Mike Iaconelli Interview
Watch an exclusive interview with bass fishing pro Mike Iaconelli. Glenn May, founder of BassResource.com, asked him some intriguing questions about tournament fishing you'll only see here!
Mike: Hi. I'm Mike Iaconelli and you're on Bassresource.com.
Glenn: So, Mike, do you think starting up in the Northeast, starting your career there, did that help or hinder your career?
Mike: I actually think it was a little bit of both. I think it helped more, but from the hinder side, I think the weather, absolutely, to a certain extent. We've got a lot shorter time period to bass fish. So growing up, I had from April to October and after that we had hard water. Guys in the South have the whole year, so that hurt a little bit. And then it hurt us from the standpoint that there weren't a whole lot of peers there that were professional fishermen at that time, so that hurt a little bit.
But a lot more things help. I think from the fishing standpoint, I'm a better fisherman now because I grew up in the Northeast. I saw a lot of diversity. I saw tidal water. I saw clear water, stain water. And then the fishing pressure, you know, it's such a small state, New Jersey. I remember fishing in tournaments where you've got 100 guys on a couple thousand acre lake and so you had to learn techniques for tough conditions so from that standpoint, it helped.
I think the other standpoint it helped was from sponsorship angle, which is, at the time I got into the sport, in the mid '90's, there were very few anglers from the Northeast. So from a business standpoint, I think companies wanted to spread out their demographics and me being from New Jersey helped, a lot. So looking back on it, I think it helped more than anything.
Glenn: Let me ask you about that, Mike. As far as moving around and changing locations, what's the decisions that go into that? And is it really hard leaving your spot, knowing that you're going to leave your spot, knowing that someone can come in right behind you? Or if you really want to go to another spot, you know you've been holding in your back pocket and you get there and someone's already on it, how do you work that into your plan?
Mike: Yeah, that's honestly, that's one of the hardest things about fishing and that's probably one of the most under-talked about. You talk about color, pattern, technique and really this sport is about decision-making and, again, there's a couple elements to this and the one is you've got to learn to trust your instincts. You've got to learn to listen to your inner voices and, ultimately, what that means is you have to let the fish tell you what to do.
And when you open yourself up to do that, that's when you make good decisions and you fish good. The problem with that is that we're human and human nature is to fish history and bring back successful memories and so what that causes you to do is you get out of that mode of listening to the fish. That happens to me still all the time. I'm sitting here talking about it. It'll happen this year, I'm sure.
I guarantee it, which is, you have a good practice day and catch 20 lbs. in a spot on a certain date and it's so burned, ingrained in your memory, that you got to go back there and you want to force that to happen again. Human nature is you want to recall that and you want to make that happen again. But the reality of it is, you've got to fish in the moment instead of fishing your history. So, that's hard to do under the constraints of tournaments.
I fish my most natural, when I'm just fun fishing when there's no points and pounds and pressure on the line. When I'm at home, fishing in my pond and nobody's watching me, there's no ESPN camera guy with me, I fish at my most natural. If the guys that are successful like VanDam and Skeet and these guys are good at fishing the moment all the time and that's really the science of it is making those decision.
Yeah, you could have a set of rules like, an hour rule, if the fish don't bite in an hour's time, move. And you could have certain criteria like that but, ultimately, you've got to trust your instincts and you've got to listen to the fish and when you do that, you win tournaments.
Glenn: Why don't you explain a little more about listening to fish, especially some of the, maybe, new guys in the tournament that might not understand that concept?
Mike: Yeah, basically listening to the fish means, I guess the concept behind that is there's no luck in fishing. I preach that a lot but really what that means is that every bite you get, every fish you catch, or every bite you don't get, is a clue to the bigger puzzle. And so, there's no luck. Nothing's random. It all happens for a reason.
So when you catch a four-pounder down a bank, most guys will be like, "Wow! That was great!" They'll catch it, they'll let it go and they'll go on, but really you need to analyze everything about that fish. You need to see where it was caught, the clarity, the wind, when it hit the bait and you try to put a reason to that fish. So that becomes the first piece of the puzzle and that's that fish telling you what to do next. So it's kind of that theory.
Again, the same with not catching them. If you throw it by a log and you don't get a bite, you have to analyze why and then, on the next log, do something different or maybe throw it to a lily pad instead of a log or throw to open water instead of the lily pad. So letting the fish talk basically means that nothing is by chance. You're letting the fish steer you in a direction. You're letting the fish dictate your day instead of your history.
