The AOY Club: Mike Iaconelli
Nov 17th, 2014 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Nov 17th, 2014 at 12:00 AM
Mike Iaconelli is by all measures one of the top anglers to ever have weighed fish at a bass tournament. Sure, the Berkley pro may be most famous for his frantic screams of ecstasy whenever he lands a bass on camera, or perhaps his slogan of “Never Give Up”. However, his real claim to fame is thanks to his ability to set the hook into enough bass to win several major tournaments including the Bassmaster Classic. Oh yeah, in 2006 Iaconelli became a member of the coveted Angler of the Year (AOY) Club taking the Bassmaster Elite Series title.
So, how did Iaconelli achieve AOY Club status in 2006? Was it fate? Was it Karma? Was it blind luck? Or, was it a determination to prove the he truly was the top dog that season? Probably a little of everything. Iaconelli had something to prove to the legions of bass fans in 2006.
Rough start at the first February Classic for Iaconelli.
“In 2006 we had the first Classic in February,” said Iaconelli. “I famously kicked my light pole while being filmed for ESPN. I was mad because my livewell had died and I didn’t want to lose fish and blow a chance to win the win Classic.
“Of course, the light pole had an American flag on it. It goes into the water and ESPN shows it over and over again. People were so mad at me. I lost a sponsor over the incident. It was embarrassing and I felt awful. The way I was treated really fired me up.
“I went to Disney World with my family after that. I calmed down and enjoyed myself. I decided to move forward and make 2006 the best year I’ve ever had. I believe the emotions I had from that Classic became the catalyst for me to win the AOY. I wouldn’t want to relive the situation again and I would handle it differently now, but things happen for a reason.”
Iaconelli didn’t play it safe in 2006.
“In our business when points and Classic berths and checks are on the line, it is instinctual to play it safe,” said Iaconelli. “You just do. Everybody does to some extent. What turns an event or a season from good to great is when you fish off the cuff. When you don’t play it safe.
“In 2006, there were 11 events on the Elite Series. I think I sight fished four or five of them. I don’t sight fish. I’m no good at it. I don’t like to do it. I seriously would just find fish during the events on beds and go catch them.
“I would be driving down the lake and decide to turn a different direction and let my instinct kick in. I just got on this roll of letting this happen. I allowed it to flow. It rarely happens for me, but when it does it really works. It happened at the Delaware River this season for me. In 2006, it happened over and over.
“It’s like you are outside of your body looking down at everything. It is like fun fishing. You allow yourself to fish in the moment and let go.
“In 2006, I was fishing out of my mind and in the moment the entire year.”