Monroe, Iaconelli earn semifinal berths

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — After two days of fishing in the Classic Bracket on Pokegama Lake, two anglers took another step toward the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods during Wednesday’s morning sessions.

California pro Ish Monroe won his head-to-head battle and a spot in the semifinals, while New Jersey veteran Michael Iaconelli kept his chance alive for a 17th straight Classic berth with a victory over second-year B.A.S.S. pro Adrian Avena.

Here’s a look at how both matches played out during the catch/weigh/release event that featured start-to-finish coverage by Bassmaster LIVE on

No.2 Michael Iaconelli vs. No. 7 Adrian Avena

The two New Jersey pros put on an entertaining show Wednesday, but it was Avena’s struggles Tuesday that ultimately made the difference.

Ike caught five fish Tuesday that weighed 10-0, while Avena managed just four that weighed 7-12. They were almost even Wednesday, with Iaconelli bringing in a five-bass limit that weighed 14-0 and Avena catching five that weighed 13-7.

But Avena’s one missing fish loomed large as Iaconelli won 24-0 to 21-3.

Avena promised a big change for Wednesday after his opening struggles, and it came in the form of a buzzbait that produced for him throughout the day. He started strong with a 2-4 at 7:34 a.m. and followed quickly with a 1-5 at 7:47 and a 1-10 at 7:55.

After a slight lull, he landed a 1-7 on the buzzbait at 8:26 and a 2-9 at 8:52, before returning to a small bridge that paid off for him the previous day. The bridge magic worked again, as Avena landed a 3-2 at 9:14 and a 3-10 at 9:17.

But Iaconelli never wavered.

After landing a nice fish from some pencil reeds late Tuesday, Ike returned to those reeds with a Missile Baits Mini-Flip Jig Wednesday and caught bass almost constantly. On the rare occasions when a fish missed the jig, Iaconelli would follow up with a wacky-rigged worm to put the bass in the boat.

“When I caught that last fish Tuesday, I said it was big in more ways than one,” Iaconelli remembered. “It showed me what I needed to be doing today.”

Now, it could also be big the rest of the week as Ike moves on to the semifinals.

For Avena, his season will end for the second straight year without a trip to the Classic.

“I told myself after yesterday that I wanted to come out and have fun with it,” Avena said. That’s what I did. I just didn’t get enough bites, and Ike did his job.”

No. 3 Jonathon VanDam vs. No. 6 Ish Monroe

California pro Ish Monroe didn’t have quite the luck Wednesday that he had Tuesday afternoon. But then, he didn’t really need it.

Monroe caught five bass Tuesday that weighed 12 pounds, 15 ounces, while Jonathon VanDam of Michigan caught just two that weighed 3-8.

So, when Monroe found a decent fish on topwater just 10 minutes into the morning session Wednesday — and then followed with a 2-13 and a 2-5 during the next 30 minutes — the competition was all but over.

VanDam fared slightly better Wednesday after switching from a jerkbait to a spinnerbait. He landed a 1-4 less than 10 minutes into the session and followed quickly with a 1-5 and a 1-2.

But JVD’s Wednesday total of 6-14 added to his Tuesday mark of 3-8 gave him a two-day score of 10-6. That was more than 11 pounds back of Monroe’s two-day mark of 22-9.