January 10, 2014
Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
ALPENA, Mich. – Mike Iaconelli never gives up. Never. That much should be apparent to any bass fishing fan who remembers Ike's dramatic last second catch on the Louisiana Delta near New Orleans, a fish that propelled Ike to his "Never Give Up!" mantra and the 2003 Bassmaster Classic championship trophy.
Such an approach on Elimination Day Two could prove to be instrumental in helping Ike advance in the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2014 General Tire Summit Cup competition near Alpena, Mich.
Especially on the smallmouth rich waters of Hubbard Lake, a virtual unknown water body to the 24 MLF pros in town to compete for one of professional angling's biggest prizes, the Summit Cup trophy.
The four anglers to advance to the Sudden Death Semifinal will be the anglers that persevere throughout the day. Especially during the pivotal final period of the day.
"The third period is the key (and) it's the key for a lot of different reasons," said Iaconelli, winner of seven B.A.S.S. tournament events and more than $2 million in career winnings.
"The third period is important because you know where everybody sits and you know what you have to do. And you've built two periods of patterns up to that so you've got experience going into that (final period)."
Ike, the 2006 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, thinks that the Day Two final period could be particularly important at this MLF event in northeastern Michigan.
"Here, (the third period may be the key) even more so," said Iaconelli. "I can tell you that to me, it seems that smallmouth bite a lot better later, especially when that sun gets high.
"If we have a storm that comes through, it will change that, but ideally, I want high sun, bright sun in the afternoon."
Why is that?
"(Because) that puts them on the structure, it puts them on the bottom contours, and that's where I want to catch them," said Iaconelli.
"I think we'll see a strong third period today."
“We basically didn't know where we were going this morning until we pulled up and saw the sign.”
Keep in mind, all of this is a bit of speculation on Ike's part.
He acknowledges that MLF's new wrinkle this year of not letting competitors know which particular lake they are fishing - until an hour or so before their boat launches, that is - has him guessing.
"I really like it (the new wrinkle)," said Iaconelli. "The spirit of these tournaments is to really level the playing field. To go into an event and not know anything, I like that. I think that's a great thing.
"We basically didn't know where we were going this morning until we pulled up and saw the sign," he added.
"I don't think anybody in this field - with the exception of Kevin (VanDam), maybe - (has) any experience in this area. That really makes it an even playing field."
That being said, Ike does like his chances on Hubbard Lake during this second day of first round competition.
"Just generally, the lakes up here are traditionally dominated by smallmouths," said Ike. "They (tend to be) a little bit deeper and clearer and that's something that I feel comfortable doing."
Why is that?
Iaconelli points to his childhood angling experiences in New Jersey on fishing spots that are similar to those found in northern Michigan.
"That's what I take into today," said Iaconelli. "You don't want to have a lot of preconceived notions (coming into an event), but my childhood was spent fishing places that are like this. That's my mindset this morning."
While Ike is hoping to tap into some of his previous angling experience and fishing strengths at this event, does he, and the other MLF pros competing in Alpena, have to forget recent Bassmaster Elite Series tournament events?
Especially those that were held on other northern smallmouth waters?
"Yeah, I think you do," said Iaconelli. "The smallmouth is a creature of habit and they act the same (in a lot of ways) but it's a different fishery (here).
"A place like this has different water color, we don't have current, there might not be zebra mussels (here), so there are some different elements."
Even so, Iaconelli doesn't think that he or the other MLF pros will have to figure out an entirely new game plan for Alpena.
"A smallmouth is a smallmouth," said Ike. "You do take a little bit of that experience with you from the last couple of Elites and you bring it here, technique wise, especially.
"You look at the last two Elites, they were dominated by tubes and drop-shots. If I was betting, I'd bet you'd see the same thing today."
Will Day Two action prove to be Ike against the fish or Ike against the other competitors?
"Ultimately, it's you against the fish," laughed Iaconelli. "But this one, it may be a little bit different because of the fact that we've got a format where we know what the other guy is doing immediately.
"That's obviously in your mind whether you want it to be or not.
"But in saying that, you've really got to focus on the pattern and the bites, and then take those pieces and figure out the puzzle. That's the game."
Indeed, that is the Major League Fishing game.
And it's a game with a real-time leaderboard that Ike plans to be hanging around near the top of by the end of the day.
Because the New Jersey pro never gives up.
Whether he's down on the swampy, alligator-rich bayous of Louisiana.
Or in the pristine, smallmouth-rich waters of northeastern Michigan near the Great Lakes port town of Alpena.
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