No one would ever accuse New Jersey Bassmaster Elite Series pro angler Mike Iaconelli of masking his emotions. He's an open book, whether it be boisterously celebrating a Classic-winning fish or cursing a missed opportunity.
Ike's unbridled emotions have made him a favorite of some fishing fans and a pariah to others. But in considering how his feelings affect his time on the water, he's managed to improve his game along the way.
Admittedly, he's still a work in progress, but the Classic championship and subsequent Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title show that he's managed to harness his firepower for success. "Emotions are a great tool," he says. "I speak from experience — I'm real emotional. Over the years, I can look back and tell you that when things are going great and I'm really catching them and I've gotten on that positive emotional high, I would use that as a tool. That's when you win. That's when you propel yourself to catch that last fish in the final five minutes, because you're running off that positive emotion."
But for every Mr. Hyde, there's a lurking Dr. Jekyll, and at times his emotions have gotten the better of him and cost him valuable fish and better finishes. Particularly early on in his career, he often managed to allow small mistakes to irreversibly unnerve him. "I can also look back in the past where a lost fish or a broken line was the kiss of death," he says. "If that happened early in the day for me, I was an emotional train wreck. It killed me."
But over the years, he has gotten better at channeling the negative energy. "Obviously, the positive energy, that happens on its own," he says. "You take it and use it." But it requires special effort to turn the bad stuff into a blessing.
A good example is the recent Elite Series event on Alabama's Lake Guntersville, where his performance was inexplicably poor the final day of competition: "I can't tell you how many big fish I lost the last day at Guntersville," he says. "It was unbelievable. I still got [upset], but I was able to take the bad situation and learn a little bit from it. I got mad to the extent that I was able to fish harder.
I'm not saying that I still don't get [upset], because I do, but now I'm able to transfer it to fishing harder." He also uses the bad times to assess what he might be doing wrong. When things are going well, it's easy to keep rolling, but sometimes a negative experience will lead him to make the type of slight adjustment that will pay off handsomely almost immediately as well as down the road, possibly for years to come.
"I'll change something, the color of the crankbait or a different size hook, and a big one will come in the boat and that will change the momentum back to the positive side," he explains. Had the difficulties of this year's Guntersville event happened five or 10 years ago, "I would have only brought in 10 or 11 pounds, but I was able to bring in 21 pounds instead," he opines. "It's not that I won, but it was definitely a different Mike."
"Emotions are a good thing," he adds. "It's great to get excited, but it's also good to get angry when you lose a fish because you can learn something from that mistake. You can take something from that negative energy and spin it into a positive."
(Provided by Z3 Media)