Florida Sportsman had a chance to catch up with Cliff Prince by telephone today.
Prince recently qualified for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, to be held February 22-24 on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokee, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He joins three other Florida anglers on the list, names long familiar to readers of Florida Sportsman: Bobby Lane, Shaw Grigsby, Terry Scroggins. (Chris Lane’s on there, too, though he now lives in Alabama.)
Prince, a rookie on the Elite tour for 2012, has been successful in Southern Open events over the last few years, including a 2nd-place finish at Santee Cooper, SC, in 2009. He was born and raised in Palatka, “across the river from Terry…he’s on the east side, I’m on the Palatka side,” said Prince.
Somewhat surprising, Prince, 42, didn’t catch the bass fishing bug until after graduating from high school. But, he said he long looked up to an uncle who was a fishing guide. “He fished for a living, and I just thought that was the best thing since sliced bread!”
Like many aspiring and touring bass pros, Prince holds down a second career; in his case, he owns a portable toilet business.
I asked him about his background fishing Florida’s St. Johns River, a unique waterway, and how that skill set might translate onto the national bass fishing stage.
“The thing about the St. Johns River is, you’ve gotta be versatile,” Prince said. “You’ve gotta be able to throw a crankbait, worm fish, finesse fish, and sight fish at parts of the year. If you talk to anybody from Florida who fishes the lakes mainly, they’ll say they hate coming to the river. That’s because it’s tough fishing; it changes everyday—if you get a south wind, it blows the water out; a north wind blows it right back in. Adjusting to things like that, I think that’s made it where I can adapt quicker than someone just fishes lakes all the time.”
And adapt he’ll have to do: The Classic will be held in late February in Oklahoma. Prince has never fished Grand Lake; thus far the only thing he knows about it comes from Casey Scanlon, of Kansas, a fellow Bassmaster pro: “Casey said he fished a tournament out there that time of year and had to chip ice off his livewell lid to put fish in!”
To say he’ll be making adjustments from Florida’s tropical climate to Midwest winter is an understatement, but Prince sounded poised for the challenge.
“I’m ready to get it on!” he said, about the upcoming Classic.
Depending on the trajectory of early season cold fronts, Prince may have a chance to practice his cold-water chops in October, when he’ll be fishing Smith Lake in Jasper, Alabama, for a Southern Open event. He said a jig-and-jerkbait will probably be among the techniques that’ll come into play during the Classic in February.
Cliff is married; his wife, Kelley Prince, is principal of Mellon Elementary School in Palatka. They have a daughter, Gracie, 11, and a son, Syler, 7. Among Cliff’s chief sponsors are Dunkin Donuts, Bomber Lures, Gator Tackle and S&A Leisure.
For more on the bass fishing tournament lifestyle, see the upcoming October print edition of Florida Sportsman Magazine. Writer Tyler Brinks has an in-depth article on what it takes to make it in the big leagues.
To keep up with Cliff Prince and other Florida pros on the Bassmaster tour, see www.bassmaster.com