Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 08/10/2014

Story by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac

PHILADELPHIA, PA – There was little doubt heading into the Elite Series tournament on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this week that one of the anglers weighing-in on the final day of competition would be Mike Iaconelli.  

The New Jersey pro struggled through the 2014 Elite Series season, notching just two Top 50 finishes through the first five regular season tournaments.  That’s a distant memory now, as Ike dominated this week’s tournament on the Delaware after taking the lead from Boy Duckett on the second day of competition and never looking back.  

Iaconelli’s winning weight of 47-14 outdistanced the weight of 2nd place finisher, Chris Lane, by 8-pounds.  

While Ike tasted victory at the 2013 Northern Open on Lake Erie and the 2009 Post Season tournament on Lake Jordan (where there were just 11 other competitors), it’s his first Elite Series victory since 2006 when he won on Lake Guntersville.  With the win, Iaconelli is now qualified for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic and pushes his streak of consecutive Classics to 14, dating back to 2002.  

Chris Lane did all that he could to make things interesting on Sunday, but even with a final day limit weighing 12-14 to boost his final weight to 39-14 (2nd place), it wasn’t enough to put a scare in the Philly crowd that started the Iaconelli victory party at Penn’s Landing on the banks of the Delaware even before the first fish hit the scales.  

Oklahoma’s Jason Christie backed up a 10-11 performance on Saturday with another solid 10-14 limit on Sunday to finish in 3rd place with a total weight of 39-1, and Kevin Short's 11-0 limit gave him a total weight of 39-0, which resulted in a 4th place finish.  Shaw Grigsby rounded out the Top 5 with 36-15.  

In total, five of the remaining 12 anglers brought a five bass limit to the scales on Sunday, and all 12 weighed-in at least one bass.  

In the Toyota Angler Of the Year race, Greg Hackney will head to Cayuga Lake in a week holding a one point lead over reigning TAOY, Aaron Martens.  While much of the attention was on Iaconelli throughout the event, Hackney survived the stingy Delaware River and turned in a 48th place performance to take over the TAOY lead.  

After four events, it appeared as though Mark Davis was going to pull away with the points title, but that lead is now a distant memory.  Davis is now in 7th place, 31 points behind Hackney.  With just one regular season tournament left on the schedule and the Top 50 AOY tournament next month in Michigan, there are a handful of TAOY hopefuls.  14 anglers are within 63 points of the Angler Of the Year leader.  

In the Rookie Of the Year race, Jacob Powroznik exits the week atop the stacked field of designated “rookies” with a 20 point lead over Chad Morgenthaler.  

Tournament: Bassmaster Elite Series (Stop #6)
Location: Delaware River – Philadelphia, PA
Winner: Mike Iaconelli (47-14)
2nd Place: Chris Lane (39-14)
Total weight separating 1st from 2nd Place: 8-0

1st Place: Mike Iaconelli (47-14)
Iaconelli on Friday on the Delaware River:
“It was a struggle.  With the super moon, I made the decision to start on the main river and fish the flats.  That was my low water deal, and I went to three of my main deals and never had a bite.  I immediately made a decision to go in the creeks, and when they get low, (the fish) get on targets and they’re easier to pinpoint.  I dropped my trolling motor, made two casts, and caught a 3 ½ pounder.  That was really key.  I thought that was telling me to stay in the creeks, but an hour later I hadn’t had another bite.

“I went back out to the main river and on the first hard dock that I pulled up on I caught a 2 ½ pounder.  After an hour-and-a-half, I hadn’t had another bite on the main river.  It was the kind of day where I had to scrap.  I ended up picking one up on my mid-tide barge, and I made a gamble and went back in a creek and fished a bridge area and caught one…but then it died.  

“I looked at my tide sheet, and it said ‘1:48 - outgoing tide at Woodbury.’  I was fishing the Woodbury area, and at 1:48, I switched from my main river stuff and I went to my drains.  I caught two keepers in the last hour.  I had six keeper bites all day.”  

