Cliff Pace
Skirt Specifics

Friday, March 21, 2008

Photo: ESPN Outdoors

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Cliff Pace says he gets a hefty confidence boost when he uses skirt patterns he made himself.

You may have never put much thought into it, but several of the most productive baits in the history of bass fishing have one thing in common: They all wear skirts.

You've got the jig - probably the most relied on big-fish bait in tournament fishing today. There's also the spinnerbait, which is arguably the most identifiable artificial lure on the planet. Don't forget about the buzzbait, and the latest addition to the family, the ChatterBait - both proven bass busters.

There's obviously something about the way those slender silicone strands undulate with the most subtle flick of the rod tip that flat out drives bass wild.

When it comes to skirts - the fishing kind, not the wearing kind - Cliff Pace knows his stuff. You might even say he's a skirt aficionado.

"I've got something new this year that's really helped my confidence and made me more efficient when it comes to fishing skirted baits," he said. He's talking about a product made by a company named FishingSkirts.com.

"It's just a really simple tool you can use for assembling and putting on skirts. Now I can create any skirt color combination I want, and it only takes me about a minute. They also have just about any skirt color you can imagine."

In this BassFan fishing tip, Pace dishes out the details on his favorite skirt patterns and talks about the importance of fine-tuning the appearance of your skirted baits.

Custom-Made Confidence

A big reason Pace has become so adamant about making his own skirts is because it's a cheap and easy way to get a confidence boost in the baits he throws.

"When I build my own skirt, I know it's just right," he said. "It has exactly the number of strands I want it to have. It's the exact color I want it to be. Everything about it is perfect in my eyes.

"A lot of people will say it only matters what the fish think, but I think selling yourself on the looks of a bait is just as important as selling it to the fish. If you can't look at your jig or spinnerbait and say, 'That's a fish-catching bait,' then you're not 100-percent sold on it, and you're not going to fish it as confidently."

For anglers who fish mostly plastics, he believes making your own jig skirts can help with the mental transition of fishing a bait that's not as familiar to you.

"A jig is usually going to get much bigger bites than a plastic worm," he noted. "But a lot of guys are just more comfortable throwing plastic because they have those one or two favorite colors that they know will produce. Instead of trying to find a store bought jig that happens to be that exact color, just order some skirt material in that color and do it yourself.

"That immediately gives you the confidence to start fishing that bait, because you know it's that one 'special color' that those fish like. Fishing is such a mental game. You can't discount stuff like that."

Pace's Perfect Patterns

Here are the details of Pace's three most common skirt patterns that he builds for tournaments:

Bluegill: "I used this pattern a lot in the last two (Bassmaster Elite Series) events I fished in Florida. There was a lot of sight-fishing going on, and there were bass locked on beds. Everybody knows that bass can't stand it when a bluegill is hovering around their nest.

"For bluegill, I start with a green base, something like watermelon, but I want a skirt that has some copper, purple and a little green flake in it. For my accents I start with a few strands of orange, that'll act as the belly. Then I'll add a strand or two of blue and one gold. When it's done it really looks good.

"In Florida I would throw that jig up there and just swim it by the nest. I wasn't even really trying to catch fish on it, I was just trying to get them riled up. That bluegill pattern works well for that.

(The bass) have seen a jig a million times, but they probably haven't seen one just like the one you tied yourself."

Crawfish: "Jigs are a perfect imitator of a crawfish and bass love 'em. You can buy a ton of crawfish-pattern jigs, but when you make your own, you know you have something unique that bass haven't seen before.

"Crawfish is a pretty easy pattern to make. Most people will just start with a brown or orange base and call it done, but I like to add some accents. It always helps to know what the crawfish look like in each particular lake, too. I've seen them dull brown, almost greenish, and I've seen them bright red and orange. That'll help you determine what kind of skirt to make.

I usually start with green-pumpkin or brown, but here's the secret, I like to have a skirt with a little bit of blue flake in it. If you'll notice, a lot of crawfish get blue on the end of their pincers. A brown skirt with a little blue flake is ideal. You can even add some blue strands, too."

Shad: "Everybody generally uses pearl white for shad. Sometimes pearl white is the best you can get, but if you'll notice, most shad aren't brilliant white, they're more of a transparent silver.

"I like to use a white or silver translucent base when I'm doing a shad pattern. Then I'll add a couple strands of chartreuse with black flake in it for the back and fin. You can also add a few short strands of red in there to look like a gill, or to give it that bleeding effect.

"The end goal is to have a bait that you have 100-percent confidence in and that the bass haven't seen before. They've seen a jig a million times, but they probably haven't seen one just like the one you tied yourself."


> Pace doesn't make many modifications to his skirts. "I don't trim them up too much. I normally cut it about 1/2-inch longer than the hook. The only time I really trim it up is if I want it to sink faster. You can also add more strands if you want it to sink slower."

> "I've really been able to reduce my jig and spinnerbait load on my boat," he said. "I just have a bunch of heads and now I make my own skirts for everything. Instead of having 100 jigs in all different sizes and colors, I just carry about 20 different heads and switch out the skirts as I need them."

> "A lot of people think making your own skirts is hard work. The tool that FishingSkirts.com has makes it easy. I can take off an old skirt and put a completely new one on in about a minute. It's really simple."

> He finished 2nd at the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.


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