As a brand new Bassmaster Elite Series season was minutes from kicking-off, a glowing light from within a bass boat’s dry storage compartment served as a small beacon in the otherwise dark and slightly foggy pre-dawn scene on Palatka’s St. John River.
Inside the glowing beacon were the arms of Elite angler – Mike Iaconelli -- working with hands out of site and deep within the lighted storage compartment. “I’m feeding a pet spider monkey that I keep in here. No, actually, I don’t have split ring pliers in my boat, so I’m using my thumbnail to try to add this split-ring to this topwater’s belly, and I can’t get it on there,” said Iaconelli in a mixed tone of humor, determination and light hearted frustration.
Iaconelli gladly took a brief break from his lure modification struggles to satisfy his ride-along observer’s request for a photograph of the two together. Soon after, he was back to dipping his hands in the light, and working for close to ten more minutes before finally exclaiming, “Yes I got it on there, that will keep a big bass from head-shaking the treble hook loose when one blows up on it,” he explained with a breath of relief and confidence.
Florida’s never been real kind to Iaconelli, so all victories are worth exclamation if for nothing more than to add a few ounces of confidence that the day ahead will be a good one.
“I took a different approach here in practice this week,” explained Ike. “Instead of only looking for spawners like I did last year, I’ve been fishing wide open the past three days to find bass in all three stages of the spawn. I didn’t want to get locked-in on one approach and be stuck if that failed. So I feel pretty good. I’m ready.”
Then came a deeper sense of content as Ike’s wife Becky and young son, Vegas, came strolling down the dock, just as they do on every single day of competition throughout the season, to show Ike support, settle his anxiousness, and feed him breakfast.
Today breakfast was a turkey sausage breakfast muffin. “We room with Ish Monroe, and Ish claims he’s allergic to pork, so we’ve got turkey sausage,” laughed Becky. There’s never a lack of humorous exchanges between Mike and Becky, but nobody was laughing when a physician told Iaconelli that his blood sugar levels were out of whack, largely because Ike wouldn’t eat anything all day between breakfast and a late night dinner on tournament days.
Iaconelli is trying to fix that, largely with the help of sports nutritionist Ken Hoover, and mostly with better discipline. “He’s doing better,” says Becky. “He’s trying harder to eat the stuff Ken packs for him throughout the day.”
Iaconelli, age 39, agrees that he’s making an effort to eat more sensibly, “Most guys work on becoming better deep crankbait fisherman, others work on skipping lures under docks or whatever, but me, I have to work on eating while I’m fishing,” he grinned, as he poured a vitamin C saturated powder into a bottle of water.
Then came more humor. “And this vitamin C I’m going to drink could turn me into a spider monkey --remember, we talked about spider monkeys earlier?” Yes Ike, we remember. And we’re glad you got the split ring on your topwater, and a turkey sausage in your belly, but please don’t forget to eat more once you’re on the water. Bass fishing’s most electric personality will need plenty of fuel. It’s a long season, and the season’s just begun.