TV viewers take note: For the first time ever, ESPN2 will provide same-day coverage of a BASS event outside of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Coverage of the Bassmaster Memorial weigh-in will air Sunday, May 21, at 7 p.m. ET.
FORT WORTH, Texas — Mike Iaconelli began the Bassmaster Memorial by fishing a number of patterns and he met mixed results.
But on Friday's cut day, Iaconelli focused on a single strategy.
Iaconelli landed a 16-pound, 14-ounce limit Friday, one of the biggest bags of the season's first Bassmaster Major tournament. The haul gave him a two-day total of 27 pounds, six ounces and secured him one of the 12 spots in Saturday's narrowed field.
Fifty-five Elite anglers began the Memorial Thursday on Eagle Mountain Lake. The remaining 12 will move to Benbrook Lake for Saturday's action. The top six will fish the same body of water on Sunday.
Iaconelli's two-day total was the highest of all the competing anglers. But the fishermen all go back to square one tomorrow when all weights are zeroed and the race for the $250,000 first prize begins in earnest.
Also making the field of 12 are first-day leader Dave Wolak (26-14), Skeet Reese (26-3), Matt Reed (25-8), Mike McClelland (24-10), John Crews (22-0), Peter Thliveros (21-15), Todd Faircloth (21-3), Greg Hackney (21-1), Edwin Evers and Mark Menendez (who both bagged 20-14) and Randy Howell (19-12).
Iaconelli leaped into the weekend after boating 10 pounds, 8 ounces on Thursday, which put him in 20th place. He said maintaining his focus and slowing his rhythm was essential to Friday's jump up the leaderboard.
"Yesterday, I flip-flopped between three different patterns," he said. "And I thought I had a great day until I saw some of the weights. Today, I said I needed to focus on the one pattern I thought my fish would come on ... that was one key. Another key was the afternoon wind. Absolutely, they bite better when you have a little bit of wind."
The results showed up in Iaconelli's live well.
"Yesterday and today, I caught 50 fish," he said. "Yesterday, I had five keeper bites. Today, I had 17. That tells you a lot about what that wind does. I'm stoked man. I'm confident. Of the three patterns, the one that I fished today is something that I'm real comfortable with and that's finesse fishing. You're in Texas and that doesn't really make sense, but it helps to know how to fish the spinning rod. That's what I did today."
What he'll do Saturday on Benbrook, however, remains a mystery.
"I don't know," Iaconelli said. "I've never seen it ... my best day out on (Eagle Mountain) was the first day of practice when all I did was go fishing. It should be no different tomorrow."
Wolak totaled 10 pounds on a four-fish bag Friday. His biggest fish was a 4-10 lunker, but the total weight could have been higher.
"I had two big ones on that broke my line," Wolak said. "It was a spinning rod, 10-pound test. My big came on 30-pound braid with a crankbait. I went to light line in the afternoon and got my keepers, but those two broke off in structure."
Wolak said the frequency of Friday's bite was better than Thursday's, but the length of some of his bass was a problem.
"I was amazed at how many 13-1/2-inchers I caught that were just shy," he said. "But that's all I was doing, circling around to catch the keeper fish."
Reese used football jigs to climb into the final 12. He said there was little difference between the two days of action, though his catch of 11-13 Friday was nearly three pounds lighter than Thursday's total — significant, considering the numerous small weights brought to the scales by a large part of the field.
"I just think some of the areas, the docks that I've been fishing, I'm sure I took a population of fish out yesterday along with some other guys," he said. "So I didn't get as many key bites. The bigger fish that came out today like Crews' and Iaconelli's weren't dock fish. They were all structure fish, rock fish. That's where I caught my biggest one."
The final 12 anglers will fish a "course" system on Saturday. Benbrook Lake will be divided into six zones and each of the anglers will be required to fish in each of the zones for 70 minutes. The final hour of competition can be spent in any of the zones.
Saturday's weights will carry over to Sunday, though only the top six anglers will advance.
Launch is scheduled for 6:40 a.m.