Iaconelli on his how his practice went leading into the first day of the tournament:
“Practice for me was about trying to get a handle on what the bulk of fish were doing.  Usually, they’re doing one thing on the Delaware River like all on the main river, in the creeks, or in backwaters.  Unfortunately, I discovered that they were scattered and they weren’t all in one place.  That told me that I needed to fish around and not eliminate any options.  

Iaconelli on his primary area during the tournament:
“I essentially fished from the Walt Whitman Bridge to the Commodore Barry Bridge.  That area of the river is where I grew up and it’s where most of my history is.  The nice thing there was that if I was in a creek and they stopped biting, I could go to the main river and have 50 spots.  If I was on the main river and they stopped biting, I had 20 drains.  Unlike up north where you have to fish a spot and then run 20 miles to fish another spot, everything down there was within a 10 or 15 mile range. It allowed me to maximize my time.”

Iaconelli on how he caught his fish on high tide fishing concrete drains at the mouth of tidal ponds while most of the other competitors struggled:
“Idling in, it’s a foot to a foot-and-a-half deep, but once you get to the drains, it is 6- to 8-feet deep. There are resident fish that live there.  They go in and out of the drains and they go into the tidal ponds and come back out.  They just live there.  The drains are about as big as a livewell tub and they are square concrete drains with metal grates across them.  A lot of my fish actually came from inside the grates – they’re smart fish. The tidal ponds all have hydrilla and they all have bait.  A lot of the tidal ponds bordered the Philadelphia International Airport, so they don’t get any pressure.  These are unpressured fish and a lot of people don’t know the drains are there.  That was my diamond in the rough for high water this week.”  

Iaconelli’s primary baits and equipment:
- ½ oz. finesse jig in brown/purple (Missile Jigs prototype)
- Berkley PowerBait Chigger Chunk in Green Pumpkin (jig trailer)  
- Berkley Havoc Pit Boss in Okeechobee Craw (Texas-rigged)  
- 3/8 oz. Tungsten VMC weight
- 5/0 VMC flipping hook
- 6.25” Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper in Junebug (fished on jighead)  
- 3/16 oz. VMC jighead
- Molix Lover (white) vibrating jig
- 20 lb. test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line (fished with Pit Boss and jig)
- 17 lb. test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line (fished with vibrating jig)
- 7’ Medium-Heavy Abu Garcia Veritas 2.0 rod (fished with Pitt Boss)
- 7’ Medium-Heavy Abu Garcia Veracity rod (fished with jig)
- 7.1:1 Abu Garcia MGX reel  

Iaconelli on his baits and equipment:
“I used four baits this week, but two were my main baits.  I probably caught 80% of my fish on a 1/2 oz. small profile finesse jig and (Texas-rigged) Pit Boss.  

“It’s a jig that I’m working on with John Crews. He’s expanding his company to Missile Jigs, and this is a small jig for it to weigh a ½ oz.  Over the years fishing on this river, I’ve learned that smaller is better. The trailer on the jig (Chigger Chunk) was very important.  It has a lot of action and movement.  The other 20% of my fish came on a shaky head and a vibration jig called a Molix Lover.”   

Iaconelli on what surprised him most this week on the Delaware:
“I think that some of the weights surprised me.  I expected 11- and 12-pound (limits), but Boyd (Duckett’s) bag (16-14 on Day One) was phenomenal.  My 15-pound bag (Day Two) was also phenomenal.  We also saw some really big smallmouth, so there were some surprises.  It’s a good river but it’s a challenging river.  If we had the right tides in this event, you would have seen higher weights.”  

Iaconelli on his true expectations for this tournament, despite saying that he would be happy with a Top 20 finish before the tournament started:
“I absolutely would not have been happy (without a win).  I’ve had a lot of 2nd, 3rd, 10th, and 20th place finishes and you’re never happy unless you win.  I think that you have to say that to yourself mentally to prepare yourself incase (the win) doesn’t happen – but I wouldn’t have been happy.”  

