COLUMBIA, S.C. — Mike Iaconelli will leave Lake Murray slightly disappointed after missing the Top 10 cut by a pound and 9 ounces. He really wanted another day on this lake where he may have caught more bass than any other angler in the Marathon Bassmaster Elite. But Iaconelli is wearing his customary big smile again after suffering through an uncharacteristic return to the Elite Series a year ago.
“Fishing is a lot of mindset,” he said after weighing 20 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday and finishing with an 11th-place total of 59-3. “My mindset last year wasn’t correct. This year, it’s really, really correct. I’m using that positive momentum, and each event is building on that momentum. It feels good to be fishing good again and making good decisions.”
After finishing 84th in the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year rankings last year, Iaconelli, a former BASS Angler of the Year and Bassmaster Classic champion, will leave Lake Murray ranked 7th in AOY points after three tournaments.
Iaconelli’s hands were a scraped-up mess Saturday after lipping so many bass this week.
“The first day I caught like 30 or 40,” he said. “The second day I caught 40 or 50, and (Saturday) I caught 50 or 60 bass. It’s an incredible pattern I’m running. I’ve got it so dialed-in in my mind.”
Iaconelli wanted to save his secrets if he’d made Sunday’s final. But they can be revealed now.
“I’m throwing two very traditional herring spawn baits, ones that every guy out here has tied on – a topwater and a fluke,” he said. “But I’m also fishing two very untraditional baits. They’re triggering bites because I don’t think the fish have seen them.”
Those two are a Rapala OG Slim crankbait and a weightless wacky-rigged worm.
“I’m actually approaching it like I would a Tennessee River impoundment, when you’re cranking for post-spawn fish,” Iaconelli said of the crankbait.
Of the wacky worm, he said, “When they’re blowing up, you think topwater, you think fluke. I’m just throwing a weightless wacky worm out there, and I don’t do anything with it. I just let it sit, sometimes 30 seconds, sometimes a minute, sometimes two minutes. Green pumpkin. It doesn’t even look like a herring.”
“It makes no sense!” Iaconelli added with a laugh.
That approach to this tournament is a good example of how Iaconelli has built a record that will see him inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame this year. Take a bit of the traditional approach and mix it with something outside the norm.
The 50-year-old, Pittsgrove, N.J., resident has made a career of just that. And spread the joy of fishing in the process.