NEW ORLEANS, La. — Confidence has never been a problem for Michael Iaconelli, and in the giant marshland known as the Louisiana Delta, he lived up to the old Dizzy Dean adage that, "it ain't bragging if you can back it up."
In the battle of the Big Easy, Iaconelli's triumph was anything but simple, still, the 31-year-old New Jersey pro held up to the pressure of being the leader entering the final round of professional fishing's marquee event to score a narrow victory in the 33rd annual Classic.
Iaconelli brought a five-bass limit weighing 10 pounds, 14 ounces to the scales for a three day total of 37-14, to electrify the New Orleans Arena crowd and score a 1-pound, 12-ounce victory over perennial Classic contender Gary Klein of Texas (36-2).
Classic success came on a trio of Mann's lures — a Stone jig, Super Finesse Worm and prototype Swim Worm.
The two soft plastic baits combined to help Iaconelli catch the most pivotal bass of the week, with about five minutes remaining in his fishing day, when a 3 1/2-pound fish swirled at (and missed) the Swim Worm before then inhaling the Super Finesse Worm.
• The 2003 Classic field was the largest ever — 61 anglers.
• Gary Klein's jump from 44th in the 2002 Classic to 2nd in the 2003 Classic was the biggest improvement in history (42 places).
• Bud Pruitt's fall from 11th in the 2002 Classic to 61st in the 2003 Classic was the biggest drop in Classic history (50 places).
Top 6 finishers
1. Michael Iaconelli Woodbury Heights, N.J. 37-14
2. Gary Klein Weatherford, Texas 36-02
3. Harold Allen Shelbyville, Texas 34-03
4. Roland Martin Clewiston, Fla. 31-09
5. Curt Lytle Suffolk, Va. 31-03
6. Mark Kile Payson, Ariz. 31-02