Iaconelli admits going ‘brain dead’ Thursday

ORANGE, Texas — Mike Iaconelli has won everything there is to win in B.A.S.S. competition – a Bassmaster Classic title (2003), Angler of the Year (2006), BASS Nation title (1991) and in 2021 he won a Bassmaster Kayak Series event. No one else can make that claim.

Of all those highlights, there was nothing like the hometown victory celebration when Iaconelli won the Elite Series tournament in Philadelphia on the Delaware River in August 2014.

In a tough tournament on a tidal fishery, Iaconelli blew away the field, winning by 8 pounds with a four-day total of 47-14. The 50-year-old Pittsgrove, N.J., resident feels like he has an advantage on tidal fisheries. So, what did Iaconelli do on Day 1 of the Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite on the Sabine River – a tidal influenced fishery?

“I went brain dead and forgot about tides,” he said.

Iaconelli weighed a 7-pound limit, which has him in a four-way tie for 45th place.

“Here’s what I did wrong,” he said. “I found one area in practice where I got a couple of 2-pound bites. That’s gold here. I was so fixated on that area. I just expected too much of that place and factored out tide. Of all people! That’s a mistake.”

Iaconelli believes he can correct that on Day 2. He realized the fish he caught in practice were on a low, out-going tide. But he didn’t have that when he got to his “hot spot” Thursday morning.

“When it didn’t work up there, I came back and most of my day was on my B plan,” he said. “I’m going to start on my B plan. I’m going to catch a limit. They’ll weigh about 5, 6 pounds. About 11 o’clock, I’m going back to my A plan. I’ve got a good feeling about what’s going to happen. I really do. I’m not just saying that.

“My plan is to get up there around noon. I expect that bite window to open up around one or two o’clock.”

There’s so much room to move in the tightly bunched standings after Day 1 on the Sabine River. Less than 2 pounds separates 45th place (7-0) and 20th place (8-15).

“I want that water to be flushed out of there, so there’s more water accessible for me to fish,” Iaconelli said, noting that high tide puts the fish back in areas he can’t get to. “They don’t want no current, and they don’t want super flow current. I’ve seen it too many times on the Potomac, the Delaware, the upper Chesapeake Bay and here. That’s the way it is in most tidal areas.

“This is my deal. This is how I grew up. Seven pounds in a Delaware River tournament when the fishing is tough at a certain time of year, it will get you in the top five in a 50-boat tournament. I’m okay.”

And Iaconelli just might be okay. When he won on the Delaware River in 2014, he was in 21st place on Day 1 with 9-2. He put together bags of 15-1, 12-13 and 10-14 over the next three days to win going away.

This isn’t a prediction of Iaconelli rallying to that extent at the Sabine. But Ike knows tides. Inexplicably, he forgot about tides on Day 1. That won’t happen again. You can bet on that.