When asked to comment about his latest B.A.S.S. success, Mike Iaconelli yelled out his satisfaction.
“Wheeww!!! Yeah!!” he bellowed, followed by three indecipherable sounds that signified a high sense of joy. “That’s my quote.”
Ike finished second in the Basspro.com Northern Opens Angler of the Year point standings, earning a Bassmaster Elite Series invitation and leaving the burning question of whether he will he accept.
Of course, he couldn’t answer with a simple yes or no. It’s Ike.
“It was good to be back fishing the full Open schedule. The last few years I’ve had to cherry pick tournaments,” said Ike, who won the 2019 Open on the James River. “A lot of people think because it’s the Opens, the level of competition is not there. That’s a totally false statement. Those guys are as good as the Elites. You got the best locals, the hottest young guys, an immense talent of anglers, a very, very difficult field to compete against. To finish in the top three of those guys, I’m proud of that.”
Coming from a well-decorated pro with victories in every B.A.S.S. circuit, that speaks strongly. Ike, 49, began his B.A.S.S. career with a Federation Nation Championship in 1999 and went on to win eight Bassmaster tournaments, including the famed “Never give up!” Classic in 2003 and an Angler of the Year title in 2006.
Ike is a huge commodity in bass fishing, a well-known brand for his tournament career, complete with antics, and a plethora of shows, complete with more antics. Yet he seemed truly humbled by his Opens standing.
“You know how many years I fished and couldn’t finish in the top three — like 20,” he said. “I don’t take the Opens lightly. I’m proud of the accomplishment. The young guys, I know how much work and time they put in, and I’m proud I could hang. That’s the next crop of fishermen. They’re really, really talented.”
Going into the Opens, requalifying for the Elites was on his mind. The top three in each of three divisions earn invites to fish the top B.A.S.S. circuit, as well as the top three in the overall Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year standings.
“My goal was to come in the top three to give myself that option when the time came to make a decision. That’s the truth,” he said.
And now for his answer, which had already been heard on an Ike Live.
“I don’t know if I’m going to fish the Elites next season. I’m going to literally make a decision the day before or the day of the deadline. And I don’t even know what that is,” he said.
So let’s dive into what will factor into his decision. Among the considerations is his latest show, My World with Mike Iaconelli, where he steps into the venue of sports figures like NASCAR’s Martin Truex and pro bowler Kyle Troup, among others, and brings them into his.
“I would call it life,” he said of what he will consider. “Part of it is family, and part is business.
“The show has taken up a tremendous amount of time. I hope people like it, enjoy it. If we end up doing 13 more episodes, I don’t physically see how I can do both. I don’t think it’s possible. Let me not forget to sprinkle in, The Ike Foundation, Ike Live, Bass University, Going Ike. It’s 9 to 5 every day.”
With Ike’s voicemail full, his wife, Becky, was contacted to check his availability. She confirmed her life is full helping manage the chaos, and that she’d have him call when he got off the water practicing for an event. He did, relating that having his MLF tournament schedule canceled by COVID last year presented a new perspective into family.