KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Footage of Mike Iaconelli howling led "SportsCenter" after the New Jersey angler's disqualification on the first day of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
Of course, for Iaconelli, possibly the most demonstrative pro angler in the country, a scream could mean he has just caught a tournament-winning fish, or, as was the case Friday afternoon, he is having a problem with his livewell and has two dead fish among his catch.
On the way out of the Orange County Convention Center Friday evening after learning his catch had been DQ'd for what BASS officials determined was unsportsmanlike behavior, Iaconelli was unrepentant, if a little sobered.
He explained that his emotions had gotten the better of him, leading him to curse and to kick and rip out a running light pole that happened to be flying an American flag.
"There might have been some things said," Iaconelli stated. "But, again, was I the first person to ever break a light post? Was I the first person to ever curse? Absolutely not. Have they ever disqualified anyone for cursing before? Absolutely not."
Iaconelli had raised the possibility that he might skip the second day of the competition.
"I think that's a decision I'll have to make tonight," he said. I've got some phone calls to make, I guess, and come up with a solution. I don't know, I really don't know."
BASS tournament director Trip Weldon said Friday he would discuss the issue with Iaconelli on Saturday.
Apparently after a couple of phone calls, some time with his family and a few hours of rest put the 2003 Classic champion in a calmer state of mind. He put his boat into the water a few minutes after 5:30 a.m., as scheduled Saturday.
Uncharacteristically, though, he idled to a location away from the bustling marina where he was slated to dock, opting instead to avoid fans and media before heading onto Lake Tohopekaliga at the appointed launch hour.
Weldon confirmed that Iaconelli and he spoke in the morning. "He wanted to file an appeal," Weldon said. "There is no appeal. His DQ stands."
Other anglers in the Classic field were generally supportive of Iaconelli, though one said that he "looked like a whipped punk" after the whole ordeal. Others acknowledged, as Classic contender James Kennedy of Louisiana did, that BASS officials "did what they had to do."
"I can understand him breaking a pole, but he should have been careful with the American flag," Kennedy said. "That's kind of what hurt my feelings about the whole thing. Our nation's at war while we fish in the biggest event in the world."
"Who knows," Kennedy continued, "he may come back with two 30-pound bags and win this whole thing."
The incident was still so fresh by the second morning of the 36th annual tournament that anglers such as Classic competitor Larry Nixon of Arkansas had yet to see the replay &$151; despite having heard detailed descriptions of it.
"He's always done things no one's surprised at, whether it's for publicity or by accident," Nixon said.
Nixon said he could understand venting frustration on the running light pole, but "when he saw he broke it, he shouldn't have finished it off with his hands."
When Iaconelli's name was announced among those of the other 50 Classic anglers speeding onto the lake Saturday, the hundreds of fans gathered at the marina still offered the popular pro perhaps the loudest cheer of the morning.
That's not to say that everyone was impressed with how he behaved himself the previous day.
"That's why I don't particularly care for him," said Ken Calhoun, of Venice, Fla., who was lakeside with his son Cole. "I like the old-school fishermen. That's not the type of fisherman we grew up watching."
When the father said his son liked Iaconelli, the boy clarified that he didn't favor Iaconelli's outbursts. "I like him because he's a good angler," Cole said.