It's unlikely that Mike Iaconelli will find himself struggling for a bite while on the supremely healthy California fisheries that the Bassmaster Elite Series will call home for most of March.
But it happens. In fact, it happens to the world's best more than you probably realize. Don't forget, things weren't quite as rosy in Birmingham at the 2010 Bassmaster Classic. For starters, 3 inches of snow greeted Iaconelli and 50 other Bassmaster Classic competitors when they arrived in town. Overnight lows were in the 20s in the heart of Dixie, and the bass appeared to have their appetites on ice.
Iaconelli didn't get to be one of the Top 10 anglers in the world by freezing up. Instead he reaches for what he calls the Panic Box. It's a plastic tackle storage tray that offers a sense of calm based on contents inside that take him back to his bass club days.
"The box is filled with a lot of the smaller, finesse baits and the sort of stuff we fished for trout with as a kid. One of the baits in there is a homemade hair jig my long-time buddy Chris Dalfonso ties for me," said Iaconelli. Dalfonso runs a driveway sealant company back home, and at times his handy work on the fly tying bench goes far in saving Ike's bacon.
"Chris and I grew up bass fishing in the Top Rod Bassmasters club, and his hair jig is not only great in really cold water, but in 'tough water' of any kind," explained Iaconelli. "I think Chris uses deer hair and some synthetics to tie it. What I know for sure is it gets bites when all the standard bigger stuff fails.
It's really, really light so you have to throw it on 6-pound line and use a long 7' 4" reel to launch it. I pump it and swim it like a dying shad. As I'm lifting the rod tip, I'm pumping the rod as I lift," explained the 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. "It works in cold water, it works in current, and it works on schooling fish in the middle of summer. Most of all, it works during those times when all else fails."