Glenn: Mike, would you say that that's the difference between pros at this level versus someone say, in the BFL or maybe the club angler?
Mike: Absolutely. Yeah. The mental side of it is everything. Shoot, I think guys at the club level cast as good as anybody here. I mean, Kevin VanDam's one of the best casters in the world. I don't think he's that much better than most guys on my club back home right now. So it's not the techniques. It's not the equipment. Obviously, we don't have magic baits or magic rods. It's essentially the same stuff.
The physicality part of it, again, unlike hockey and baseball and football, to a certain extent you've got to have a certain body size and stuff like that. Here, that's not as important. There's a little bit of physicality to it, but, absolutely, the mental is the big difference, for sure. The decision-making, the process and the information, the knowing the fish behavior, that's the key to getting better.
Glenn: So what got you onto this pattern, anyway?
Mike: A bite. Honestly. We were taking about it this morning, but first day of fishing practice last week, I struggled. Didn't hardly catch anything. Second day, I ran up a river, tried something different, and I found a pattern up there in muddy water where I catch a lot of fish. But they're not the one to fish, 12-15 lbs. I just come out here, no preconceived notions, put my trolling motor down and at nine o'clock on the last day of practice, I got my first bite out deep. I got the bite in about 25 feet of water. It was a six-pounder. That was at 9:00 and I caught off a point and I thought it had something to do with the rocks.
I start running rocky points that look like you would look at it and like, "That looks right." From 9 to 10:55, I never had another bite on points and I start getting, "Oh, I thought I was onto something." And then at 11:00, I pulled up on another rocky point and this time, when I pulled up on it, before I put my trolling motor down and I grabbed my rod and before I made my first cast, I picked up my depth finder and it was like 80 feet and I was about this close to the point. Caught my second fish at 11:00. It was a seven-pounder. After I caught that, I realized what the deal was and it was having that creek there. So once . . .
Mike: Got it! Fish! Fish!
Glenn: Another one!
Mike: Here! Here! Glenn, Have it! Don't set the hook.
Glenn: Oh he let it go, you've got to . . .
Mike: Wait, wait, wait. He's got it. I'm going to let you feel the next one. I want to make sure he dropped it, okay?
Glenn: All right.
Unknown Speaker: I'll let you get the next one.
Glenn: All right.
Mike: Yo! You see how long that one had it? He had it forever.
Glenn: He had it forever. He's not going to let go. You didn't have any scents or anything on that.
Mike: Nope. I will in the tournament, but not now.
Real quick, I'll talk to you when I'm idling here. So, basically, once those fish started talking to me, I was able to just duplicate it and run the pattern and that's really what fishing's all about. You know what I mean? It's about finding areas that fit the pattern and then trying to find as many as you can. It just clicked. But it's always the fish tell you what to do, you know what I mean? Dude, I'm beside myself right now!
Glenn: Mike, one thing I didn't ask you out on the boat, because it was a little bit windy, the tournament rules and stuff the way that they've changed, if you could change one tournament rule, what would it be?
Mike: Wow. That's a good question. If I could change one tournament rule, what would it be? That's a great question! Boy, the rules are pretty good. I'd say, I had a couple. One would've been "give us our boats back for the tournament", but that happened, so . . . The other one I used to always say was "get rid of the nets" and they did that too. They were two of my big ones. I'll tell you, anymore, it's hard to say.
I might let us have three full days of practice instead of what we have now. That would probably be the one thing I'd like because the way it ends up, is we start practice on Monday, so we've got all day Monday and all day Tuesday, but we've only got to be at a registration and a meeting on Wednesday by, like, 1:00. So we end up having two and a half days of practice. I'd like to see three full days of practice starting on Sunday.
So you have Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and then you have Wednesday off. Wednesday's a day to just do your stuff, go that meeting, do the fan stuff and then start your tournament on Thursday. That would mean not being able to put tournaments back to back, but I still think that's the right way to do it.
Glenn: So, let me ask you one off-the-wall question.
Glenn: Jan or Marsha Brady?
Mike: That is off the wall. Let me think here. I'd say Marsha. Marsha was pretty hot back in the day. Yeah, she had that long hair, kind of '70's appeal. Yeah, Marsha. I'll go with Marsha. Oh, my nose!