NATCHEZ, Mississippi – The 2018 Lucas Oil Challenge Cup was over in a hurry for Mike Iaconelli – he failed to advance out of the Elimination Rounds – but the New Jersey veteran will leave the lower Mississippi River Valley with a coveted spot in the 2018 General Tire World Championship.
This despite missing one of the four qualifying events.
Iaconelli, who didn’t compete in the 2017 Challenge Cup in Eufaula, Ala., will finish no worse than 21st at this year’s Challenge Cup; hardly Ike’s most successful Cup competition, but the 7 points he earns for the event give him a four-event total of 60.
The projected point range to make the Top 12 is 53 to 55.
“I’m actually a little surprised that I made it,” Iaconelli admitted. “I started off so well in 2017 (by winning the) Summit Cup, but then to miss the next event? At the time, I thought that was devastating to my chances to fish the World Championship. We only have four chances to earn points, and I gave away 25 percent of my points, just like that.”
Iaconelli entered the 2018 Cup season in eighth place with 30 points, just 5 points above the Top 12 World Championship cutline. He finished fifth at the 2018 Summit Cup in Alpena, Mich., to climb to fifth place in the standings with 53 points.
Admittedly, it would’ve taken a disaster of epic proportions for Iaconelli to fall out of the Top 12 after the Challenge Cup: he would’ve had to finish in the bottom five, and a handful of anglers who came to Natchez/Vidalia, Louis., below Ike in the standings (Mark Davis, Kelly Jordon, Jeff Kriet and Brent Chapman) would’ve needed to earn a Top 3.
“I really didn’t do well (at the 2017 World Championship), so I’m pretty excited to have another chance at that title,” Iaconelli said. “I’ve competed for a lot of different titles, but nothing sounds as cool as ‘World Champion’.