Mike Iaconelli added five bass for 23-3 to move on to the Knockout Round. Photo by Phoenix Moore
By Mason Prince - February 10, 2020
EUFAULA, Ala. – What Mike Iaconelli showed us during Qualifying Day 4 of the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One Presented by Power-Pole is a simple message: never give up.
Iaconelli will be the first to admit that he wears his emotions on his sleeve, and after catching a total of zero bass for zero pounds on his first day of competition, Ike was not happy.
“I was mad after Saturday,” Ike said simply. “Sometimes, anger is a good thing if you manage it correctly. Today I was able to manage it correctly and I used it to motivate me to try to come back and get some points.”
Finding Some Flipping Motivation
The New Jersey pro used that motivation to make a miraculous comeback on Monday and push himself into Tuesday’s Knockout Round. After two subpar days of practice, Ike followed that up with the worst possible day you could have during Qualifying Day 2. Ike finished his first round of competition tied for last place in his group and needed to make magic happen if he wanted a chance at the Top 20.
“My game plan for today was fishing all new water,” Ike said of his strategy. “I really wanted to keep more of an open mind today. I threw everything I thought I knew out the window and I just started over from scratch this morning. It worked.”
Iaconelli started his morning flipping a black and blue Berkley PowerBait Creature Hawg with a ¾-ounce VMC tungsten weight, on a 4/O VMC Ike Flippin Hook. He calls that his “textbook flipping setup” and it got him a big bite just three minutes into his morning.
A 6-13 largemouth was Ike’s first fish of Stage One and had him on SCORETRACKER®. He decided to stick with flipping through grass and quickly set the hook on a 6-1 largemouth just 45 minutes later. The Berkley pro has been fishing professionally for a long time, but he admitted that this morning was something special that you don’t see very often.
“That first day, I had one bite all day and it was an unscorable bass,” Ike recapped. “To go from that to catching two fish-of-a-lifetime in the morning when you need it most is an amazing feeling. I don’t catch that many 6-pounders, so when I did, I knew what I was doing was working.”
Points are Prized Possessions
Ike later added a scorable 2-3 on a swim jig, but it was flipping that once again got him a big bite later in the day with a 5-10. Iaconelli jumped in and out of the Top 20 with every fish that he caught even though he only caught five total for the day. The stakes were high and Ike could feel the pressure, but he mentioned to the camera on his boat multiple times that if he didn’t end up making the cut, he would still be happy with his day.
That’s something you usually don’t hear from pros, but Ike had his sights set on the big picture when he said that.
“Everything in Major League Fishing is not just about the tournament you’re fishing, but qualifying for something else down the line,” Ike outlined. “Whether it’s Heavy Hitters later this year, REDCREST, or the Cup events, earning points based on your standing is important. You don’t want to start the year with a double goose egg. That’s why I would have been alright just getting out of the cellar like I was.”
Eyes on the Knockout Round
Iaconelli finished his day with five bass for 23-3, good enough for an 18th-place finish in his group and his name on the roster for tomorrow’s Knockout Round. After starting from scratch this morning, he thinks that tomorrow he may go into his round with a little better idea of what to do to move on to the Championship Round.
“My plan for tomorrow is to pick up right where I left off,” Iaconelli said. “Two things are happening that make me excited for tomorrow. The water is starting to clear up, so that’s going to start to open up some places that were unfishable the past couple of days. The other thing is that I think the lake is going to stabilize. The water level is starting to get back to normal after all that rain. I’m looking forward to it, we’ll see what happens.”