On The Water With Mike Iaconelli

Original Bass Pro Interviews
A day on the water with Mike Iaconelli where he answers dozens of user-submitted questions. There's nothing like this video anywhere!

Glenn: Hi. This is Glenn May of BassResource.com. Recently I had the opportunity to go fishing with Bassmaster Classic Champion Mike Iaconelli, but before I went, I asked our forum members what questions that they would like to ask Mike if they were in my shoes.

Mike graciously agreed to answer any and all questions that were thrown at him so I brought them all. The result is a seemingly random stream of questions in this video.

Mike did a great job of answering them all. I learned a number of new things and I hope you will too. Here now is my day on the water with Mike Iaconelli.

Glenn: So with the way the economy is going, I know BASS has cut back a little bit on their schedule, is there anything that the pros are doing?

Mike Iaconelli: Yeah. I mean it's tough times. There's no denying that it's tough for everybody. Fishing industry is no different. I think everybody's trying to supplement; most guys I know are trying to supplement their income by doing other things, by doing seminars, by guiding. There's enough things in the fishing industry that you can do that can keep you busy and keep you working, so. And then that plus just the normal things that everybody does to save money, you know. Trying to cut back on costs, I think that's across the board, that's everybody.

Glenn: So are there any misconceptions about pro anglers?

Mike: You know, I'd say just the biggest general one is that we've got, like secret baits and different equipment than everybody. We've got all the same stuff, you know? The mental side is where the difference is at. It's not the equipment, you know.

Glenn: You don't have women chasing you around like rock stars or anything?

Mike: No. No. Very little of that. Mostly just 50 year old men from Alabama.

Glenn: Occasionally when I fish a tournament and I just decide I'm going to fish it for fun, I sometimes do better than I do than if I'm really hard core about it. That ever happen to you?

Mike: Yeah. Well. what you're talking about there is, it's something called fishing the moment, which means a lot of times when you're fishing a tournament you get so locked in to what you didn't practice or what you thinks going to happen. Most of the time when your fun fishing, you're just fishing the moment. You're just out there fishing, you're not really worried about what happened last week or the other day. And when you can free you're mind up like that, that's a good thing.

Glenn: You ever fish one of those tournaments where you didn't feel you were on top of your game?

Mike: Oh yeah. I mean there's events where you feel under-prepared but, you've always got to make the best of what you got and you always got to believe you can win.

Glenn: Do you ever win one of those tournaments?

Mike: Oh yeah. Yeah, there's been tournaments where I've won or at least have done well enough to get a check and get points where you thought all was lost going into the event.

Glenn: At this level of fishing, tournament strategy is pretty darn important.

Mike: It is important, yeah. Strategy is probably more important than anything else. You want to think about the rod and the reel and the bait but, you're game plan and the mental side of it is really the most important thing, you know. I can tell you, I've said this before and people think this is a strange statement but I really feel like the Classic is won before the actual Classic starts. The pre-practice period, the strategy. All that stuff is what wins a Classic.

The hard work is leading up to the actual event. Once you get to the event you want it to be just fish catching. You want to have to take all that other stuff out of the equation. So, it's a big part of it. My strategy stays the same. I do a lot of research. My tournament fishing's based of a lot of research and preparation but in the Classic everything's a win mentality. Win, win, win. That's all you're thinking about. No points, no consistency, you're just thinking about the winning fish, that's it.

Glenn: Is you're strategy, overall, for this season going to be any different from previous seasons?

Mike: No. No. The same two goals, number one goal is Angler of the Year and the second goal is the Classic and they're the same. Trying to win Angler of the Year and qualifying for the Classic and then hopefully winning the classic. They're always the two number one goals.

Glenn: What is you're opinion of angler's ownership of spots during a tournament?

Mike: Well there's, the thing with Bass fishing is there's a lot of unwritten rules, kind of gray areas, and that's one of them. There's no rule about spots. But here's the way the unwritten rule reads, first day of the tournament everything's fair game. I mean, first day of the tournament, you go out and you fish what you found at practice but after that you've kind of established yourself so, give you an example, if I've come in here and I'm the only boat here the first day, I come in with  30 pounds and then the second day, like 10 boats show up here, that's kind of unethical so that's basically the rules that we use. And again, it's an unwritten rule but eventually it'll come back around if you break that rule and dishonor somebody. It'll come back around eventually and bite you.

Glenn: You ever wish you could take a year off just to relax?

