PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Let's call it "the Iaconelli edge." Off the record, several Elite Series anglers have mentioned that Mike Iaconelli has an unusual "home court" advantage on the Delaware River this week.
Ike has been fishing here since he was a tyke. Because of the extreme tidal influence – a 7-foot difference between high and low – there's an exponential factor to his experience when compared to local knowledge at any non-tidal tournament site, they think.
Iaconelli's inside track was there for all to see when he weighed the biggest bag Friday — a five-bass limit totaling 15 pounds, 1 ounce. It vaulted him from 21st to first on the leaderboard. His two-day total is 24-3. Day 1 leader Boyd Duckett is now second with 23-5.
Ike's in the driver's seat, right? Even though his lead is only 14 ounces on Duckett, and six other anglers have over 20 pounds, Iaconelli is the "Prince of Delaware River tides," and he'll be the king by Sunday's finale.
"There's no guarantee that I can catch a limit (Saturday)," said the 42-year-old angler, who spent his childhood in Philadelphia and now resides in nearby Pittsgrove, N.J. "This isn't like Lake Guntersville or Kentucky Lake, where there's a (mussel) shell-bed or a ledge, and those fish are going to be there."
Iaconelli then revealed the full extent of his Delaware River advantage: He knows there are too many variables here to predict what will happen from one day to the next. It's a new ballgame every day here, simple as that. At least you won't waste time trying to repeat the same pattern that brought you success the day before.
"There are so many variables here, it's impossible to predict how you'll catch 'em from one day to the next," he said. "I found three very short windows today, from 6:45 to 7:15 this morning, from 10:15 to 11 o'clock at mid-day, and then another 30-minutes real late in the day."
Iaconelli said he caught 5 keepers in the early window, 10 in the second and 5 in the late period. Those same tides will occur in those areas 50 minutes later Friday, bumping the late period out of tournament hours.
"It's not as simple as fishing those same areas 50 minutes later tomorrow," he said. "There are all these other factors in the mix. The wind, the moon, the impact of storms off the coast, or something as simple as a barge moving through and muddying the water in one spot. There are way too many variables on this river to allow you to think you can repeat anything from one day to the next."
That's what Iaconelli has learned in his many years of experience here.
"I was in my mid-20s before I started figuring out it was the tides and the time of year that keyed the bite here," he said. "Through my childhood and my late teens, I thought it was just the spot."
The bass in the Delaware River are like nomads wandering through the desert, or migrating waterfowl. Their homes are nowhere, and everywhere.
"On average, these fish move 30 miles or more during their yearly life cycle," Iaconelli said. "And they make this massive movement. They'll be one place in the spring, another place in the summer, somewhere else in the fall.
"And they are so smart about it. If they want to move down-river, they'll wait until the tide is out-going, they'll point their tails up-river and ride with the current. They can make a mass movement in a hurry. Same thing going upstream, wait until the tide is coming in and ride with it."
Here today, gone tomorrow: That's what Iaconelli has learned about fishing the Delaware River. Sure, it's more complex than that. But it teaches you that predictions are foolish here and nothing is constant but change.
Nobody knows that better than Iaconelli.