ALPENA, MI – Two hours into his Sudden Death Round at the 2018 Wiley X Summit Cup in Alpena, Michigan, Mike Iaconelli found himself in an odd, unfamiliar, uncomfortable position: fishless.
The two-time Cup winner had spent the lion’s share of the morning plinking around Fletcher’s Pond with coverage baits in search of his first fish, but, as Iaconelli sums up succinctly: “Dude, I just couldn’t get ‘em.”
With 26 fish already registered on SCORETRACKER and Jeff Kriet, Takahiro Omori, Tim Horton, Keith Poche, Skeet Reese and Mark Davis already working their way to the 22-pound cut weight, Iaconelli pulled up to a piece of isolated wood on a flat and pitched a black-and-blue Berkley Devil’s Spear.
He quickly landed his first fish – a 2-8 – and then just 15 minutes later, pitched the same bait to another piece of isolated wood, hooking a 6-plus-pound largemouth that would prove to be the biggest fish of the day.
Ike had found a pattern.
“That was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me,” Iaconelli admitted. “That was my clue that isolated wood was the right pattern, and after that, I just started riding that pattern. It turned out to be a big-fish pattern, and typically in MLF, you don’t fish for big fish. You try to find a deal where you can catch numbers, and you 2-pound them to death, but that 6-pounder was a major clue that I should stick with that pattern and try to catch higher-quality fish.”
It all paid off for Iaconelli as he landed four more fish on the same Devil’s Spear, including a 4-10 and a 5-0 that eventually pushed him over the cut weight with 22-13 and into his third Cup Championship.
“I realized that I wasn’t going to get many bites, but every time I set the hook, it was a good one,” Iaconlli said. “It was just a matter of being able to get enough bites to get to 22 pounds fast enough. It was ‘Pattern Fishing 101’ – so, so classic where every fish came on that specific pattern – but it was really nerve-wracking. In MLF, you can have a guy get into a school of 2-pounders and he taps out before you can get enough of those quality bites. I just kept thinking ‘Two more bites, two more bites!’ It paid off.”