Bass Fishing’s Busiest Angler Just Got Busier

By Steve Chaconas

Bass Fishing’s Busiest Angler Just Got Busier

Highly successful BASS UNIVERSITY (seminar series), Podcasts, YouTube page (Going Ike and In the Shop videos), along with the IKE Foundation (charity introducing kids to fishing), 48 year old full time bass tournament angler Michael “IKE” Iaconelli is tossing his line into professional kayak fishing. His first outing resulted in a 12th place finish out of 115 anglers from across the country on Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River.

You’d think a Bassmaster Classic Champion with many trophies over his 23 year pro career, who participates in 16-18 major events every year, along with countless smaller events and media commitments, would focus on balls he has in the air. “I’m a maniac. I want to do it all.” Before tournaments, it was just about fishing, “…any species, the art of fishing, something pulling back on the other end.” IKE loves fishing and competition, targeting all species and different ways to catch them.

Angling wasn’t always from a Bass Cat fiberglass boat with a 250 HP Yamaha SHO. Leaping from bass boat to kayak was natural, getting back to his jon boat and canoe fishing roots. Hobie fishing is a new adventure, putting him closer to fish. Attending a few kayak tournaments, it was a no brainer to try. “It creates the you against the fish scenario. That feeling is more right in your face. Everything’s at eye level.” Ease of storage, launching and towing, and lower costs make kayak fishing the fastest growing segment, very good for fishing industry companies including Berkley, Abu, and Rapala.

Leaving unproductive spots, his Bass Cat speeds to new water at 70 mph. Kayak events forced him to rethink moving. Practicing requires a different approach. He pondered picking one area and learning it, sampling 3, 4 or 5 areas. There was more time management involved. “I want to fish more. I want to get better at it.”

While rules don’t prohibit bass boat practicing, Ike kept it pure, peddling 5 miles. No shortcuts. On tournament day he peddled to his spot, finding it muddy. Bass boat Ike would have powered away. Kayak Ike had to deal with conditions.

Setting hooks and fighting fish presented another learning curve. Having a 21 foot bass boat, Ike used mobility. In his HOBIE PA 12 foot 360 pedal drive he adjusted. One interesting difference was fighting acrobatic smallmouth. In his bass boat, they tire under his boat, also minimizing athletic jumps. In kayaks, pedals and rudders prevent that. Adjusting angling skills and using landing nets became necessary.

Ike doesn’t give up on trusty tools. A Power Pole Micro anchors the Hobie. Lowrance Elite 9 electronics finds humps, channel drops, low spots, and bait fish. GPS sets waypoints. Lowrance C-Map provides navigation and fishing contours. He even has a HydroWave fish attracting sound generator.

In bass boats, 6’6” rods work. “In a kayak I needed longer (7’4 to 7’8) parabolic rods to make up for not being as high, better accuracy and distance, loading for hooksets even when sitting.” His Hobie carries 6 rods. His Bass Cat carries at least 20. Braided line with leaders enables longer casts and better hooksets. 500 pounds of tackle are whittled into a Flambeau Kayak Tuff Krate.

Horsepower against manpower. “My lower body wasn’t prepared for it. Balance required is double than in a bass boat.” After his first tournament, Ike took inventory and found soreness in unusual places. He’s targeting those muscle groups with longer pedals, building endurance.

“In general I practiced wrong. I tried 6 areas across 30 miles and a couple hours in each area.” Next outing, he’ll identify 2 or 3 spots with a nearby Plan B. Ike acknowledges he needs to stay in spots longer and adjust. “It’ll help me become a better, well-rounded angler…staying longer to relearn the fish.” He’ll consider areas, unreachable by bass boat, to find new fish.

Ike says reception was really positive. “I did think about how people would accept me, but I think because I did everything right for the right reasons, I think people respected why I was there.” He didn’t hire a guide and didn’t practice in his bass boat. Anglers thanked him for legitimizing their league. Ike told them, “I should be thanking you for letting me out there.”

Adding kayak competitions to his agenda, Ike remains active with his Nat Geo Fish My City TV show, and a new show where he fishes with pro athletes and participates in their sport. Initially Ike climbed aboard a kayak for escape and change. “It has become a great new adventure, not a publicity stunt.” The competitor wants to win one of these, fair and square, doing everything right. He can’t wait until his next event. He promises a better finish. I believe him.

Potomac River Bassing in OCTOBER

Water is cooling to around 70. Fish are feeding up.

Depending on water clarity, topwater lures are a great way to search for moving bass. Add Mustad feathered trebles to poppers and use red Mustad round bend trebles on the belly. Use either 10 pound Gamma CoPoly or 15 pound Gamma Torque braid. Walking baits are good too.

Squarebill crankbaits can also trigger strikes. Again, replacing hooks with Mustad Short Shank Triple Grip trebles. Use red trebles on the belly. Tie to 10 pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line.

Pitching plastics to remaining grass clumps, wood and docks works too. Bulkier baits Texas rigged on 3/0 Mustad Mega Bite hooks on 12 pound Edge line is better with more sun but can be an all-day bite. Use ¼ ounce pegged bullet weights.

Drop shot and split shot rigs with 3/16 ounce Water Gremlin BullShot weights can cover water and drops. Slow presentations with smaller baits will produce. Target flats with grass or close to drops. Use 15 pound Torque braid and 10 pound Edge leaders on spinning gear.

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.

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