Ike, Chesapeake and stubbornness


Courtesy of Mark Zona

I’ve wanted to have Mike Iaconelli on Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show for a long time, but our schedules just never jived to make it happen. So this year, when he called and said he had some time to shoot in May, I was pumped. I’ve worked with Ike a lot over the years – through good times and bad times – but I’ve never shared a boat with him.

However, there was one problem: Ike wanted to do the shoot on the Chesapeake Bay in May. I’ll say that again, just in case you missed it: the Chesapeake Bay in May.


Do you know how many smallmouth meccas I have to drive by to get to the Chesapeake Bay? Do you know how awesome those smallmouth fisheries are in May?

The Chesapeake?

Okay, the Chesapeake it would be. I wanted to shoot with Ike; he said the Chesapeake was in great shape, so that’s where we ended up going.

On the first day of the shoot, we headed to the Susquehanna Flats to fish milfoil. Ike started with a bladed jig and I started with a swim jig. We were determined to cover water with our moving baits until we found the mother lode.

He got a bite here, I got a bite there, but no mother lode was uncovered. Together we caught enough fish for a nice show, demonstrating just how proficient Ike and I were as a bladed-jig/swim jig power-fishing duo.

We planned to shoot two days, so on the second day we went back to the Susquehanna Flats with our bladed jigs and swim jigs – because, in case you haven’t detected in my tone here, Ike and I just happen to be the BEST bladed-jig and swim jig duo on earth. Believe me, if one is there, one of us is going to catch it on our moving jigs.

We started day two on a waypoint I had dropped on the first day. It was a spot where Ike had a bite the day before. And when I say “a bite” I mean just a bite.

For some reason I picked up a Strike King Rage Cut R worm rigged with a tiny 1/16-ounce weight and launched it to a suspicious looking milfoil stalk that had been bombarded with our jigs already. On the first cast with the Cut R, my line ticked then tugged a little bit and when I set the hook, a stocky 3-1/2 pounder had it. When I got the fish in the boat, it was peeing. I immediately dropped the Power-Poles. Then I looked down in the water and there was a bass in the 5- to 6-pound range staring at my trolling motor foot, in that kind of bullied up defensive posture. Then I looked up in the sky and noticed the moon was full. Also, and here comes the next clue over the head like a club: the water temperature was 66 degrees! Oh, and did I mention it was May? In the Northeast?

Ike and I looked at each other and without saying a word, just shook our heads because the light bulb had just come on for both of us at the same time: the fish were spawning – big time! – and we had COMPLETELY missed it the previous day because we were TOO BUSY throwing damn swim jigs.

Once we started dead-sticking soft plastics next to milfoil stalks we absolutely demolished them – big ones too. Our best five weighed between 24 or 25 pounds and we fished RIGHT OVER THEM the first day, getting just one bite from our jigs.

Once the tide got to its lowest point, we could actually see the big, fresh, dished-out beds…right next to milfoil stalks.  

How could 70 years of combined fishing experience in one boat miss something like this? Because we were stubborn, that’s why. All the clues were there, but we were too stubborn to see them. We were bound and determined to be swim jig heroes with the trolling motor on high that first day, and we blitzed right though a milfoil field of giant bass.

My takeaways from this one folks?

  1. Stop being such a stubborn fool.
  2. Sometimes they just don’t bite the way you want them to bite.
  3. Ike, you were right about the Chesapeake – one of the best Zona shows I’ve ever shot – thanks, man.