What follows is an exclusive transcript of Mike Iaconelli's initial reaction to his disqualification for poor sportsmanship in the 36th annual Bassmaster Classic on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla.
Iaconelli: "I've been disqualified for breaking a light post, and that's kind of ridiculous. I mean, you're frustrated and you take your emotion out. I don't understand why I was disqualified. They say sportsmanship. I'm a great sportsman. I think there were about ten thousand kids in the arena tonight for me. That's being a sportsman. I just feel like I'm being targeted all the time. If you're going to disqualify me for kicking a light post — that's a little ridiculous.
"I just don't feel like I can have a bad day gracefully. Obviously I'm frustrated and after a day like that you want to go back and say, well, 'what did I do wrong?' and have a better day. And it's like they dig the dagger deeper. The rule of sportsmanship, it's a broad rule. It's Trip Weldon's decision. At this point I don't know what I can do except protest the decision, and I think that's what I'm going to have to do.
"I was frustrated. There's a point of frustration, and I was angry. There might have been some things said. But again, was I the first person to ever break a light post? Was I the first person to ever curse? Absolutely not. Have they ever disqualified anyone for cursing before? Absolutely not.
"Why am I being targeted for this? To be honest with you, I don't know if I'm even going to fish tomorrow. I think what I'm going to do at this point is call my lawyer and discuss some options with my lawyer. I just feel like it was the wrong decision. At this point, with 12 pounds, I know I have no shot at winning. But still I feel like I'm being targeted. And at some point you have to stand up for yourself, and this time, I'm going to stand up for myself."
Bassmaster.com: Do you have any regrets?
Iaconelli: "No regrets. No regrets ever. I'm an emotional person and I show my emotions, and that's how I am, that's how I fish. I don't feel like I did anything wrong. I didn't do anything to injure anybody. I didn't direct my anger at anyone in particular. My anger was directed at an inanimate object. And if you're going to disqualify for that, that's ridiculous.
"I totally feel like I'm targeted. I totally feel like I'm being sabotaged here. I don't know what my options are. I feel like if I don't take a stand, then not only myself but anglers from here on out are going to be open to this, and I'm not going to let that happen."
Bassmater.com: Why would B.A.S.S. target you?
Iaconelli: "I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question. But I do feel I was wronged today. I don't know what else to say besides, again, I didn't hurt anybody out there, I didn't jeopardize anybody's safety out there. I was frustrated.
"Everybody's been frustrated at one point in your life. That was a frustrating moment for me. I had a live well that was inoperable, and I was frustrated about it. Is there something wrong with that? Is there something wrong with being passionate about what you do? I don't think so, is there?"
Bassmater.com: Is this a bad day for bass fishing?
Iaconelli: "A bad day for bass fishing? No, it was a bad day for me. It's not a bad day for bass fishing. I don't know what to say. When you have a bad day, you want to go back and you want to recoup and you want to re-strategize your day.
"This is just another element there that really gets in my way for re-strategizing for tomorrow. With 11 or 12 pounds, maybe I was still in the hunt. With a zero weight, am I in the hunt? Probably not."
Bassmaster.com: What was wrong with the live well?
Iaconelli: "When I weighed in today, I asked those guys to recheck it to see if maybe there was an issue. It could have been aerator faulty, it could have been boat faulty, it could have been human error.
Maybe as I was driving I hit the switch off. I don't know. I'm not blaming that on anything. But again, that created a frustration for me, and I showed frustration, and again, that's all it is. I feel like there's a big huge deal created about there was a fisherman who showed frustration because he opened up his live well and saw four of his fish floating dead. That's like normal, that happens all the time."
Bassmater.com: When did you learn of the decision?
Iaconelli: "I was just told. And my family's here, and I haven't seen my kids yet and it's 7:30. It seems ridiculous to me. At this point I don't even know what I'm going to do, but I feel like I have to address it. Whatever that means.
"Again, at this point I don't know what that means. But I feel like I have to address the situation, or what am I going to remain the target for the rest of the year? And the other anglers are going to remain a target? I don't see that as being disqualifiable. I don't see it.
"It's a decision that's been made, and to be honest with you, I have to figure out what my options are here. I really don't know. I think that's a decision I'll have to make tonight. I've got some phone calls to make, I guess, and come up with a solution. I don't know, I really don't know. I hope so."