Under pressure

One day remains between the top pros at Lake Erie and a Classic berth.

SANDUSKY, Ohio — Michael Iaconelli is no stranger to facing pressure. Over the span of a 15-year career he’s beat the odds more than once.

The pressure Iaconelli feels today is different. The same Iaconelli who screamed “never give up” after catching the winning fish in the 2003 Bassmaster Classic can’t even beat this kind of pressure back with the rod in his hand.

He’s not alone. Iaconelli is on a short list of pros eager for tomorrow to come. They are ready for it after waiting through today’s cancellation at the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open #3.

At stake is a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. It goes to the winner, with conditions.

(Click here to see how Iaconelli spent his day off the water!)

Two pounds and a few ounces are all that separate the top 10. All but two anglers are vested in qualifying for the Classic after having fished the previous two Northern Open events of this season.

Out of Classic contention are Joe Balog and Cj Shaver, both of them tied for eighth place. Should either angler win—and they can here—the Classic invitation goes to Jason Williamson by virtue of how the qualifying works. The Bassmaster Elite Series pro will be eagerly watching the weigh-in from home in South Carolina.

Also in the top 10 and in Classic contention are Elite Series pros Derek Remitz and Charlie Hartley.

Iaconelli spent his off day working on tackle. He also spent time thinking about what it will take to continue an 11-year consecutive streak of Classic appearances.

“Not making the Classic started wearing on me about midway through the Elite Series season,” he said. “About midway through the year, when things weren’t looking good, I started thinking about it all of the time.”

Iaconelli said he eventually came to terms with the nagging pressure of breaking the streak as the season progressed.

“Winning here is a great opportunity for me to qualify and save the year,” he said. “When you’ve had a bad year like I’ve had you look for moments to make it a good year, to turn it around.”

Iaconalli feels the pressure of what’s at stake. But he plans to follow a regimented routine of preparation to maintain his focus.

“I’ll do the same things that I do every night before and the morning of a tournament,” he said. “That constant of my routine and how I fish keeps me focused. It stops the mental demons from sneaking in.”

That means writing a game plan with multiple patterns that provide the most options to score the win.

“I’m really going to push it tomorrow,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned over the years is to fish every day to win.”

If Iaconelli does win then don’t be surprised if he screams out “never give up.” This time, he will have definitely earned it.