RUNNEMEDE, N.J.— Ever since he joined the pro tour in 1999, Michael Iaconelli has never forgotten his competitive angling roots, even after winning the 2003 Bassmaster Classic world title and now his more recent 2006 BASS Angler of the Year title. Last month, Iaconelli made a trip back to those humble roots when he made a guest appearance at a meeting of the New Jersey BASS Federation Nation."This guy began as one of us and he remains one of us," proclaimed John Radamski, New Jersey's president who invited Iaconelli to the meeting as part of a membership recruiting campaign. "When we connected he didn't hesitate to help. His first words were 'I'll do whatever I need to do.'"
"It was awesome, a lot of fun to be around those guys and especially the kids," added Iaconelli. "It was like a homecoming for me because there were lots of people there whom I've known over the years. It was my first time home after all of the Angler of the Year commitments so it was really appropriate to be with them all."
Radamski came up with the "Night with Ike" as a means of rewarding his youth members while inviting former adult New Jersey members to rejoin the Federation Nation. The plan was a success.The meeting opened with Iaconelli speaking to the youths with a question-and-answer session that followed."The kids were great, they were asking me more hardcore fishing questions than I get at a lot of adult seminars," added Iaconelli.The youth portion of the meeting concluded with an autograph session with goodie bags and product provided by Pure Fishing and BASS. The segment was such a hit that the time allocated for the youths went overtime."He really interacted one-on-one with those kids," said Radamski. "He didn't omit anybody and it really appeared he had a purpose and a passion for being with them."
The focus of the evening then shifted to the adults, with Radamski addressing the invited guests about rejoining the Federation Nation. Two members from each club in the state were invited to attend the meeting. Radamski presented an overview of the Federation Nation goals and benefits, including the tournament format leading to the Classic.
The evening concluded with Iaconelli's testimony about the opportunities the Federation Nation has provided him since he joined the Top Rod Bass Casters in 1991, just one year after he'd graduated from high school."He reaffirmed the fact that the Federation Nation is the only way to go for the regular guy who either wants to learn more about bass fishing or who dreams of making it to the big time like he's done," concluded Radamski.Iaconelli's Federation Nation 'game plan'
Michael Iaconelli had two reasons for joining the New Jersey Federation Nation as a teenager in 1991.
"First and foremost, it provided an outlet to gain knowledge from other anglers and apply what I'd been reading about in Bassmaster and BASS Times," he said. "At its very core the Federation Nation is about learning. You can't learn on your own and the club became my avenue for reaching that goal.""Second, I needed an organized approach to competing," he added, referring to his youth years when he fished for fun with neighborhood friends. "It also gave me a means of pursuing and living out a dream to win the Bassmaster Classic."Through the years, Iaconelli has referred to his Federation Nation career track as his game plan to success. It's worked. In 1997, at the age of 25, he won the BASS Federation Nation Championship. Two years later he won his first major BASS title and he's been on a hot streak since, winning the 2003 Classic and making seven appearances in the world championship. The reigning BASS Angler of the Year, Iaconelli will compete next month in the Classic set for Alabama's Lay Lake before he resumes competition in the Bassmaster Elite Series.