DECATUR, Ill. — There are a lot of nervous unknowns surrounding the start of Bassmaster Elite Series Toyota Trucks All-Star Week. Topping the list for nearly all 12 anglers in the field is whether or not they’ll be able to catch a limit of keepers today, based on a terribly stingy practice on Lake Shelbyville.
For Mike Iaconelli, the concerns stretch far further than fishing. His thoughts are 832 miles away in Runnemede, N.J., where his beloved wife Becky could give birth to their second child at any hour.
“Her actual due date was this past Monday, so I’m sitting here at blast-off just dreading the call that could literally come at any minute,” said Ike just before 8 a.m. this morning. To know Ike is to know his love of Becky and his children. Fishing and family, that’s pretty much Ike’s whole world.
The guy that seems so complicated at times is really just that simple, and this morning his heartstrings were in a tug-of-war between the two. “We know every flight option between here and home if Becky should go into labor. We studied all of our options,” said Ike.
Adding to stress levels are the brutally tough fishing conditions. “I’d say the 2005 Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh was a little tougher, but this place is right up there with Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers on the tough scale,” said Ike. “You know that every single bite you’re fortunate enough to get here at Shelbyville can make a world of difference. That adds a lot of drama to every cast.”
Iaconelli’s Toyota teammate Kevin VanDam was docked next door, and largely agreed with Ike regarding the terribly tough bite at Shelbyville, but ranks Pittsburgh and a 1992 B.A.S.S. tournament at Florida’s Harris Chain as the toughest he’s ever fished.
“The thing about Pittsburgh is that I knew where the fish were positioned, it was just so tough to make ‘em bite. Here, they are roaming. I feel like I’ve got a good game plan, but Shelbyville is gonna rank right up there with Pittsburgh,” said VanDam as he laced a variety of lures to his Quantum rods and reels, ranging from topwaters to jigs.
“I guess I’d have to say the Pittsburgh Classic was tougher than this, because not only was the fishing brutal, but the mental pressure of the Bassmaster Classic was there, too,” said VanDam.
“But no doubt the toughest tournament I ever fished was early in my career at Florida’s Harris Chain in 1992,” confirmed Kevin. “Mike Folkstead won that tournament with a three-day total of 14 pounds, and I only caught 6 pounds in three days.”
Many of the All-Stars predict the numbers will look similar here when the scales stop spinning.
While Iaconelli may not know if he’ll manage a single keeper today, or for that matter whether the baby is a boy or girl, he does know his priorities. “I’m here at Toyota Trucks All-Star Week because the fans voted for me, and that’s such an honor. The fans got me here, and that’s so cool. But if my cell phone rings to tell me Becky is in labor, I’m leaving. Family first,” said Iaconelli in a heartfelt opinion nobody could debate.