One trophy shy of goal

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Michael Iaconelli has won nearly every title possible in B.A.S.S. tournament competition. The list is long but incomplete. There’s one more trophy to win and he’s at Oneida Lake to claim it.

Iaconelli stands a chance tomorrow should he win the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open #2. You might not think so, but winning an Open remains high on his career priority list.

“I’ve been fishing Open tournaments since my first in 1996,” he said. “For that reason it would mean a great deal for me to win one.”

That’s heady stuff for a former Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and Bassmaster Classic champion. There’s a Bassmaster Elite victory. The wins extend all the way to the club level, including a B.A.S.S. Nation Championship and trophies for divisional, state and local club events.

Winning an Open will fill more than an empty space on Iaconelli’s heavy trophy mantel.

“It’s a void that I want to fill, make whole and complete in my career,” he said.

Iaconelli came close to filling the void last September. He made the final cut at Northern Open #3 held on Cayuga Lake. Ironically, the championship round weigh-in was held at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Auburn, N.Y. He’ll weigh there tomorrow.

“I had the time to take an intentional step-by-step path from the club level to where I am now,” he added. “When I look back it took me an average of two to four years at each level, although I started very young.”

Iaconelli let success dictate when it came time to move up the career ladder of professional bass fishing. For the Opens, that time came before he earned a win. That’s likely because his Federation career was taking off and it was a springboard to success.

Iaconelli was a regular finalist in what then was called the Wrangler Angler program. It was a sponsorship incentive package that rewarded B.A.S.S. Nation anglers with entries in the Classic. Iaconelli earned his first berth in 1999 through the program. He was fishing the Opens at the same time.

“I spent nearly four years at the Open level and never won a title,” he recalled. “But the Opens are where I spent the most time and they created the angler I am today.”

Iaconelli has the chance to step up his game and prove that point tomorrow. He’ll go into the championship ranked in eighth place. Only 3 pounds and ounces separate him from leader Jim Bianchi.

Iaconelli predicted in his column that boat position would be key in this tournament. His prophecy has turned to proof. The margin of weight separating the leaders from the rest of the pack has been tight all week. Getting out first and loading the livewell has made a big difference at the top.

“There are two things that count in boat positioning,” he said. “One is light condition and the other is fishing pressure. We had a lot of the latter here this week.”

That’s because 160 boats competed for space on a lake offering just 80 square miles of fishing.

“Yesterday I needed to get on my spot first and I was able to do it,” he said. “I caught the majority of my limit in the first hour.”

“As flights kept coming the anglers would see a boat on my spot and go someplace else,” he continued. “That allowed me to stay on spot and take advantage of the early bite.”

“Today, my biggest fish came in the late afternoon, just an hour before weigh-in,” he said. “I was in a late flight and got to take advantage of the afternoon feeding period for the smallmouths.”

Tomorrow won’t matter as much. Iaconelli will have plenty of area to work. He’ll just have less time to seal the deal. There’s a long drive to the weigh-in at Outdoor World. A trophy will be on the stage and he hopes to take it home.  

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