The learning curve and Florida

About the author

Michael Iaconelli

Michael Iaconelli

Michael Iaconelli is the only angler to have won the Bassmaster Classic, Bassmaster Angler of the Year and B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.

Having the first weekend off in the 2012 Elite season isn’t my idea of a good time. Nevertheless, it’s Florida. I honestly don’t know why but the SunshineState has always been a challenge to me.

Over the years, a lot of people have asked me about turning pro from New Jersey. The implication of their questions is that it’s tough to learn to fish other types of water around the country. On some level it is but, in truth, that came fairly easy to me.

I studied maps and did lots of prefishing so I was able to learn to fish big, Southern reservoirs and natural lakes quickly. Florida was another story, however. There’s something different about it, and there’s something different about the fish. A popular theory for that is that the water’s shallow and the fish are ultra-sensitive to the weather.

Maybe, maybe not. But I’ll tell you that we fish shallow lakes and many of our venues have been stocked with the Florida strain of largemouth bass. But they don’t act like the Florida strain, though, not by a longshot.

Another explanation — and the one I think makes the most sense — is that some of us fish too fast down here and maybe we don’t change tactics fast enough. There’s slow and then there’s Florida slow. At the same time you have to be real fast when it comes to changing tactics and baits. It’s a matter of working both ways at the same time.

That’s where I struggle. You go along and fish Florida slow but then, as the day wears along, you pick up speed. At the same time you keep the same bait tied on a half-hour too long and you throw it in the same places a half-hour too long. When that happens you’re dead meat.

What’s tough about all that from a professional angler’s point of view is to keep it from getting in your head. You have to believe you’re going to win every tournament you enter. If you don’t you’ll never win anything no matter where you’re fishing. At the same time, though, it’s pretty tough to stay positive when you know you’ve had trouble in one place for several years.

I’m not the only one facing that dilemma. There are several anglers who struggle in this state. It’s crazy, isn’t it? We all know how to fish, and we all know how to learn and how to get better. But we don’t. Why not?

Anyway, that’s where I’m at after a tough event on the St. Johns River. Tomorrow’s another day, and that other day will bring us to Lake Okeechobee. It’s rumored to be one of the hottest lakes in the country. It should be a good one.

Congratulations to Alton Jones. Well done. He managed to bag enough weight out of the St. Johns River to hang on to his lead through Sunday. That’s no small thing when guys like Todd Faircloth and Keith Combs are breathing down your neck. 

I’ll see everybody on the Big O.  


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