Reel Chat with MICHAEL IACONELLI - Major League Fishing


Image for Reel Chat with MICHAEL IACONELLI
Michael Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J., earned $200,000 in the Chevy Open after topping Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, by nearly 5 pounds. Photo by Jeff Schroeder. Angler: Mike Iaconelli.
July 7, 2005 • MLF • Archives

Hello, FLW fishing fans. Welcome to FLW Live Reel Chat, the latest interactive feature on Joining us today is Mike Iaconelli, winner of the 2003 Bassmaster Classic and the 2005 FLW Tour’s Chevy Open. Iaconelli also boasts five Classic appearances and nearly $800,000 in career earnings. Undoubtedly one of the most controversial and thought-provoking anglers on the tour today, Iaconelli is also the author of his own book, “Fishing on the Edge.” He is a Woodbury Heights, N.J., native.

Throughout the next 40 minutes or so, Mike Iaconelli is here to chat about life on tour, his new book or just about anything else you might want to ask him. So fire away, fishing fans. “Ike” looks forward to hearing from you.

Editor’s Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Reel Chat discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts.

Q: What was the best lure presentation that you used when working the grass beds in the Potomac River? Thank you!
— Glenn Ross (Alexandria, VA)
A: Without a doubt, there was one I used all week … a weightless plastic bait. Berkley sinking minnow, a soft-plastic stickbait. I used it in a watermelon-red-flake on a 3-0 hook. You had to understand the mood of the fish that week, and they were in postspawn. I just drifted it through real slowly with the current, and that was key. I also used 10-pound Berkley Vanish flourocarbon line. When fish are in postspawn mode, they start moving to their summer areas, and I caught them in transition on their way out. The fish were tired and they wanted an easy meal, and those baits I threw were a perfect complement to that.

Q: Hey, Michael, do you think this year’s FLW Championship will be won by finesse fishing? If not, how do you think it will be won? I like your style.
— Bo Mcknight (Mcminville , TN)
A: Finesse fishing will definitely play a part in this year’s championship win. My guess is, guys with light line fishing around the docks are going to do well. But I think guys are also going to need some big-fish patterns to take them over the top. You’re going to need a kicker fish every day, and I think that’s why topwater bait patterns are going to be necessary as well.

Q: On a moderately windy day, what would be your choice of lures, line, etc., to fish in shallow water through lilypads?
— Zach (Williamston, NC)
A: Lilypads are an awesome form of cover. But the main problem with lilypads is dealing with the heavy cover. Here are three baits for a windy day: spinnerbait, because it has every attribute you can ask for — vibration, flash and the weedless nature of the bait to get through those pads. Number two on my list under moderate wind conditions is a buzzbait. That lure is phenomenal for going over cover — particularly an in-line buzzbait — a buzzbait with a straight-wire design for streamlining your bait through the water. The last bait would be swimming a jig through the lilypads. Around lilypads, I’ve caught more fish swimming a weedless jig — particularly a white color — than on any other bait.

Q: What is the best lure to use in a small body of water?
— Robert (Pleasant Grove, AL)
A: Generally speaking, I grew up fishing ponds. I didn’t have my first boat until I was 18 years old. Back then, what I always tried to bring with me were topwaters, the small popper to cover the top zone of that water column. I used a spinnerbait and crankbait to cover the mid-depth zone, and finally, for the bottom zone, I carried two baits — a Texas-rigged plastic worm, one of the best pond baits ever made, and a weedless jig. With those five baits, I could go to the pond any time of the year and catch fish.

Q: Mike, I just wanted to tell you that I think you are a very awesome dude!!! I just finished reading your book for the sixth time. Your story has indeed made me not want to ever quit while in pursuit of my dreams. I really want to start bass fishing, but don’t know where to start. What kind of lure(s) and what kind of rod and reel is best for the beginning bass fisherman?
— Ricky Webster (Birmingham, AL)
A: First of all, it’s awesome that you liked the book. It’s great to hear. I totally understand where he’s coming from. He wants to get to a higher level. It’s hard to pick one rod or one bait. You need to fish something you’re comfortable with. When I started I wasn’t comfortable using a bait-casting reel right off the bat. As far as lures, my best advice when you’re starting out is to pick one at a time. What I mean by that is, I’d pick one type of bait per year and dedicate one whole year to that bait. One of my first baits I chose was a jerkbait, and I spent the whole year working with that. You can pick anything you want to pick in the beginning, a grub, spinnerbait or worm, but you need to feel confident with that bait before moving on.

