Daily Limit: Going Ike for kids

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Mike Suchan
Ike Pro-Am winner Joe Sancho shows who the real champ is as emcee Bill Decoteau speaks highly of Mike Iaconelli.

CAMDEN, N.J. – As their long tournament day neared its end, Becky Iaconelli asked husband Mike for a sheet of paper she had given him earlier.

It had all the names of the prize winners for the First Annual Ike Celebrity Pro-Am Bass Tournament. Ike sheepishly poked about his pockets, saying he gave it to somebody. A bag of Bigs sunflower seeds was pulled out, then a piece of trash.

Known for losing stuff – like his keys just last week – Ike was making Becky sweat, and once again she was left brainstorming on how to fix this issue. Then like a magician with a tada and a laugh, Ike produced the folded up paper. Their eyes lit up, they laughed and embraced. It seemed to signify a happy ending of a trying first attempt at putting together the event – hosting a gaggle of Elites at their house, a fishing tournament, a Family Fun Fest and a silent auction and dinner.

“Success, success, success, success, success,” Ike said. “The moment it hit me? This morning people starting to come in to set up – happy. There was a smile on my face seeing 36, 38 boats blast off. But right before weigh-in, I’m beat down, I stopped signing autographs and grabbed a quick thing of chicken fingers.

“I sit down on a bench and look out and see a sea of kids holding green Flambeau tackle boxes – success. Mission accomplished.”

The Iaconellis’ idea behind the event was to bolster their Ike Foundation, which focuses on getting kids fishing. With Mike competing on the Bassmaster Elite Series, Becky had the bulk of responsibilities to organize and orchestrate, which picked up over the past few months.

“I’m very relieved that it’s over, but I’m really proud it all went out without any major hitch,” she said. “There’s no huge thing that I think we would change – there’s tiny things I would tweak. I really think we nailed it. I hate to say that. It sounds so pompous.”

“You nailed it, you nailed it,” Ike chimed in. “She’s worked tirelessly for the past six months to make this event a success.”

“I have a team of people and we literally put our lives into this for the last couple months,” Becky said. “I feel we did what we wanted to accomplish.”

Becky did much of the booking of venues and worked with volunteers and organizations, which were glad to offer their services. The Iaconellis had been there for so many others, they simply felt like reciprocating, and when it’s for kids, they usually jump anyway.

“I called up Randy Baran (B.A.S.S. Nation of New Jersey) and said, ‘I don’t know how to run a tournament,’” she said. “They said, ‘Done. We’ll be there.’”

Anthony “GoGo” Gomez and his Great Falls Bassmasters, who teach kids how to cast, was another easy get, among others. Wood Boat and Motor supplied a BassCat boat for the winning team, unheard of in this region, and eXmark provided a mower for the second-place prize.

“Everybody just came out of the woodwork and said we’re doing this,” Becky said. “There were no major hiccups. I think it turned out to be a great day. I’m like, ‘Wow. We did it. We pulled it off.’ That’s the whole point. We just needed everybody to have a great time.”

While Ike headed out for the Bassmaster Elite at Potomac River presented by Econo Lodge, Becky began tying up loose ends. She’s already received emails from people in the community impressed with the event and offering their help next year.

“I am so mentally brain-fried I said let me call you next week,” she said.

Say, is Ike partly responsible for the brain frying? Does he play bother the Beckster often, like he did in feigning he lost the winners’ sheet?

“I don’t know if he always does it on purpose,” she said. “He loses things all the time. He’s the king of losing things. Maybe he likes to see me get really annoyed. He makes me nuts, makes me crazy.”

Yeah, crazy enough to already start looking forward to the second annual Ike Pro-Am.