Mike Iaconelli: Lake Jordan
WETUMPKA, Ala. — It's been said that bass fishing is more about finding the bass in the first place, than about what to use to catch them. While that might be true in most instances, it's not etched in stone.
That's why many an angler has left a pretty piece of water wondering if indeed there were no bass there, or rather that he just didn't pick the right lures and techniques to catch them.
Mike Iaconelli seldom harbors such doubts, and the surety of his fishing approach was manifested here Sunday as he won the first leg of the Toyota Championship Week shootout. Iaconelli finished with a two-day bag of 28 pounds, 15 ounces to squeeze out first-round leader Tommy Biffle, who had 27 pounds, 8 ounces. The competition moves to the Alabama River out of Montgomery on Thursday, and finishes Friday evening with the crowning of the 2009 Bassmaster Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year.
Iaconelli has never been accused of lacking confidence in his game, and that ability to reach an understanding with himself regarding how to solve a fishing problem scored again here on finicky Lake Jordan. By tournament's end, everybody knew that the New Jersey pro was targeting docks in mid-depth water, but it wasn't a pattern that Iaconelli stumbled over.
In practice, he started fishing docks, and then he noticed that only certain docks held fish. These stood over water that ranged from 5 to 12 feet deep. And depth didn't seem to matter so much as the dock's proximity to much deeper water.
Beyond that piece of the puzzle, Iaconelli also surmised that the fish around the particular docks that qualified for his attention would only take certain lures with any regularity. By the afternoon of the first day of competition, he had things figured out, and then it was just a matter of going to work.
"Without exaggerating, I fished at least 100 docks today," said Iaconelli at Sunday's weigh-in. "A lot of them were the same docks. I didn't just hammer them. I fished them carefully and went back to some where I missed fish or felt that there were more fish to be caught."
It sounds simple, but many of the 12 competitors beat the water under and around docks to froth without results similar to Iaconelli's.
"I didn't want to disturb the dock," he said. "I wanted to stay off the dock and hit it from a distance first. I fished the outside, and then I would go inside. The bass weren't always under the dock; some were just near the dock, so it was a two-part approach. If I didn't catch any bass at all at a particular dock, I was satisfied that there weren't any bass there to be caught. I moved on."
About 80 percent of the time, Iaconelli cast a half-ounce brown Berkley Gripper jig with a green-pumpkin twin-tail trailer. The rest of the day, he snap-fished a 3 ½-inch Berkley Power Tube in pearl white ("actually, it's more of a smallmouth bait," said Iaconelli.)
Iaconelli employed a 7-foot, 2-inch medium/heavy Team Daiwa Mike Iaconelli Signature bait-casting rod with matching Daiwa reel and 17-pound-test Berkley flurocarbon line with the jig, and a 6-foot, 3-inch medium Team Daiwa Mike Iaconelli Signature spinning rod and matching reel with 10-pound-test Berkley flurocarbon for the tube jig.
Even the big nasty-looking Gripper Jig that Iaconelli chose was part of his logical approach.
"There are a zillion shad in Lake Jordan but they're not the only things that bass in here eat," observed the 2006 Bassmaster Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year. "There are crawfish and young bluegills under the docks, and they're forage, too. So the brown jig suggests a crawfish or bream to bass, and the tube was the shad kicker."
Though Iaconelli fished the Gripper in the conventional way by either pumping it or hopping it, he snapped the tube smartly to make it hop up as soon as it touched the bottom. A ¾-ounce jig head facilitated the retrieve. Iaconelli snapped up the lure and let it fall quickly. Sometimes the bass would hit it descending, but often the lure drew reaction strikes as it rocketed upward.
"I caught a lot of keepers, but not that many big fish," noted Iaconelli. "Thankfully, I got a 4-pound spotted bass right off the bat Sunday morning, and then caught a 4-pound largemouth late in the day. The dock pattern was solid, but getting the bigger fish was fortunate."
Isn't that always the case? Well, maybe not always.