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, I do.

Glenn: What would you do?

Mike: Probably fish. Probably do a lot of different types of fishing, saltwater fishing. It'd be nice to just be able to stay at home with the kids for a long period of time.

Glenn: What's the weirdest thing you ever caught?

Mike: Oh boy. That I can say on tape? Man. I don't know, I've caught different species of fish, I've caught shopping carts and trash cans and, man, I've caught some weird stuff. Fishing rods, with fish on it.

Glenn: We then moved to a new location, one of many moves we'd make that day. But before we could get to the main channel, we had to cross a stump laden flat, for those of you who have never done this before, here's a textbook example of the way to do it. To protect your boat and motor, take your time and go slow. When the boat hit's a stump, it does that. No harm, no foul. Simple as that.

Mike, what was the defining moment when you decided to become a pro angler?

Mike: I'd say it's in 1994 when I fished, back then they were called BASS top 150's. I fished on Lake Norman, North Carolina and I think I was 23 years old, I was a sophomore in college and I won the tournament. That I thought was a defining moment. It definitely let me know I could compete at a higher level, gave me my boat; I won a boat. I had a Jon boat before that. So definitely would be that win.

Glenn: So Mike, what's you're scariest moment on the water?

Mike: Scariest moment on the water is there's a couple. Big waves is always one. You get to Lake Erie and the waves are giant, that's always scary. But probably the scariest moment I ever had is about five or six years ago I was out on the West Coast fishing the California Delta and I got ejected from the boat going about 70 and that's definitely no fun. I had my vest on which was key, you know, key. I definitely could tell I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the vest and escape with a concussion. But hitting water at 70 feels like hitting concrete.

Glenn: Mike, I know you have your own line of rods and there's a lot of anglers out there that have their own line of rods and reels and lures and that sort of thing. How much involvement does that take from the angler to develop those?

Mike: It takes a lot. I mean, I know for me at least. Let me say that. I don't know in some of the other cases but for me it's, most of the time any of the stuff that we're designing, that's signature stuff, is at least, at the very least, a year out. Most of the time it's two years out. You know with Diawa, we were working on those rods, we started that process about two years ago. And it's just the process of going back and forth with blanks. You know, they'll send you something, give your feedback, they'll send you another one and back and forth.

And that goes on for a long time and it's not just functionality. It's the look, it's the graphics, it's the type of material, foam, cork, the composition of the graphite. There's so many things that go into it and it takes a long time so it's a long process but it's worth it, I love it. That's one of the things to this sport that I love is being able to design stuff. For me it's total hands on and like I said, it's usually a year or two out. Another example is that with Tru-Tungsten I'm designing a Flick Shake Head and this is going on the second year and finally we'll have it at ICAST this year but it takes a while to get things right. Find the right hook, find the right shape, you know, the right size. All those things, it takes a lot.

Glenn: Now what about the boat graphics on your boat? Did you play a hand in that? Did you design that?

Mike: Oh yeah. Yeah. I have a hand in almost everything. I work with a company that designs the graphics and we try to put certain elements in there that relate to me and my brand and then obviously we try to sign the sponsors so that's pretty neat too.

Glenn: If they could bring back one old, discontinued lure, which one would you want them to bring back?

Mike: Oh man. I'd say probably a couple of my favorites that are long gone, one is just the old Bagleys; I mean they still do make Bagleys, you know they say they're like the originals but there's something about that old wood and the old components that make those Bagleys classics. I'd say probably another one would be a bait by Bomber made a Long A. It was a jerk bait, it was a Kevin VanDam signature series Long A, suspending jerk bait in clown color. And I tell you, I swear to you, I still have five or six left and they catch more fish than any of the ones they make now. They still make that same bait but again, something's changed. The plastic or the material, something's different. So it would be those two for sure.

Glenn: You know given the amount of time you spend on the water I'm sure you've seen your share of weird things. Have you seen any strange wildlife?

Mike: You know the deer, deer crossing the water, I see that all the time. That's wild. Every time I see it I never get tired of that. But one time fishing Kerr Reservoir in Virginia I saw a white deer, all white deer, albino deer. That was pretty cool.

Glenn: So Mike, what's the one defining moment that changed your life forever?

Mike: There's a couple. I'd say the first one was in 1994 I won an amateur BASS tournament, Lake Norman, top 150 and first place was a fully rigged bass boat so that kind of gave me the opportunity to compete at a different level, before that I had a Jon boat. The second was right here, winning the Federation National here in '99. Made my first Classic, first time I got some national exposure and sponsors kind of started filtering in. And then the last one was the Classic. Winning the Classic in 2003 was absolutely a key moment for me too.