Iaconelli on qualifying for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic with his victory:
“It feels great because I’ve sucked so badly this year.  Actually, the last two years I’ve had really difficult years.  This is a great feeling to know that the Classic is sewn up.  It lets me take my foot off the gas a little bit for the next two events.  Having a Classic berth is a very important thing – I didn’t want to miss one.”

Iaconelli on winning in front of a hometown crowd:
“It’s unbelievable.  It’s a great feeling.  With all these fans, friends, and family – it’s just unbelievable.  Super."  

2nd Place: Chris Lane (10-9, 7-0, 9-7, 12-14: 39-14)
Lane on his overall thoughts on the final day weigh-in and his week on the Delaware River:
“To be a part of something like this makes you hungry for another win.  This one is a little different because you are fishing against a guy who knows this river better than any other angler on tour.  I go out there and leave everything I have on the water, so finishing second here isn't a worry at all for me.

“Looking at AOY points, I am obviously happy with how things went here this week and am looking forward to heading up north and see if we can't get us another win.  Even though I went out today with the intention to win, and I couldn't be happier about the way it turned out."

Lane on his overall performance and primary pattern on the Delaware River:
"I knew I wasn't going to get many bites this week, but the ones I was catching were good ones.  I ended up finding my fish in the grass, so I was able to fish vegetation just like I used to back in Florida.  

“The key was the low tide for me all week long, I was never able to figure out how to catch them on the high tide and I think that is critical to be able win on a fishery like this.  I fished a ton of lily pads trying to figure them out also, but was never able to get that going.  I mixed it up this week with a variety of different baits.  When you come to a place like this you have so many different scenarios, so you just have to change it up and stay versatile every single day."

Lanes' primary baits and equipment:
- Drop-shot with assorted plastics
- Swimming Frog
- Luck “E” Strike Buzzbait  
- 7.9:1 Abu Garcia Revo MGX
- 7’2” All Star Rods ASL
- 50 lb. test Stren braid
- 6 lb. test Stren 100% Fluorocarbon (drop-shot)  
- 7’6” All Star ASL Drop Shot rod  
- Abu Garcia SX10 Spinning Reel  

Lane on his baits and equipment:
“I really can’t pinpoint one specific lure or technique that I used for the majority of the week.  I really caught fish on just about everything and kept switching it up every day.”  

3rd Place: Jason Christie (9-12, 7-12, 10-11, 10-14: 39-1)
Christie on his primary pattern:
“There was about a two hour window each day where the fish would eat a buzzbait.  The key was keeping the bank really close to me and literally covering miles of water.  I concentrated on one creek I found during practice, and just made the most of it.  
“Honestly, I really just tried to fish like I would fish under flooded conditions at home when the tide was high, and that really helped me here this week."

Christie on his final day on the Delaware River:
"I actually had more bites today than I did all week.  I probably had 15 bites today, which is the best day I have had so far.  I really wish I could have had more time to figure this place out, because there was probably a better creek than the one I was fishing.  But in a scenario like this you just have to take what you have found and kind of take off with it."
Christie's primary baits:
-1/2 Oz. BOOYAH Buzzbait
-BOOYAH Spinnerbait

4th Place: Kevin Short (11-6, 10-1, 6-9, 11-0: 39-0)
Short on his primary pattern:
“I was targeting stuff that was super, super thick in one little area in the back of a creek..  The better fish I caught were really buried up in that cover.  Whether it was to stay out of that current or for shade, I am not sure, but that was the key.  I was basically just fishing a jig, and a Texas-rigged Zoom Z-Hog.  It was really simple river fishing for me."

