At times, watching Elite Series pro Mike Iaconelli fish in tournament competition is a lot like watching a scared rabbit with a hound hot on its trail. A quick stop here, a jump there, a zig followed by a zag and then a quick run. When it comes to running and gunning, Iaconelli is one of the best.
However, Iaconelli is quick to point out that there is a method to his madness. "The key behind running and gunning is that you have identified a pattern and are actually running that pattern in many different areas," says the popular New Jersey pro. "When you get on a lake that has similar features, you can use the run-and-gun strategy."
The main factor in his run-and-gun success is the ability to duplicate the same set of circumstances in multiple locations on the body of water. Some places it works, and some places it doesn't. "I don't really know what makes one lake pattern well and another not pattern well," admits the former Classic champ.
Iaconelli points to the last two years on Alabama's Lake Wheeler as an example of the productivity, or lack thereof, of running and gunning. "Last year during the Elite Series event on Wheeler, the main area was on the Decatur Flats and it was a tournament that revolved around specific spots," Iaconelli says. "However, this year, it was totally different and I was able to run and gun."
Using a run and gun strategy, Iaconelli hit between 40 and 50 areas a day at Wheeler on his way to a fifth place finish. "There were times when I would literally pull up, make two casts and then leave," he explains.
While at first glance in may seem like an inefficient and time consuming strategy, Iaconelli explains that hopping from spot to spot has to do with reading the bank and the water in search of productive areas. "I'm covering 20 or 30 miles of bank and reading the area, trying to identify areas that fit that pattern," he says. "Running and gunning really means looking at a bank and saying, 'you know what? That fits what I'm doing so I'm going to pull over and fish it.' "
Another important aspect to the strategy is to fish new water on a regular basis. On Wheeler, Iaconelli estimates that 70 percent of the places he fished during the final day were spots he had not visited previously during the week. "I think one of the keys to the strategy is to hit new water every single day. Obviously, there will be key stuff that I'll revisit throughout the tournament, but the majority of it is new water." For Iaconelli, it all comes down to trusting his instinct. "If I see something that fits the bill, I'll pull in and give it a chance," he explains.
When it comes to lure selection, Iaconelli uses baits that can cover water quickly. He prefers search and reaction baits like a crankbait or a heavy jig. Once he finds a key piece of cover and catches a fish, he often goes back over the area and fishes it more thoroughly before moving on to the next stop.
When he is really tuned into a run-and-gun pattern, Iaconelli puts it in overdrive. "Man, I'd probably say that the most spots I've ever hit in one day during my career is probably in the neighborhood of 100."