Be Like Ike
By Steve Chaconas
Halls of fame require a high level of performance and the ability to generate revenue and fan growth. Excelling in all areas is Michael Iaconelli. Ike, as he is known, is a kid from Jersey who break dances and fished for bass when fishing wasn’t cool, worked his way into the pro bass fishing circuit, won the world championship, and then was elected to the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.
Young Iaconelli contrasted with good old boy bass anglers, breaking the mold of heavy set, tobacco chewing, aw shucks fishermen. Michael, soon to known as Ike, set himself apart from pros who were either reluctant or incapable of representing themselves or a sponsor’s product. Unwilling to reveal secret lures, pros were soon upstaged by Ike. When asked about his lure of success, Ike produced Mann’s Bait Company’s Stone Jig from his pocket detailing features that put this lure above the rest.
Studying advertising and public relations, and graduating summa cum laude from Rowan University, Ike understood marketing and how athletes become celebrities while elevating their sports. Working at Dick’s Sporting Goods, he learned how to communicate fishing knowledge to help anglers catch more fish. This early customer service experience prepared him for positive fan relations. Maybe he dreamed these fishing fans would become Ike fans.
On the water, he doesn’t sit or lean on a seat, but runs around the boat deck to gain advantage over bass with better casting angles or landing opportunities. With his bait always in the water, Ike fishes fast but slowly in fish spots, shouting when he catches a bass. It’s not an act but became his act. After the emotional BASSMASTER Classic win, we went fishing on the Potomac. It didn’t take him long to hook up and in inimitable Ike fashion, he screamed, “Giant, oh my God!”. No cameras were around. His raw excitement was real. Every fish was a giant and brought Ike to a fever pitch.
A young Iaconelli scoured the pages of Bassmaster Magazine, In Fisherman and others. He credits the 80s and 90s fishing shows with creating the dream for him. Ike admired how older guys carried themselves as role models. Eventually winning in every tour, Ike absorbs as much fishing information as possible while spending a lot of time on the water. Ike is always fishing.
Poise isn’t picked up in magazines. Ike capitalizes on angler, writer, and fan contacts. His stage presence feeds off fan energy and fans feed off the most excitable and exciting angler in pro bass fishing. Long lines of men, women, and children keep the Jersey pro busy with photos and autographs.
In constant motion on the water, he’s also hard at work off the water. His Ike LIVE podcast, Ike in the Shop, Going Ike YouTube series, television shows “City Limits” “Fish My City” and “My World”, Twitter, Instagram, and Bass University projects satisfy fan and sponsor demands. Ike and wife Becky founded the Ike Foundation, introducing urban and rural children to fishing. Their company also operates a full-service angler management and marketing company, Professional Edge Fishing, Inc.
On his way to pro bass fishing’s big stage, he composed a CD “How to Turn Pro in Five Years or Less”, including tips for success and how to attract and keep sponsors. During the BASSMASTER Classic, the consummate promoter pitched his blueprint on professional bass fishing CD, mikeiaconelli.com. He eventually won this championship and made famous his last-minute win with the mantra, “Never give up!”. Relatable to anyone who has come from behind, his autobiography “Fishing on the Edge” was released following his win.
As Ike became one of the most accomplished, recognizable, and respected figures in the sportfishing world, he was also one of the most hated. In 2006, Iaconelli was named one of the 10 most hated athletes by GQmagazine. Accepting the challenge, Ike never had a problem being the bad guy knowing he could use it to grow the sport. Ike says everyone is obligated to impact someone in a positive way, growing fishing is his obligation.
Ike’s recent Hall of Fame message prioritized his faith, family, fans and of course fishing. Still at the top of his game, Ike was gracious, acknowledging those who were critical in his journey. Specifically, he thanked his mom, Uncle Don, Becky’s parents, and his 4 children. He also showed his appreciation for the support and mentorship of writers and other industry people, realizing that just as every cast brings another opportunity to learn more and a chance for a keeper, Ike approaches everyone he meets the same way, learning and appreciating every lesson offered. Several of his crew were in attendance and added excitement to the presentation. This was the first time that many people from New Jersey were in a room where a waste disposal contract wasn’t discussed.
Early in his career, he resisted change when it was apparent he didn’t fit in. Congratulatory calls came from anglers and fans for his Classic win. But it was legendary angler Rick Clunn who really encouraged him. Clunn said, “Don’t let the negatives discourage you…be yourself and keep doing what you do. You deserved that win.” With his accomplishments and successes, there’s no question we’ll hear more from Ike. The biggest question is who will play him in the movie?
Potomac River Bassing in NOVEMBER
Much cooler water is slipping into the 50s. Still a good time for firetiger crankbaits and when water is stained, gold tandem Colorado/Indiana bladed spinnerbaits. Use 10 pound test GAMMA EDGE fluorocarbon line for both. Contact cover.
Hard cover like docks, riprap and bridge pilings are great places to pitch Texas rigged Mizmo Tubes on 3/0 hooks. For flats close to deep water wintering areas, drop shot and Carolina rigs are great for covering water and various depths.
About the Author: Capt. Steve Chaconas is a Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. YouTube channel NationalBassGuide.