You can’t help but like Cliff Prince.

A rock-star bass pro he is not. With Prince, you won’t hear constant self-promotion, cutthroat attitude or pretentious claims about his social media following.

Humility. That’s what you get with Cliff Prince.

So it’s no surprise that Prince’s recent win at Lake Wheeler came as a high point for fans of the sport. A full-time B.A.S.S. competitor for 14 years, this was Prince’s first national title, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I was really second-guessing what I was doing here,” the 54-year-old angler mentioned. “I thought maybe it was time for me to retire. You get the feeling like someone’s stacking bricks on your shoulders.”

These thoughts are no longer in Cliff Prince’s mind. His only focus: “winning another one.”

It’s not quite that easy, as we all know. Along Prince’s bass fishing journey, he’s been forced to continue to operate a full-time business, rather than go all-in. Portable toilets are reliable money-makers that Prince has built into a quality living.

“It’s not a glorified thing, but it pays the bills around my house,” he stated. “There are times when I’m at the boat ramp, and I’m on the phone working on routes, and everybody else is just worrying about their next cast.”

Through it all, Prince rolls with the punches. I’ve met and interviewed a few other legendary pros in his category. The “legend” label fits them, too; road warriors who never give up, despite the repeated knockdowns, missed chances and lack of attention.

But let’s not forget, Cliff Prince is no slouch. A known force around his tidal-river home on the St. Johns River, Prince has also racked up a dozen Elite Series Top-10s in his career. Still, a few bad breaks have cost him.

“The 2016 St. Johns River (tournament) was a heartbreaker,” Prince remembered of the event that the legendary Rick Clunn took down. “Somehow, I killed all my fish the first day. I had to quit (with a small limit) and couldn’t cull.” Statistics and experience confirm, Prince should have walked away with the title.

It was Prince’s Florida experience that gained him the recent win. A shell-bar fishing expert, Prince used the same tactics to exploit a hard-spot on Wheeler’s famed Decatur flats. His Jackhammer tactics required precision.

“Yeah, it’s something I do at home … you could not snap or jerk the bait at all. And if you cast out and reeled it back, you never got a bite. The bait had to crawl along the bottom.” (Interestingly, second-place finisher Ray Hanselman reported the need to snap and rip his lures).

Throughout the tournament, Prince located two key spots holding the most bass. Casts had to be exact. Sonar was off. No noise, just the purity of old-school fishing.

“In practice, I saw a few shad running on top of the water in that area, which is always a good sign,” Prince reported. A local had found the same spot, laying waste to the bass population on Prince’s final practice day. Prince noticed, but kept his distance, never seeing the local angler, or any other Elite pros, in the area again.

The first three days of the event, Prince scored early, spending the remainder of each day guarding his goods. A lunker bass in the semifinals sealed the deal.

“The Good Lord was handing out gifts, what can I say,” Prince reported of the nearly 8-pound fish that bit his lure “pretty much after I was done for the day.”

A princely gift for sure. The result of hard work, good fortune and perseverance that few others can lay claim to.

Chalk one up for the good guys.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)