 

In fact, Brauer only boated five keepers throughout the day, and never got a bite after 10:30. 

“I had two little spotted bass jump off, but the five that I weighed-in were literally the only bites that I had,” he explained.  “I got the right bites, but I’m a little bit discouraged about what tomorrow may bring.  I ran a lot of good looking water, but I just don’t know what the fish are doing.”

Brauer’s morning actually got off to a fast start, as he boated a six pound, 13 ounce kicker within the first 20 minutes of the morning and then added a two-and-a-half pounder soon after.  He went a full hour without another bite, but then put another quality fish and a keeper in the livewell.  “I finally picked up a different bait and went through it one more time and caught my third big one,” he explained.  “After that, I never got another bite.”

As the second to last boat to take-off on Thursday morning, Brauer said that he was surprised that he was able to get on his primary spot, where he said that he caught a big one during practice.  “I was just hoping that I’d be able to get on it,” he explained.  “It’s a great looking spot and I had it completely to myself.

“Most of the times that I’ve done well, I’ve been fishing patterns,” continued Brauer.  “I hate just fishing a single spot, but this one spot was my only hope to have a decent tournament.  Maybe they’ll bite again there tomorrow morning – I hope that they do.  If they don’t, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I’m going to have to lay awake tonight and try to figure something out.”

3rd Place: Brandon Palaniuk (21-2)
Fresh off his first Elite Series victory on Bull Shoals Lake, Idaho’s Brandon Palaniuk is again in position to fish on Sunday during an Elite Series tournament.  With 21-2 on Thursday, Palaniuk finished the day in 3rd Place and will enter Friday trailing Cliff Pace by two pounds. 

“I was shooting for a limit that weighed 12 or 13 pounds,” he said.  “I caught a fish fairly early and then made a couple of adjustments.  After that, I started catching them.”

Brandon Palaniuk

Rather than rely on a single spot, Palaniuk said that he burned through a lot of fuel on Thursday.  Knowing that he needed one more quality fish to make a charge up the leader board, he boated a six pounder late in the day to finish out his impressive bag.  “The day just went a lot better than expected,” he admitted.  

Fishing what he described as a “loose pattern,” Palaniuk said that he fished a lot of different types of cover throughout the day.  “There’s a pattern, but it’s really broad,” he elaborated.  “I just think that the big fish showed up.  I happened to catch three and four pounders in the areas where I caught two and three pounders during practice.” 

Casey Ashley4th Place: Casey Ashley (20-13)
“You don’t want to be leading after day one,” said a smiling Casey Ashley after weighing-in a 20-13 limit to settle on 4th place on Thursday.  “In my experiences, I can never hold on for three more days.  I like to inch my way up towards the top.” 

Like 2nd place finisher, Denny Brauer, all of Ashley’s weight came off of one specific spot.  During practice, he located five isolated spots that were holding schools of largemouth, and fished just one of them on Thursday.   “My four other spots have just as many fish on them, but I never even fished any of them today,” he explained. 

“Every fish that I weighed-in came by 9:00.  I kept catching three pounders that weren’t helping, so I decided that I had to leave and I left my fish biting.”

On Friday, Ashley said that he’s planning to return to the spot and “milk it for everything that it’s worth.”  One thing that Ashley isn’t worried about is pressure from fellow competitors.  In fact, he was a little spooked at just how vacant the area was when he pulled in on Thursday morning. 

“There’s not a soul around me,” he explained.  “I was boat 91 this morning, and when I pulled up there wasn’t another boat in sight.  It kind of gave me an eerie feeling that maybe I hadn’t really found what I thought that I had found.  But when I started fishing, the fish were still there.” 

Ashley’s only complaint on Thursday was that his school of bass were somewhat scattered.  “In practice, they were all on the sweet spot.  Maybe if we have a little sun in the morning, it will put them exactly where they need to be.”  

5th Place: Mark Davis (20-3) 
Whenever there’s a deep bite, Mark Davis is a dangerous.  On Thursday, he put himself in position for a weekend charge with a limit weighing 20-3 to finish the day in 5th place. 

Like Pace, Brauer, and Palaniuk, Davis also didn’t enter the first morning of competition with very high hopes.  “I had a terrible practice,” he admitted.  “I only had one little area where I thought that I could catch fish.”

Mark Davis

Davis opted to spend some time on Thursday searching for another area that featured the key ingredients that he knew were important.  “I really figured out what to look for yesterday.  They’re on a really key piece of structure and I looked for it the entire day yesterday and never found more of it.   Today, I kept looking and I finally found what I was looking for.”

Culling through approximately 30 to 35 fish, all of Davis’ bass that he brought to the scales were in the vicinity of four pounds.  “I never caught a big fish today,” he said.  “Even though I’m around a lot of fish, they’re hard to catch out of the schools.  If these big fish decide to bite, one eight pounder can lead to a really big stringer.  That’s what it is going to take to win this thing.  It should take about 20 pounds a day to win.

“Fishing is a funny sport,” continued Davis.  “A major league ball player has to believe that he can hit that little round ball with a wood bat, and fishing is the same way – you’ve really got to believe that you can catch them.  After three practice days of not catching anything, you start to lose confidence.  I figured out one little deal and I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.” 
Herren Lost his Rods
“I lost every rod on the right side of my boat first thing this morning.  The little bungee strap broke and I had rods flying everywhere.  I had five rods with all the baits that I was planning to fish with - and I lost it all. 

“I found one old cranking rod in the rod box, fixed up some more baits, and after about five casts I realized that the guide on the tip of the rod was broken and it was shredding my line on every cast.   I don’t think that I was able to make a cast for the first hour because I was fixing all my stuff. 

