Victory on the Cooper River

It’s a crazy world. We’ve been talking about rungs on the ladder and this past weekend I (we) climbed another one. My partner and I finally won the Cooper River Open Buddy Tournament. I’m really excited, partly because of the nostalgic part of it and partly because it’s been such a struggle for me.

My first bass club, Top Rod Bassmasters, started it about 18 years ago. In the early days I couldn’t fish it because I was always working it. As my life changed and I became less active in the club I had less opportunity to fish it because I was usually somewhere else. But my respect for that specific tournament never changed, and I fished it when I could.  

If I remember correctly, I’ve had the opportunity to compete in it seven times. My record is mixed. I’ve come close to a win a couple of times, did respectable a few other times and bombed at least once.

Let me say at this point that this is no ordinary club or open event. It draws somewhere between 80 and 100 boats, along with some of the best anglers around. They’re seasoned and they know the river. It’s about as tough as a bass tournament gets.  

This year I’m home. Naturally, I decided to fish it. The first thing I had to do was get my old Coleman Crawdad ready for action. It needed a little cleaning up, and a fresh battery, but other than that she was as good as the day I got her. The decks I had installed were still strong and she didn’t leak at all. 

My partner was a local angler and friend named Brian Stockl. He’s one of the guys I was thinking about when I said a week or so ago that there are anglers here who could easily be top pros if they had chosen to go in that direction. All he’d need to do is retire his hammer, rule and saw. And no, I’m not being polite. I’m serious and I mean it. He’s that good.

We fished hard all day. Things pretty much went our way. We won. I’m as proud of that win as I am of any tournament I’ve ever won. I’m sure Brian would say the same thing. It’s something we’ve both wanted for years.

It’s funny, no matter what you do in this business, or how much success you have, there’s always something special about going home and fishing with the guys you know and who were there when you were just getting started. They’re a part of you that never leaves.

In my case, they were the guys who made me the angler I am today. Fishing against guys who are really good, who can read water and predict fish movements and make adjustments on the fly, makes you better. You have no choice. It’s get better or get whipped. Half-step around them, and they’ll eat your lunch.

This one was special, really special.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website,

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