Short on his key to success on the Delaware River this week:
"I would say it was finding an area and sticking with it.  Whether it was low tide or high tide, I committed to an area and just tried to figure it out rather than moving around.  Concentrating on wood was also a key for me here this week as well.  Really finding the isolated stuff that was a little different was the deal.  It didn't have to be that much different, but it seemed like the key was the water depth for me."
Short's primary baits:
-Zoom Z-Hog Jr (Watermelon Candy)
-Jewel Magnum Casting Jig 9/16 Oz. (Texas Craw)
-1/4 Oz. Strike King Tungsten Weight
-Mustad Extreme Grip Pin Hook 2/0
-Vicious Pro Elite Fluorocarbon 17 lb. test and 25 lb. test     

5th Place: Shaw Grigsby (4-2, 14-15, 9-0, 8-14: 36-15)
Grigsby on his overall performance:
“I just messed up on Day One, and that really hurt me.  I fished the same fish each day and basically the same pattern as well.  I made a small rigging adjustment after I lost several fish on the first day to solve that issue.  I was pegging my slip sinker and I realized that it was causing me to lose the fish, and by not pegging it I was also getting more bites."

Grigsby's primary pattern and thoughts on his big second day:
“It was pretty basic for me this week.  I was just keeping my nose to the grindstone, and concentrating on wood the entire tournament.  You know, the second day was just one of those deals where everything went right for me.  I pulled in on my first spot and caught three off of one tree, and then caught another one over three on the way in. I think I ended up with two that size on that day, and anytime you catch fish like that here it is a really big deal."

Grigsby's primary baits and equipment:
-Strike King Rage Bug
-5/16 Oz. Strike King Tungsten Weight
-Trokar TK130 7/0 Flippin' Hook
-Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon 15 LB & 17 LB
-Seaguar AbrazX Fluorocarbon 15 LB & 17 LB

6th Place: Skeet Reese (7-9, 6-12, 13-3, 7-3: 34-11)
Reese on his overall thoughts about the event:
“I knew this was going to be a tough tournament for me, and after the way my practice went, to be on stage for the final day, I never would have expected that.  It is my style of fishing and I do understand how things are supposed to work on a tidal fishery.  Basically, I didn't know the river well enough to run the tides, so my strategy was to just get in an area that had some fish in it and just wait it out until they would bite."

Reese on his primary pattern:
“I rotated between three baits this week here on the Delaware.  The funny thing was that I caught fish on all stages of the tide.  The fish were just extremely random, but I was targeting wood and that is where I caught all my fish."

Reese on the Philadelphia crowds:
"This is absolutely not the biggest crowd we have ever had, but by far this is the loudest crowd we have ever had.  My hat goes off to the Philly fans - they are second to none."

Reese’s primary baits and equipment:
-Berkley Havoc Pit Boss (Black/Blue Fleck)
-3/8 Oz. Tungsten Weight
-Black/Blue unnamed tube
- 20 lb. test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon
-5/8 Oz. LuckyCraft Spinnerbait (modified blades)


PlaceNameDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Total FishTotal Weight
1 Michael Iaconelli 5 9- 2 5 15- 1 5 12-13 5 10-14 20 47-14
2 Chris Lane 5 10- 9 3 7- 0 5 9- 7 5 12-14 18 39-14
3 Jason Christie 5 9-12 3 7-12 5 10-11 5 10-14 18 39- 1
4 Kevin Short 5 11- 6 5 10- 1 4 6- 9 5 11- 0 19 39- 0
5 Shaw Grigsby 3 4- 2 5 14-15 4 9- 0 4 8-14 16 36-15
6 Skeet Reese 4 7- 9 5 6-12 5 13- 3 5 7- 3 19 34-11
7 Bill Lowen 5 11- 1 5 10-12 5 8-10 3 3- 9 18 34- 0
8 Boyd Duckett 5 16-14 3 6- 7 1 1-12 4 8- 6 13 33- 7
9 Scott Rook 5 10-15 5 9-13 5 8-14 1 2-14 16 32- 8
10 Byron Velvick 4 10- 5 5 7-15 3 8- 2 2 5- 2 14 31- 8
11 John Crews 5 9-13 5 11-14 2 3- 9 3 6- 1 15 31- 5
12 Chad Pipkens 5 11- 4 4 7- 2 5 8- 0 3 4- 3 17 30- 9