When Bassmaster Elite Series veteran and Florida pro Cliff Prince began his bass fishing career, high school bass fishing hadn’t been invited and tournaments at any level did not have anywhere near 300 entries.
But this week, Cliff served as a boat captain for his son Syler Prince and his partner Austin Peters of Palatka High School for the 2021 Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors at Lake Chickamauga.
“If you wanted to fish, you went and joined an adult club when I was 16 years old, if they let you in,” Cliff said. “They didn’t have this kind of stuff. To see this happen, it just means the bass fishing industry is fixing to explode because this hasn’t been going on that long.
“I think this is great,” Cliff added. “What Bassmaster has done with this, I can’t speak highly enough about it.”
In their first trip to the National Championship, Syler and Peters finished 110th in the 309 boat field. The experience was a learning curve for anglers and boat captain alike.
“It’s a learning curve when you are going against 300 boats and you are used to fishing against 20,” Cliff said. “The boys were like, ‘Let’s run up here.’ And I told them you aren’t going to get it to yourself. You are going to be fishing with somebody.”
The fishing conditions did not make the learning curve any easier either, according to Cliff.
“The fish are kind of in a funk in my opinion,” Cliff said. “They aren’t all offshore and the ones that are, you can’t get them to bite. My hats off to these boys who are catching them, because it is a grind out there. I fished with them during practice and it wasn’t easy.”
Regardless of the outcome, Cliff said it's been an awesome experience to watch his Syler grow into his own as an angler.
“I take a lot of pride in seeing him grow up as an angler,” Cliff said. “I try to teach him the right way. He’s going to be better than I am. It’s going to be good. I hope he goes to college with it and I feel like he has the opportunity to do that.”