Deb Johnson: B.A.S.S. Reporter's Notebook

Barone is back; Ike the ice man; Ashmore's Kershaw truck wrap; Rook hooks Jewel; Roy goes with Rugged; Palaniuk aligns with two giants; and ... Other Elite pros pick up new sponsors

Don Barone

Barone is back

Award-winning writer Don Barone will be providing his unique perspective on the Bassmaster Elite Series again in 2011. B.A.S.S. LLC and Wired2Fish.com have joined forces to bring Barone's take on the trail as well as on fishing in general to readers of both Bassmaster.com and Wired2Fish.com.

"Don Barone writes about the anglers' hearts, about why we fish," said Jerry McKinnis, a B.A.S.S. owner. Said Terry Brown, Wired2Fish president: "Don is the 'Wizard of Word.' He can talk about fishing without mentioning a rod or reel, and pull on the reader's heartstrings." Barone's first piece of 2011 is scheduled to be published in January on Bassmaster.com.

"It's about ... why B.A.S.S. means so much to me," he said. "B.A.S.S. is the place to be, so it's what I called 'being home,' and that's what the column is about." He said he will continue in 2011 to travel with the Elite Series field. As his itinerary allows, he'll also stop at Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open events. At Wired2Fish, his work will appear in a special section named "DB's The Quest," he said.

"If I'm out and see somebody fishing, I'll stop and talk to them and try to find out why they fish, to discover the spiritual aspect of why people fish," he said. One of Barone's first pieces about bass fishing was July 2007's

"Diary of a Bassmaster Virgin." With the fresh perspective he had — and still has — Barone began to educate the general public about fishing as a pro sport. In that 2007 piece, he wrote, "If you've been sitting back thinking that catching bass for cash is just a bunch of Joe-Bob's with a six-pack and ham sandwich lazily floating around in a boat, waiting for some dumb smallmouth to come by and hit the cheese whiz they're using for bait ... you'd be WRONG." Thus, with a solid claim to being an "outdoor writer virgin," Barone glued a hula-girl mascot to the dashboard of his van, uploaded a very long iPod playlist and struck out from his Connecticut home for Greenville, S.C., and the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.

The blogs he wrote there for Bassmaster.com established him firmly in anglers' hearts, and they in his. "I talked about how I've covered every major league sport that everybody in this country's ever watched — NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, all of it — but none of those sports are as special to me as this sport," Barone said. "I think bass fishing is the last treasure hunt in America.

That's why I love the people who do this sport."

Ike the ice man

Michael Iaconelli, the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champ and 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, once considered becoming a hockey pro. It's true — and, according to Iaconelli, a fact not publicly revealed before now.

The story came to light because of a humorous video titled Ice Trolling that's posted on his website. In it, the Bassmaster Elite Series pro expertly glides across frozen water. When asked where he learned to skate so well, he revealed that he came close to pursuing a career chasing pucks.

He took up hockey early in life — about fourth grade, he said — and played competitively well into his college years. "I made national teams, traveled to Canada, upstate New York and Massachusetts," he said. "But fishing was always there, too. I'd go back and forth: I'd love my fishing, I'd love my hockey. I did that for years. Fishing ended up winning out in the end."

The turning point came when he was a college junior. He'd just won the co-angler division of the 1994 Bassmaster Top 100 on Lake Norman. It was only the second bass tournament he'd ever entered. "That was the moment that changed my life," Iaconelli said. "Both careers were a far-away dream, but I saw the better potential for me with fishing. I never really had the size to be a professional hockey player."

Watch him on skates at MikeIaconelli.com (or on YouTube ). The video is part of his newest venture, Going Ike. They're shorts mostly shot by Iaconelli himself using a Hatcams lightweight camera mounted on his ball cap.

Ashmore's Kershaw truck wrap

In time for his second season as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, Scott Ashmore of Broken Arrow, Okla., penned an agreement with Kershaw Knives. His tow vehicle's wrap will highlight the cutlery company's extensive line.

In 2011, in addition to the eight regular-season Elite Series events, Ashmore is planning to compete in the three-event Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open circuit.

Rook hooks Jewel

Scott Rook, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Little Rock, Ark., has joined the pro staff of jig maker Jewel Bait of Mountain Home, Ark. Rook's new association came just in time for his eighth Bassmaster Classic appearance, Feb. 18-20 on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans.

"Louisiana's Delta is a great river system with hundreds of miles of fishing options," Rook said in a press release announcing the deal. "It fits my style of fishing extremely well, and I can't wait to get down there and start tossing my jig into that wide variety of cover."

Roy goes with Rugged

Bradley Roy, the 2010 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, has signed on with Rugged Shark footwear. "Being from Kentucky, I was always a basketball shoe guy until I started wearing Rugged Shark last year," said the 20-year-old Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Lancaster, Ky.

Palaniuk aligns with two giants

Berkley and Abu Garcia have signed Brandon Palaniuk, the young champ of the 2010 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship who exercised his option to join the 2011 Elite Series.

Last year, the two tackle giants (sister companies) signed Bradley Roy, the youngest-ever qualifier for the Elite Series when he made it in just prior to his 19th birthday. As the Federation champ, Palaniuk qualified for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 18-20 out of New Orleans, where the Idaho native will first fly the Berkley and Abu flags.

Other Elite pros pick up new sponsors

Full reports on several new sponsorship agreements for Bassmaster Elite Series pros can be found in the "Pro News" section on Bassmaster.com.

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