Q: Mike, I am a BFL tournament angler, and I am a full-time military member serving my country. When I retire I would like to tour full time, but I do not get much time on the water fishing in places like the Delaware and inner Pennsylvania lakes. What advice can you give me to prepare myself for success on the FLW and/or BASS full-time tour when I retire? Thanks.
— Anthony L. Gathers (Carlisle, PA)
A: One way, with limited time and availabilty to fish different bodies of water, is every time you go out on similar water, try to make an effort catching fish a different way. That will help set you up to learn how to fish different baits and different sets of cover. It will get you fishing outside of the box. That will prepare you for fishing different types of water in the future. I’d also recommend fishing your way up through the ranks. If you’re fishing the BFL now, your next goal is to try and qualify for the EverStart Series. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they try to skip steps and move up the ladder too quickly before they are prepared.

Q: Mike, you just won the Chevy Open on the Potomac River, and you said that you only had two days to practice. My question is, how did you break your practice days down to find the winning areas? Thank you.
— Kody Kimball (North Potomac , MD)
A: Actually, I only had a day and a half to practice. One of the nice things about this is that it was on a tidal river. So this body of water was easier to pattern than others. I knew the most important thing wasn’t figuring out the exact areas where the fish are at, but what they were doing. Are they spawing, in their summertime pattern, etc.? The key was knowing what stage they were at. During that time, I realized the fish were migrating toward their summertime pattern. I also saw that the grass was a lot more abundant than it had been there three or four years ago. And that steered me to certain locations. The last part of that equation was my experience on that river. Without experience I would have had more difficulty. Over half of the places I fished in the tournament, I hadn’t practiced there. I simply went there because they fit the bill.

Q: Mike, how has your fishing changed since your BFL days?
— Rich (Cortland, NY)
A: In 1995, I started fishing my first BFLs. The neat thing about fishing is that the learning process never stops. Even if it’s just a minute detail, you file it away. There are many things I’ve learned since then, and it’s not just technique. How to handle a boat, how to book the right hotels, tying the right knot, etc. If I had skipped the BFL days, I would be nowhere near the angler I am today. I made a bunch of mistakes, but I learned from them. It’s been an amazing learning process over those 10 years. But probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is the mental side of things. Just knowing more about fish behavior. Knowing the life cycle and seasonal behavior of fish is huge. Also, having confidence and making better decisions is also something I’ve learned. Now I make decisions on the water that are 100-percent better than what I used to make.

Q: With the upcoming Classic looking very tough and downsizing baits being a real possibility, what would be your go-to finesse bait?
— Steve (Allen, TX)
A: In my opinion, this is going to be one of the toughest Classics ever. This is a very challenging fishery. I think finesse tactics are going to be the backbone technique, but at the same time, the guy who wins is going to figure out how to catch one or two bigger fish. And I think those big fish are going to come on traditional power-fishing techniques.

Q: I have been told several different ways to fish a Carolina Rig here in South Carolina where I now live. The question: What is the best way to fish a Carolina Rig?
— Dennis R. (Columbia , SC)
A: I used a Carolina rig as a “transmission” bait. What I mean by that is that it’s not only a great fish catcher, but it’s also a tool I use to judge the lake bottom. The Carolina rig transmits to me what the bottom looks and feels like. It tells you very specific things. I used a tungsten weight because it really helps with the feel of the bottom. When I’m covering a lot of water, that’s when I’ll use a Carolina rig — to help me find those key little spots. But once I find those spots, I’ll often shift to another more nuanced bait.

Q: Mike, why do you yell so much?
— Blake (Monticello, AR)
A: Fishing is really my passion. I’m not really doing this just to make a buck. I’ve been fishing since I was 2 years old, and I’ve thought about doing nothing else but fishing ever since. Everything about bass fishing to me is about figuring out the puzzle. And when you finish that puzzle or solve that Rubik’s Cube, it’s very gratifying. That’s just me. That’s just my personality. That’s my excitement for the sport. Most people in the business feel the same way, but a lot of them don’t show it on the outside quite like I do.

Q: Mike what is more important to you in your fishing career — Clasics and FLW Championships or Angler of the Year titles? Why?
— Jeff Dothage (St. Louis, MO)
A: Great question. My answer to that is both. I don’t feel like my career will be complete unless I’ve captured all of the major titles. I have a list of goals; some I have accomplished, and some I have not. Obviously, winning the Bassmaster Classic was awesome. But AOY titles are more important from a professional angling standpoint, because that says you’re consistently good. I really want to win one of those, or both, AOY titles before I’m done.

