MIKE IACONELLI LEADS DAY ONE AT CHICKAMAUGA WITH 25-12
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush
Dayton, TN - Day One of BASSfest on Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga was a case of the haves and the have-nots. As predicted, weights towards the top of the leaderboard were solid, with three anglers cracking the 24-pound mark and 40 of the 140 competitors bringing at least 15-pounds to the scales.
Leading the way was Mike Iaconelli, who weighed-in a 25-12 limit of Chickamauga largemouth that he caught during an hour long flurry. After a subpar start to the season, Iaconelli appears to be back in form after posting a 6th place finish at the last Elite Series tournament on Dardanelle in May.
Chasing Iaconelli is another angler who is fishing his way through an uncharacteristically poor season. Having missed the Top 50 cut in four of the first six Elite Series tournaments, Edwin Evers weighed-in a limit worth 24-3 on Wednesday to land in 2nd place. Like Ike, Evers did all of his damage on Chickamauga in the span of less than an hour.
Just 2-ounces behind Evers is fellow Oklahoman Tommy Biffle, who finished the day with an even 24-0 limit that was anchored by the biggest bass of the day, an 8-6 kicker.
Takahiro Omori landed in 4th with 22-14, and Kevin VanDam rounded out the Top 5 with a limit weighing 22-9.
At the other end of the spectrum, 56 of the 140 competitors failed to reach the 10-pound mark on Wednesday. Out of the 33 Bassmaster Open Anglers who are competing this week, seven are currently inside the Top 50 cut, led by Jacob Wheeler who finished the day in 7th place with 22-6.
The entire field will compete tomorrow on Chickamauga, and the Top 50 after Thursday will have the day off on Friday to participate in BASSfest activities with the fans. The remaining 90 angers will compete on Friday on Nickajack Lake in the last chance qualifier. The top 10 from Nickajack will rejoin the Top 50 on Saturday for the third round of competition on Chickamauga.
Tournament: Bassmaster Elite Series - BASSfest
Location: Lake Chickamauga – Dayton, Tennessee
Day One Leader: Mike Iaconelli (25-12)
50th Place: (Tie) Hank Cherry (13-13), Jared Lintner (13-13)
Total weight separating 1st from 12th Place: 5-6
1st Place: Mike Iaconelli (25-12)
Iaconelli on how his day went down on Chickamauga:
“There are so many good schools out here, and there are probably a dozen megaschools where you pull up and your graph just lights up – it’s ridiculous. It looks like a video game, but the real key is (figuring out) how to get those fish to bite.
“I had five schools this morning, and they were all found by other boats, so I have nothing to myself and there are no secrets. On one of those schools, I was able to figure out how to make one bite. When you get one bite, it’s like a domino effect a lot of the time and it activates the rest of the fish in that school.
“I don’t want to call it luck, because I hate to use that word in this sport, but it’s timing and my timing was right today. When I pulled up and figured out how to make one bite, the rest of the school got hungry and ignited. If you take away that one hour, I had a really tough day.”
Iaconelli on his expectations heading into the day:
“I don’t want to call it a horrendous practice, but I had a tough practice. Seeing (the bass) and catching them are two different things. You can ask all these other guys, and they’ve all found amazing, winning schools of fish, but figuring out how to get them to bite is totally different. The thing that gives me confidence is that I was able to figure out how to get them to bite.
“If you can ignite the school with that first bite, a lot of the times it’s just magic, and I knew that. I was fishing like a maniac because I knew that every minute counted.”
Iaconelli in getting dialed in throughout the day on Wednesday:
“At one point today I think that I had about 16 or 17 different rods on my front deck. Once I figured them out, I was able to catch them on three baits really well.
Iaconelli on how his opening round limit will affect how he fishes the rest of the week:
“I’m going to keep swinging, and I practiced like that for this tournament. As tough as it was in practice, I never went shallow. I forced myself to stay out because I knew that the winner would come from out there. This is pretty much the first time that I’ve been able to get out and catch fish. Besides a day on Dardanelle, this was the first magical day that I’ve had all year.”
2nd Place: Edwin Evers (24-3)
Evers on his overall day on Chickamauga:
“I only caught six keepers today, and they all came within the span of less than an hour. I basically figured out one deal and when the fish pulled up, I caught them pretty quickly. I actually caught my fish off a spot that I was fishing for the third time today. I didn’t a single bite there the first two times that I fished it during the day.
“It was really a grind out there. I fished every area where I’d caught a bass and I only had one 2 ½-pounder by noon. It would have been a brutal day if I hadn’t hit that school of fish.”
Evers on the importance of timing:
“I think that this whole thing is strictly a timing deal mixed in with a little bit of luck. I was struggling so bad out there that I really had to fight the urge to go to the bank just to catch a couple of fish. I don’t have any magic baits or any magic spots. I think that you can catch fish like that off any spot if you can pull up and trigger one to bite."
Evers on what he thinks it will take to remain in contention the rest of the week on Chickamauga:
“I could be way off on this, but I think that the weights will start to tail off later in the week. Even when there are fewer competitors out there, the thing about it is that we’ll add a lot of local traffic and spectators. Those spots only have so many fish on them. When I caught my fish, I was on a spot by myself, but I know that there are other boats that had fished the area as well.”
Evers on his stress level throughout the day:
“It’s always a fun day when I get to go fishing and do what I love, but as far as not getting many bites before noon, it was stressful. I wanted to beat myself over the head with a hammer. As it turned out, that’s probably the most weight that I’ve ever caught in my career in such a short amount of time.”
3rd Place: Tommy Biffle (24-1)
Biffle on his overall day on Chickamauga:
“I’m doing something different than the rest of (the field) and it’s working pretty well. I didn’t get a lot of bites, and I thought that I’d get a lot more bites, but I just don’t think they were biting very well today. I lost one 5-pounder late this afternoon that I would have liked to have because it would have given me probably 2-pounds more weight. I probably culled four or five times today, but I thought that I would catch more than that.”
Biffle on how his 8+ pound kicker settled him down on Wednesday:
“That was the second fish of the day, so it really let me roam around. It seemed like every time I caught one it was a good one. I probably didn’t have a limit until around 11:30. When I caught that fish, I was pretty close to one of the other guys who had been fishing there. We kind of met and then I caught that one. He started throwing over there and I told him, ‘It’s done gone.’ There are just people milling around and it’s a big area, so it’s not like a specific spot or anything.”
Biffle on his expectations for Thursday:
“The fish need to be grouped up a little bit better. I think that the cloudy and rainy weather has them scattered everywhere. I think that the current would help the guys fishing out on the river. I have two or three spots out there where I didn’t fish today and I feel like I can catch them. The problem is you don’t know who had been there or if anyone has already caught them.”
DAY ONE STANDINGS