Long before he became Ike, Mike Iaconelli drew Kevin VanDam as a fishing partner. He said an on-the-water disagreement and the aftermath most likely played a role in him becoming Ike.
Flash back almost 20 years to the 1997 Virginia Eastern Invitational on Buggs Island Reservoir. In those days, anglers drew names and two competitors fished together on one pro’s boat.
“I was just starting out,” recalled Ike, who had won a boat the year before. “When I drew Kevin, I was still in college. It was my senior year. It was just an amazing experience for me, because it was another chance to get to see up close and personal what these guys do and how good they really are.”
Ike, who had previously drawn the likes of Tommy Biffle and David Fritts, remembers it was an interesting day with VanDam, and they’ve since talked about it. Ike was in the Top 5 and KVD, who had three titles and an Angler of the Year under his belt, was leading the event when they “teamed” up.
“The thing was, in a draw tournament, there was always a little bit of tension. He’s a pro, and he’s an established pro … but I’m registered as a pro and a boater, too,” Ike said. “So when we drew out, you have to concede to a spot and whose boat you’re going to use. It was easy for me. I’m going with Kevin. ‘Absolutely, Mr. VanDam. We’re using your boat. You go to your fish.’ ”
The tension is that the guy in the back of the boat, Ike in this case, is also trying to qualify for the Top 150s and wants to catch fish and be competitive. There’s the rub, and they had one.
“I look back on it, and I think I was being a little aggressive,” Ike said. “At one point in the day, he did kind of look back and put me in my place a little bit.”
Was it a just a condemning glance, a don’t-do-that look?
“No, we actually had a little conversation,” Ike said. “That was early and by the end of the day, we both had good limits.”
Iaconelli said VanDam ending up winning his fourth title while he finished fourth. They amended things at the boat ramp that afternoon.
“We had this conversation, I’ll never forget it,” Ike said. “Kevin is like, ‘Sorry about that.’ And I apologized to him, ‘Man, I’m sorry. I was being a little aggressive, I apologize.’
“Then he said something to me that was very inspirational. ‘You remind a lot of me when I was at your level, your age, fishing the Invitationals.’ I don’t know if he remembers if he told me that at the boat ramp, but he said that to me.”
For Ike, that was like Babe Ruth saying “Nice swing,” or Mike Tyson saying, “Good punch.”
“That was one of those moments, where it was like, ‘Aaaah,’” Ike said. “Here, coming from one of the best new young anglers in the world, is a vote of confidence.’”
Ike said he left with his head high and his chest puffed out.
“Good finish, fished with Kevin, held my own, and then something like that was very inspirational. All these years later, I remember that,” Ike said. “And who knows, maybe that was part of the reason that motivated me to do it professionally.”
World is one Nation
The photo above represents about one-tenth of the competitors in this week’s Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. The diverse group of 59 anglers will compete on the Ouachita River out of Monroe, La., Nov. 5-7.
There’s young and old anglers, new faces and familiar ones. Some come from far overseas. Eight previous Classic qualifiers are among the field vying for the six Classic spots up for grabs.
For a slice of the competitors, let’s start clockwise from top left. That's Matt Roberts, a young and familiar face. The 24-year-old, who recently graduated from Bethel University, nearly nabbed a Classic berth in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series a year ago. If you want to get an inside look at Roberts and Lance Freeman, who also has some serious credentials, check out Pete Robbins' story, “Graduation Day for Freeman and Roberts.”
Top middle is Kentaro Yamada of Japan. He’s becoming accustomed to the long trip – this will be his third championship. Next to him is Portugal’s second-ever representative, Joaquim Maria Moio Lopes. Gotta love this fishing shop manager’s matching Portugal Nation shirt and hat.
Jack Barber is below Lopes. He is representing the Paralyzed Veterans of America after winning its circuit. Thank the 22-year U.S. Army vet and life member of the VFW for his service and wish him well in his first championship.
There’s a real familiar face bottom middle. Connecticut’s Paul Mueller is back to defend his Nation title and try for his third Classic. The Elite Series angler finished second in the Guntersville Classic, setting the one-day Classic record with 32 pounds, 3 ounces on Day 2.
Last but not least is Albert Collins, who’s been to four Nation Championships and fished the 2013 Classic at Grand Lake via qualification in the Weekend Series. A real pro in amateur fishing, he’s now graduated to the Opens. A trip back would thrill this father of seven.
Take a look at all 59 BNC contenders who hope to win their divisions for a ride to Grand Lake and the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.
Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, sent out an Instagram photo of himself holding a largemouth bass last week. The big-time pro wrestler turned big-time movie star wrote it was “One of my lil’ babies on our farm…”
Seems The Rock has a horse farm in Virginia, and he enjoys wetting a line there between jet setting around the world for movie roles. He has a body of water that holds bass, carp, bullheads and sunnies, and he writes, “I raise ‘em fat on the farm.”
It’s certainly no surprise that a number of celebrities fish in down time to relax, but it’d be neat to see what Johnson, who also won a national football championship with Miami in 1991, actually does to raise his fish. From what we can see of that well-worked arm -- of the lake -- it looks like a nice fishery.
And Rock, if you need a fishing partner, do not hesitate to give us a shout. We'd come at the drop of a 60-pound dumbbell.
Speaking of celebrities, Chuck Woolery is also into chasing bass. The cover photo on his Facebook page has him holding a replica bucketmouth, and he’s chased the real thing since childhood.
Woolery, the original host of “Wheel of Fortune” but probably better known for “Love Connection,” among other shows, has fished all across North America. He's QVC's outdoors expert. Years ago at an outdoor show, an inventor gave Woolery several motorized lures, and he didn’t much about them until trying them out on a slow day.
They caught fish and he ended up buying the company and marketing the motorized lures. Don’t believe it, check out Chuck Woolery Signature Lures.
And Mr. Woolery, if you ever need a fishing partner …
To get a long lil’ doggy
Ok, I borrowed that from a Facebook meme of why the cowboy wanted a small weiner dog.
Jerry McKinnis’ nine-week old dachshund, Oliver, has been visiting the office and wowing all the JM employees with his pocket-sized handsomeness. All five pounds of Ollie is adorable. The picture above by Jerry’s daughter, Shannon Nardi, is a favorite so far because of the high stepping.
- Just in time for Halloween, the "Angler Morphs" that debuted on Bassmaster LIVE made it on the site. (Guess this can serve as Photo of the Week.) Here’s a pretty easy mashup of a couple well-known anglers. It’s hailed as the worst photoshopped combinations of the best anglers in the world. In the comments below you can ask us to meld your favorite two anglers for future fun.
- The Facebook accounts of anglers Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese, Chris Lane and Cliff Crochet were hacked and some unlikely links were shared. All is back in order and each apologized for any unseemly posts. It’s a shame computer geeks live such vacuous lives that they feel the need to harm others.
- Our gratuitous Big Bass of the Week (right) comes from a client of Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer, who put Jimmy on this nice Lake Fork largemouth. Niggemeyer guides on the trophy lake near his home in Van, Texas, and we’ll have the pleasure of seeing exactly what he does in a couple of weeks. If you have any questions, send them along to ask James.
- Bill Lowen gives a great rundown on fall fishing, saying it’s really one of the best times of the year to fish because the weather is usually nice, there’s not a lot of traffic and the fish are predictable. His best tip is if there’s no baitfish, then don’t fish that area. Check out why that’s so in No bait, no cast.