Q: How do you break down your practice days? Meaning, on day one do you fish shallow, day two fish deep, and so on?
— Billy Hardin (Newcastle , OK)
A: I do it two ways. I always try to come into practice with a game plan. I show up to the first day of practice with a very detailed idea of what I want to do. Knowing the seasonal patterns is really important before you even get to practice. Having a map of the lake is also important before you hit the water. But when you get to the lake, you have to be willing to change that game plan if some of your assumptions have changed. You really need to “fish the moment.” When you make that cast, you’re fishing for that cast only. You’re not fishing for how things were two weeks ago. You need to let the fish talk to you in a sense, and let them tell you what they are doing.

Q: What’s the best lure for very warm water temperatures?
— Alan Walters (Laurel, MS)
A: When I won the Bassmaster Classic, the surface temp was 96 degrees. Anytime in the heat of the summer, you’re thinking about the summertime patterns. There are three words you have to think about: deeper, thicker and current. Those are three areas you can concentrate on anywhere in the country. For deeper, I go with a deep-diving crankbait — something that goes 12 to 18 feet deep. For the thicker cover — and fish will stay shallow in really warm water, assuming the cover is thick enough — my lure choice is the Texas-rigged plastics with bullet weights. The last one is current: Fish, in the heat of the summer, will gravitate toward current. You can find current in the headwaters; boats create current; etc. Probably my number-one bait in the summertime is the jig-and-pig.

Q: Mike, is the Mann’s STONE jig the only brand you use, and if so, what about rattles?
— Steve (Allen, TX)
A: It’s not the only jig I use. The Mann’s jig is one of the most versatile jigs out there, but I do use other jigs. I use finesse jigs when the fishing gets tough; I use hair jigs in the wintertime, when the water gets cold; etc. Regarding rattles, I use an 8-millimeter glass rattle and insert it into the body of the plastic trailer. I love the sound of the 8-millimeter rattle with the plastic. The glass rattle is a little more subtle and mimics the natural sound better than a really loud rattle.

Q: Mike, wow do you handle fishing so much when you have a family?
— Dustin Kelso (Indianapolis, IN)
A: That is the hardest part for me in this sport: the travel and the time away from home. I love what I do. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it’s got its downsides. How I’ve dealt with it over the years is that I try to maximize my time with my family as much as possible. I talk to my family every day while I’m on the road and try to get as much quality time as I can when I’m home. When I get back home after a tournament, I get to spend 24 hours a day with my family — things normal dads don’t get to do. I think it’s important to make every moment count with my girls. I think all successful professional anglers have figured out ways to make it work.

Q: Mike, what is the most efficient way to crank the outside milfoil line in 10 to 12 feet of water with some sparse weed growth at 2 to 3 feet from bottom at the outside line? Also, what cankbait would you recommend?
— G. Stephens (Minnetonka, MN)
A: That’s a technique that is one of my favorite techniques in the whole world. I actually won my second event event at Lake Seminole using that technique. For starters, you want to pick a bait that runs as deep as the outside edge of the vegetation. The second important thing is your choice of rod. I stick with my 7-foot fiberglass rod. I’m sitting in my boat on the outside edge, and I try to “quarter the edge,” meaning that I don’t throw at the same angle every time. I’ll purposely try to get hung up in the grass. Then I’ll try to pop that crankbait out of the grass. I’ll take my right hand off the reel handle, hit the butt of the rod with my right hand, and at the same time, I pull my rod back. Because the rod has flimsy action to it, the crankbait will actually pop backwards. And that will trigger that bite.

Q: Mike, if you could take one lake off the FLW Tour, which lake would it be and why?
— Nick (Hoxie , AR)
A: Honestly, if I had to take one away it would be Beaver Lake. It’s a tough fishery, it gets a lot of pressure, and it usually winds up being a sight-fishing lake, which isn’t really my strength. If I had to add one though, it would be Lake Champlain. That lake is probably the most dynamic fishery out there. It should be on every tournament schedule of every tournament trail. For my money, it’s the best lake in the country.

Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have today. Mike Iaconelli wanted to thank the fans again for coming out and participating in his chat. He wishes everyone the best.

Stay tuned for our next chat, scheduled to run a few days after the conclusion of the July 13-16 FLW Tour Championship on Lake Hamilton.