If there’s one thing missing from the professional angling resume for Jack Links Major League Fishing pro Mike Iaconelli, it’s an MLF Summit Cup or MLF Challenge Cup championship.
Other than those two huge trophies, Ike has seen it all and won it all.
For proof of that, consider that Iaconelli is the only angler in history to have claimed a B.A.S.S. triple crown of sorts – the Bassmaster Classic title (2003), the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year title (2006) and the B.A.S.S. Nation amateur championship (1999), then add in the fact that the New Jersey pro has qualified for 17 Bassmaster Classics and two FLW Tour Forrest Wood Cup championships.
And finally, don’t forget his eight B.A.S.S. wins, his one FLW Tour victory and his collection of more than $2.8 million in career earnings.
Not bad, not bad at all.
But with all of that duly noted, Ike knows that there’s still one thing missing from his trophy collection – a MLF Cup championship.
And that is something that he hopes to remedy this week during MLF Summit Cup action in and around Grand Rapids, Minn.
To do that, Iaconelli is very aware that he will not be able to fall off the pace early on in a day of competition here in the North Country.
Why? Because he expects the SCORETRACKER LIVE! leaderboard to get rolling early in the day.
And after that? Ike expects these fisheries to get wrecked as the MLF pros dial into the prolific numbers of largemouths and smallmouths that swim in these northern waters.
In short, Ike knows that he can’t stumble coming out of the gate.
“I think in every Major League Fishing event that I’ve ever fished, you can’t get too far behind,” Ike said. “Very rarely, can you get behind (for) a period and a half or two periods and catch up, very rarely.
“Especially on these lakes up north where there are so many cookie-cutter sized fish,” he added. “You just can’t do (that).”
With that in mind, Ike is keenly focused on getting on the leaderboard early in the day.
“That first period, that first hour, that first hour and a half really, it is so critical to get into a rhythm,” Iaconelli said.
“And I’m not even talking about going out and blowing it away,” he added. “I’m just saying that you want to catch a few, get a direction and let the fish say ‘This is what you should be doing (today). That’s so critical up here.”
Having competed in MLF Cup level events since the inaugural Challenge Cup competition staged on Texas’ Lake Amistad, Iaconelli backs up his contention by reflecting on his own performances in MLF competition.
“I’ve been on both sides of the stick,” he said. “In Maine (a few years ago), I was on the catching side of it and got a great jump and figured them out pretty quick within the first period, those fish told me what to do.
“At Alpena, I was on the opposite side of it and never dialed into what the fish could do,” he added. “And I was literally done there after the first period.
“So I’ve been on both sides of it and I know what I need to do (today) to meet my goal of being in the Top 4.”
Surveying the lake and the conditions, I asked Iaconelli if the early morning topwater bite would help him get a direction for the day’s action here in northern Minnesota.
“I think topwater is a player (today),” he said. “Late summer, early fall, topwater is a player (up here). Overcast days like today, topwater is a player.”
Why is topwater a good lure to potentially start out with?
Ike says to cover water and help collect information that will help him figure out what the fish are wanting him to do as the day unfolds.
“The bonus here is that Major League Fishing is about covering water and catching numbers of fish and that really jives with the topwater,” he said. “The slower techniques where you’ve got to soak the bait, it’s tough to cover water and tough to make a lot of casts (with those techniques).
“But with topwater, I can cover a tremendous amount of water. It’s a technique that I’m thinking about, especially for this first period and I’ve got one on my deck.”