“I put a new tip on the rod, spooled up one reel with the right line, and proceeded to lose three big ones on the first three casts that I made.   I was pretty livid.  Thank goodness that the fish started eating the bait and I salvaged the day.” – Matt Herren (6th place 20-0)

Roumbanis Throwing Something New
“I learned something last year and I had all year to think about how to improve that technique.  I came up with some additions to it, and it seems to be working.  I know for a fact that not another angler in the field has what I’m using in their boat.” – Fred Roumbanis (8th place 18-11)

Yusuke Fishing with Confidence
“I was struggling today in the morning.  After 9:30, I started to slow down and I started to catch them and then cull.  I bounced around between 10 spots today.  I have struggled the last few years, so I have just tried to fish the way that I want to fish this year and it has been working.”

“I spent half of the day looking for other schools of fish.  I just drove around and looked at my graph.  If I didn’t see anything, I’d just keep moving.”  – Yusuke Miyazaki (9th place 18-3)

Tougher than Expected for Faircloth
“This lake is chocked full of big fish but the bite isn’t really easy right now.  The fish aren’t everywhere and they’re kind if finicky.   When you find them, they’re grouped up.  I caught fish doing different things throughout the day and I really did two totally opposite things to catch most of my fish. 

“I’ve got some stuff that I didn’t go to today that is a long run.  If I have to, maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.  I think that we’re about a month ahead of schedule because of the warm winter.  It’s really fishing like it is July right now instead of June.” – Todd Faircloth (12th place 17-14) 


Day 1
1 Cliff Pace 5 23- 2
2 Denny Brauer 5 22- 8
3 Brandon Palaniuk 5 21- 2
4 Casey Ashley 5 20-13
5 Mark Davis 5 20- 3
6 Matthew Herren 5 20- 0
7 Paul Elias 5 19-12
8 Fred Roumbanis 5 18-11
9 Yusuke Miyazaki 5 18- 3
10 Bradley Roy 5 18- 2
11 Brent Chapman 5 18- 1
12 Todd Faircloth 5 17-14
13 Ott DeFoe 5 17- 9
14 Greg Hackney 5 17- 8
15 Edwin Evers 5 17- 3
16 Brandon Card 5 16-13
17 Timmy Horton 5 16- 7
18 Terry Butcher 5 16- 1
18 Chris Zaldain 5 16- 1
20 Britt Myers 5 16- 0
21 Fletcher Shryock 5 15-15
22 Jason Williamson 5 15-11
23 Marty Robinson 5 15- 8
24 Aaron Martens 5 15- 2
25 Pete Ponds 5 14-15
26 Bill Lowen 5 14- 1
27 Shaw E Grigsby 5 14- 0
28 Gerald Swindle 5 13-15
29 Alton Jones 5 13-14
30 Chad Griffin 5 13- 9
30 Michael Iaconelli 5 13- 9
32 Kenyon Hill 5 13- 5
32 Jason Quinn 5 13- 5
34 Dean Rojas 5 13- 1
34 David Smith 5 13- 1
36 Terry Scroggins 5 13- 1
37 John Murray 5 12-14
38 Russell Lane 5 12-13
39 Scott Ashmore 5 12- 9
40 Kevin VanDam 5 12- 7
41 Ishama Monroe 5 12- 6
42 Keith Poche 5 12- 5
43 Stephen Browning 4 12- 1
44 Chris Lane 5 11-14
44 Morizo Shimizu 5 11-14
46 Brian Snowden 5 11-13
47 Russell Parrish 4 11-13
48 Skeet Reese 5 11-11
49 Cliff Crochet 5 11-11
50 Kevin Short 5 11- 6
51 Keith Combs 5 10-14
52 Tommy Biffle 5 10-11
53 Jared Lintner 5 10-10
53 Scott Rook 5 10-10
55 Takahiro Omori 5 10-10
56 John Crews 5 10- 8
57 Greg Vinson 5 10- 7
58 Jonathon VanDam 5 10- 4
59 Michael Simonton 4 10- 4
60 Pat Golden 5 10- 3
60 Matt Reed 5 10- 3
62 Davy Hite 5 10- 2
63 Nate Wellman 5 10- 1
64 David Walker 5 10- 0
65 Randy Howell 5 9-15
65 Jeff Kriet 5 9-15
67 Cliff Prince 3 9-15
68 Jami Fralick 5 9-14
68 Casey Scanlon 5 9-14
70 Jamie Horton 5 9-12
71 Andy Montgomery 5 9-10
72 Charlie Hartley 5 9- 8
73 Zell Rowland 5 8-12
74 Kevin Ledoux 5 8-12
75 Bobby Lane 5 8-11
76 Kotaro Kiriyama 5 8-10
77 Travis Manson 5 8- 7
77 Derek Remitz 5 8- 7
79 Jared Miller 3 8- 4
80 Mike McClelland 5 7-13
81 Stephen Kennedy 3 7- 7
82 Kyle Fox 2 7- 1
83 Jeremy Starks 4 7- 0
84 Kelly Jordon 5 6-15
85 Billy McCaghren 3 6- 9
86 Matt Greenblatt 4 6- 8
87 James Niggemeyer 4 6- 5
88 J Todd Tucker 3 4- 8
88 Dustin Wilks 3 4- 8
90 Rick Clunn 2 4- 5
91 Rick Morris 2 3-10
92 Clark Reehm 2 3- 7
93 Grant Goldbeck 1 3- 7
94 Gary Klein 2 3- 0
95 Brent Broderick 1 2-10
96 Bernie Schultz 1 1-13
97 Boyd Duckett 1 1-12
98 Mark Menendez 1 1- 8
99 Byron Velvick 1 1- 7