GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – Michael Iaconelli kept his feet planted firmly on the ground, even as he led the first three days of the Diet Mountain Dew Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville.
He told everyone who would listen that the fishing had gotten tougher for him each day, and he knew there was a chance it could all fall apart before he reached the finish line.
But despite that realistic attitude, he said missing his chance for a wire-to-wire win still stung.
“I handle it a little differently now,” said Iaconelli, who fell from first place to 12th after catching only one fish the final day. “I internalize it a little more now than I used to, but it’s still hard to stomach.”
The way Iaconelli fished the first three days shouldn’t be lost in the story of his final-day collapse. The popular New Jersey pro cobbled together three solid days, using a variety of techniques – and some he’d just as soon never use again.
On Day 1, he used a vibrating jig and an 8-inch Texas-rigged lizard that he referred to as a little too “old-school” for his taste. Old-school or not, it resulted in a catch of 28 pounds, 2 ounces that stood all four days as the biggest single-day bag of the event.
On Day 2, a crankbait was the key to his bag of 24-15 that kept him the lead. Then on Day 3, he used a Carolina Rig to catch 16-7 and hold onto the lead by a 2-pound margin.
“The Carolina Rig is my next-to-least-favorite way to fish,” Iaconelli said. “A jiggin’ spoon would have to be my least-favorite way to fish, but then it's a Carolina Rig. Sight-fishing would be next, and then probably the Texas-rigged lizard. So I used two of my four least-favorite methods this week.”
Iaconelli even considered sight-fishing, but abandoned that strategy because of heavy pressure on the lake and because fish were moving on and off the beds so quickly.
Though he had gotten fewer bites each day in the area he was fishing in Seibold Creek, he elected to go back there Sunday. When the area didn’t produce and a couple of backup plans fizzled, he knew the tournament was lost.
“Looking back, I don’t know that I would change anything,” Iaconelli said. “Sometimes you go out, and it just doesn’t work.”
Despite missing out on the win, Iaconelli’s 12th-place finish, coupled with a 30th-place showing in the first Elite Series event of the season on the Sabine River, puts him in ninth place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings.
Plus, he said the near miss will be a motivating factor as the season progresses.
“I think it’s going to fuel the fire a little bit," he said. "I’m off to a strong start in the AOY, so we’ll move on from here.”