MONTGOMERY, Ala. – On one hand, Mike Iaconelli would appear to be the heavy favorite in his matchup with Elite Series rookie Ott DeFoe. The 39-year-old B.A.S.S. veteran from Pittsgrove, N.J., has both a Classic title and a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title to his credit. Plus, he fished in this event on the Alabama River two years ago.
However, DeFoe wasn’t just any rookie this season; he was the Rookie of the Year. And he earned that title impressively.
“He caught them all year everywhere we went,” said Jeff Kriet, who was one of the four All-Stars eliminated after the semifinals. “Right now I would say Ott is as good a shallow-water fisherman as there is on the tour, from what I’ve seen. And I pay attention to that stuff.”
At 25 years of age, DeFoe is the youngest angler in this field. But, again, the Knoxville, Tenn., resident has fished beyond his years since joining the Elite Series.
“He’s on a streak,” Iaconelli said. “He’s confident. He’s a shallow-water, river guy. You take all those things at face value, and you say, ‘Wow. This is the worst guy I could have drawn out of the bunch.’
“But at the same time, it might corner him a bit. I feel like versatility is one of my strengths. I love to fish shallow. I love to fish deep. I’ll catch them schooling. I’ll do a lot of things.
“If Ott doesn’t find those fish shallow, then he’s going to be at a big disadvantage. So for me, it’s going to be really important in practice to find fish in different areas.”
No matter where he finds them, Iaconelli knows he’ll have a battle from DeFoe in seeing who advances to the second round.
There are four matches in the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship on the Alabama River starting Friday.
The DeFoe-Iaconelli winner advances to fish Saturday against the winner of No. 4 Terry Scroggins and No. 5 Gerald Swindle. On the other side of the bracket, No. 3 seed Aaron Martens meets No. 6 seed Edwin Evers with the winner going against the winner from top-seeded Casey Ashley’s match again Skeet Reese,
The one-on-one title will be decided Sunday, with $100,000 on the line in the winner-takes-all format.
- Steve Wright