Ike within striking distance

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Choices, choices, choices.

  •  Michael Iaconelli faced several Saturday. Turns out he made the right ones.

     Iaconelli caught a 17-pound, 13-ounce limit during the third round of the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville.

     The catch gave the New Jersey pro a three-day total of 56 pounds, 10 ounces and it gave him the lead heading into the final day of the fourth stop of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.

     Saturday's launch took place in light rain and dreary conditions, which led Iaconelli to target post-spawn fish in approximately 10-15 feet of water. But later in the morning, the sun broke through the clouds and the temperatures climbed.

     Iaconelli figured the change would slow his bite and he considered moving closer to the shorelines to look for bedding bass.


    Instead, he decided to stick with the post-spawn and pre-spawn fish offshore and eventually found the combination that propelled to the top of the leaderboard.

     "I had to pull out a spinning rod and use finesse tactics to catch those fish," he said. "There's another way to catch them out there. I figured when it got (sunny), you were smoked. You were done. But today, I really learned how to catch them."

     Iaconelli has covered a wide spectrum of techniques since the Southern Challenge began on Thursday. The first day, he exclusively sight fished. Friday and Saturday, he tried his luck with reaction lures. He's not sure what he'll do Sunday to maintain his hold on the lead.

     "Tomorrow, I'm going to have a decision to make," he said. "Early, I'll fish out there with those reaction lures. But when it gets like this tomorrow, I'll have to choose whether to go shallow and sight fish or stay out and finesse. But I've got a lot of patterns. I've got three or four things working. And that is a good feeling."

     Iaconelli has 11 anglers chasing him for the tournament title and the accompanying $100,000 paycheck.

     Alton Jones, who led the first two days, dropped to second with a bag on Saturday that weighed 13-3. Jones' three-day total stands at 54-10, but it would have been higher had two fish of his not expired.

     Takahiro Omori is in third place with 53-10 and Kevin VanDam is fourth with 52-5.

     Rounding out the top 12 anglers are Steve Kennedy (51-15), Jeff Reynolds (51-13), Dean Rojas (51-0), Gerald Swindle (50-6), Yusuke Miyazaki (50-6), Edwin Evers (50-5), Timmy Horton (50-0) and Mark Tucker (49-13).

     Jones, who has been throwing a Booyah spinner and a Booyah jig, said his bass weren't especially receptive Saturday.

     "When I got there this morning, my first bite was between 6 and 7 pounds," he said. "It just came unbuttoned on me. I stayed out on that deep stuff and the fish just kept slapping at it. They were biting funny and missing the bait. I had five or six bites that didn't get it. I had one keeper out there. I had that one fish at about 10:30 and then decided to go shallow and fish for spawners."

     Jones knows the ounces he lost when two fish expired can be the difference in a close tournament like this.

     "One of the rules is you can't cull a dead one" he said. "My smallest one died and I could have culled it with a 3-pounder twice. I ended up having to cull a 2½-pounder instead of one that was about 1¾.

     "But I'm excited about tomorrow. All it takes is a couple of good bites on this lake to really swing the momentum. I'm fishing the type of water that's capable of coughing up a big bite anytime."

     Omori fished for spawning and post-spawn bass to pull within 3-pounds of Iaconelli.

     "I started in the deep grass this morning and caught one 4-pounder and another 3-pounder," he said. "Then around 10 o'clock, when the sun came out, I went shallow to look for fish on beds. I caught a couple of 3-pounders and a 6-pounder, the big fish, then."

     Reynolds cracked the top-12 after bringing in the biggest bag of the day (20-1).

     "I just happened to catch a couple of good ones late in the day that were on beds," he said. "I caught most of them this morning on a Zoom Super Fluke and did that until about noon. Then when the clouds left and the wind died down, I went looking."

     The remaining 12 anglers will launch Sunday at 6 a.m. Weigh-in is scheduled for 3 p.m.