Glenn: How did the Classic change your life?

Mike: It's everything. I mean, it kind of gives you some security in this sport, you know, to win that title and there's I think there's only less than 50 guys that have ever won that thing so it really, from a business standpoint, gives you a foundation in fishing.

Glenn: Hey Mike, under what, if any conditions would you fish a deer hair jig over a rubber skirted jig?

Mike: The hair jigs, you know, that's something growing up in the Northeast, something I have done for a long time. I really feel like hair is at its best when the water's super cold. That's when I use them. I have a box, I use deer hair, I use rabbit, I use marabou and it really doesn't get pulled out until that water temperature gets in the mid 40's. But from the mid to high 40's to freezing water, that's when I really use it. That's when I love it.

Glenn: And why is that?

Mike: Well, one of the things that I try to do with baits is I try to match the bait to the metabolism of the fish or the activity level of the fish and in that real cold water, their metabolism is real low. They're not feeding a lot. They don't want something with a lot of action. And if you ever look at the action of a hair jig, it has action, don't get me wrong, but it's more subtle and neutral and that's the mood of the fish. Now in the summer, when the fish are wired, you know, they're metabolisms super high, I want to jig with rubber. I want something with a lot of action I want a big grub trailer, so I'm always trying to match the bait to the mood of the fish.

Glenn: What is your least favorite technique?

Mike: Least favorite technique I would say is fishing extremely deep water. I'm talking about water that's 40, 50, 60 foot deep. I've learned how to do it and I'm getting better at it but when that jigging spoon bites on and you're catching them out of 60, 70 foot of water, I'm not very good at that.

Glenn: What is your opinion on line visibility for Largemouth Bass?

Mike: I think, to me, line visibility relates more to the water clarity that it does to the species of the fish. Basically, the clearer the water the more you got to be concerned about it. In that dirty, muddy water like what we have here the less concern you have about line visibility. For me, when line visibility is a concern and you're talking about clear water, visibility two, three feet or more, then fluorocarbon's the best line to use. It's invisible.

Glenn: Hey. Is line diameter important when fishing finesse techniques for smallmouths?

Mike: Oh it's important, especially for a pressured smallmouth. I've seen it where, you know, the difference between eight and six is unbelievable, or the difference between four and six make a difference. Like I said, especially pressured smallmouth. Clear water, heavily pressured fish, the light line makes a big difference. Not even necessarily the fish seeing it but the action of the bait, especially with fluorocarbon, the lighter the line, the more action that bait has. So my general rule of thumb is I try to get away with the lightest line possible. And that really means I look at the cover. If I'm in open water I fish six and four, if I've got moderate cover I'm usually fishing eight or ten and if it's real heavy cover I'm using 12 or I'm using Fireline with a fluorocarbon leader.

Glenn: When you were fishing for Blues in the episode of City Limits how come you weren't using steel leader?

Mike: Because I didn't know any better. Honestly though, it'd funny because you get caught in the Bass fishing world and there's not a whole lot of that stuff going on. I've fished for Blues before, I knew that they had sharp teeth and I should use a leader but I didn't even think of it, I was so excited. You get there and you see them fish busting and you just want to cast. So that was a boo-boo but I'll remember that next time.

Glenn: If you could have any super power what would it be?

Mike: Well I suppose x-ray vision so I could see underwater and figure out how many thousands of fish I'm going over.

Glenn: So Mike, what fishing techniques do you feel you invented or modified or maybe improved that perhaps no one else knew before?

Mike: You know, that's a pretty hard statement because I think over time there's a lot of people in different areas that all kind of figure the same thing out. So I don't want to take credit for anything totally, but I tell you, there's two techniques that I've worked on pretty hard. One is a technique called pitch skipping, which is basically a cross between a skipping cast and a pitch cast. It basically let's you get jigs and stuff way back under docks with bait casting equipment. That's one, the other one is a technique called ripping, which you get a medium to deep diving crankbait and you purposely throw it in the grass and really violently jerk it out. You know, I've won several tournaments doing that and they're two techniques that I've worked hard on but I'm not going to take credit for them though.

Glenn: So when you're at a tournament and you've had a bad day how do you stay focused?

