With the off-limits period underway at Lake Hartwell for the upcoming GEICO Bassmaster Classic Feb. 20-22 in Greenville/Anderson, S.C., 16-time Classic qualifier Mike Iaconelli found a cool way to have some fun, spend time with his sponsors and stay sharp for the 2015 tournament season.
Actually, it was a downright cold way.
Iaconelli joined the folks from Rapala and VMC earlier this month and braved temperatures as cold as minus-15 degrees for two days of ice fishing in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. They caught a little bit of everything, and Ike even learned a thing or two he may use on the Elite Series this year.
“I was lucky enough to experience it about six years ago and caught the bug,” Iaconelli said. Now it’s become a yearly trip. It’s awesome. It’s a good change of pace for a guy that bass fishes from March to October. I love fishing for other species – saltwater, multi-species or whatever – and ice fishing is certainly an extension of that.”
Though Iaconelli is a New Jersey native, he said he never spent much time ice fishing when he was a kid, choosing instead to play ice hockey when the lakes froze. But in Minnesota, ice fishing is a way of life – and they do it with a distinct bass fishing twist.
“A lot of people think about the stereotypical image of ice fishing – that it has to be terrible,” Iaconelli said. “They’re convinced they’re just going to be cold, sitting in a hut drinking beer. But it’s not like that at all.”
Iaconelli said he and the crew from Rapala and VMC spent a lot of time “running and gunning” – just as he will do when the tournament season begins.
“It’s amazing how much patterns and techniques and seasonal movements – all the same stuff we study in bass fishing – transfers over to ice fishing,” he said. “So part of it’s fun. But part of it is that I’m going up there and keeping my mind working on how these fish operate. We’re using artificial baits. A lot of times we’re drilling 50 holes, and you’re actually like running and gunning. You’re using electronics, and you actually have to have the proper movement of the bait to draw the fish up. A lot of similarities.”
The variety of species caught by Iaconelli’s party included big yellow perch, crappie, bluegill and walleye up to 4 pounds. They didn’t catch any of the northern pike they’ve caught on past trips, but they did land several crazy-looking critters called “eelpouts” that Ike described as a cross between an eel and a dogfish.
Through the ice and frigid temperatures, Iaconelli even discovered a lure that may help him on the tournament trail.
“Our key lure, especially for the bigger perch and the bigger walleye, was a really cool bait Rapala makes called a ‘Jigging Rap.’ It sort of looks like a minnow imitation, but it’s got hooks on both ends of it, a treble hook on the belly and the line ties right in the middle. It’s almost like a Silver Buddy Jiggin’ Spoon kind of bait, but it’s got this really erratic kind of movement.”
With confidence in the lure, Ike may be adding it to his bass fishing arsenal.
“That was a big producer for us – and hey, you never know,” Ike said. “I’ve caught some fish on it now, and I know how it moves. That’s something that maybe at the Classic or another event throughout the year might come back and help me.”
To see more pictures and videos from Ike's ice fishing trip, visit him at facebook.com/MikeIaconelliFishing.