Mike: Well, you got to regroup. You got to look at what you're doing and try to imagine where the fish are. Like I said, that's one of the things I've struggled with over the years to remain positive. You got to do it though because you never know when it's going to happen. It could happen five minutes before you weigh in, you could catch two fish that win you the tournament so you really got to just stay focused. I know it's hard but.

Glenn: Can you share with us some of the techniques you use to stay focused?

Mike: Well, one of the things is just some visualization techniques, you know. I like to sometimes imagine I'm the bait. You throw the bait in there and you kind of imagine what the bait's doing and in you're mind you're thinking, okay. It's going over rock, it's going over wood. And so by focusing on the bait, pretending kind of, imagining you're the bait you focus on the technique a little more.

Glenn: Now Mike, this year BASS removed the co-anglers from the tournaments. Do you think that's a good or a bad thing?

Mike: Yeah. That's a tough question. I've kind of got mixed emotions about it, you know. Part of me thinks it's a bad thing. I started as a co-angler and I felt like that was an important stage, you know, to getting to the pro level. So I kind of, I don't like it for that respect.

But part of me, the other thing, and I think this is where they're coming from on the rule, is  to be a true professional sport you've got to eliminate any of the other factors that could play and so it's not that they're trying to get rid of the co-angler just to get rid of them but they're trying to even the playing field. And I think in a sport, to reach the top professional level I think it needs to happen. I don't know man. That's a tough one. I've got real mixed emotions about that.

Glenn: How do you go about breaking down a lake in two and a half days that you have absolutely no experience on?

Mike: Man. That's a hard thing to do. I tell you, a lot of it for me is research. Stuff you can do before you ever get to the fishery. You know, I'm real big on doing research, historical research, doing web searches, back issues of magazines, trying to find out some background on the fishery, that's part of it. The next thing is buying maps in advance, getting a look at the lake before you ever get there and then what you could do with that is you can guesstimate where the fish are going to be. And really what I'm talking about is seasonal pattern. If you know the general seasonal pattern, what the seasonal pattern will be you can kind of break that lake down, at least in half before you get there. Those are some of the things I do to try to figure it out.

Glenn: What do you feel is your biggest mistake as a pro angler?

Mike: Not fishing the moment. You know I talk about it all the time, but our human nature is to go back to a spot over and over. A spot we've caught them at our whole lives or a place we caught them in practice two days ago. You've got to learn to fish instinctive. We were talking about fun fishing earlier, if you could learn to fun fish every time you go out, that would really help you to become a totally instinctive fisherman and fish the moment every time. It sounds easy but it's a hard thing to do.

Glenn: Now Mike, where do you think you're going to be in 20 years?

Mike: Oh man. That's a hard question too. I don't know. I really don't know, but I can tell you that I hope that I'm fishing. Whether it's tournament fishing or whether it's a TV show working somewhere in the industry. This is what I really love to do. So, I hope I'm fishing.

Glenn: Then we came upon a log jam that blocked the entrance into a small bay. What Mike does next is unbelievable. Yeah. He's fishing over that pile of logs. Now at this moment I'm thinking to myself, "What happens if he catches one? I really got to see this." Come on Mike. Just catch one. Seriously, if you would have caught a four pounder over that log . . .

Mike: That would have been awesome.

Glenn: Do you think you could have got him over?

Mike: I would have just kept winding as hard as I could. Wind, wind, wind, wind.

Glenn: You're probably wondering by now if Mike caught any fish, it was a slow day fishing no doubt, but he did manage catch a few but it seemed as though he do it only when I happened to have the camera turned off. So I only have a few catches on tape and those are just as he gets them into the boat but here are the best two.

Mike: This is the kind I was looking for, I wanted one bite, and is all I wanted. That's a good fish right there, about a three pounder. That's a good one, look at him, you think he wanted that thing? That's a good fish, nice fat fish. Right there, right on that channel ledge, I already got a waypoint there, we'll put another one there. He come off too, he come off a little bit. Not right on that stem edge but out on kind of these harder sticks. That's good, that's a good bite. That's the kind right there.

That's the kind that's going to win the Classic right there man. Yeah. All right. Look how shallow that fish was right up on this laydown, horizontal laydown. Unbelievable. Unbelievable how shallow that fish was. Got to be wood though. Second one that came off wood. Fished through all them pad stems and never going to bite. Get to a piece of wood and got a fish.

How about that? How about that? How about that! Now I just need to find about 10 more logs like that.