2003 CLASSIC CHAMP HAS OWN STYLE
Most kids growing up in South Jersey dream of throwing a shutout for the Phillies, catching a touchdown pass for the Eagles or scoring a hat-trick for the Flyers. There are also those who dream of playing in the world cup or the NBA finals. Very few dream of hoisting a Bassmaster Classic trophy. Mike Iaconelli, known by most as "Ike", had that dream. Ike grew up with his mom and his extended family. They all enjoyed summer vacations in the Poconos where Ike was first introduced to fishing- mostly trout and panfish at first. He caught his first largemouth bass at age twelve using a Floating Rapala, and he has been hooked on bass ever since.
After high school, Ike founded "Top Rod Bassmasters", which became his entrée into competitive fishing. His club competed in inter-club tournaments in which he participated for three years before making a transition to pro-am circuits. His first big tournament was the North Carolina Top 100 held on Lake Norman where he competed against widely known fisherman like Tommy Biffle, David Fritts and Gary Klein. In 1994, he again fished the North Carolina Top 100 on Norman where he won his first bass boat. The win spurred him to go full time on the Red Man and
B.A.S.S. Federation trails. In 1999, Iaconelli qualified for the Bassmaster Federation Nationals on the Red River and went on to win that event which qualified him for a 1999 Bassmaster Classic berth.
The 1999 Bassmaster Classic was held on the Louisiana Delta in New Orleans. At that Classic, the rookie caught a three-day total of 39-12 netting him a sixth-place finish and some national notice. From that finish, Ike landed sponsorships from Dick's Sporting Goods and Daiwa. Later that same year, Ike collected his first victory in the professional ranks by winning the Bassmaster Vermont Top 150 on Lake Champlain weighing over 61 lbs. The next year he joined the full-time professional ranks and again qualified for the Classic this time on Lake Michigan in Chicago where he again finished among the top anglers. In 2002, Iaconelli started the season with a victory on Lake Seminole, his first Tour level win. After a Top 10 finish at the B.A.S.S. Invitational on Lake Ontario, he qualified for the 2003 Bassmaster Classic, again on the Louisiana Delta, an event that would change his life forever.
During practice for the 2003 Classic, he traveled down to the Venice where he found a backwater pond nicknamed "the Heart". On Day One of the Classic, Ike caught over 15 lbs. there putting him in second-place, a little over a pound behind leader Mark Menendez. On Day Two Ike vaulted into first-place with a limit weighing 11- 14. On Day Three, he weighed 10 -14, enough to lock up his first Bassmaster Classic with a 3-day total of 37-14. Ike’s winning catch has become an iconic “replay” on TV and live stream coverages ever since as Ike yelled "Never give up! Never give up, man!" Despite some low moments along the way, Ike has not given up, and he has also been rewarded with some real highs- like his 2006 season- where despite starting the year with a career-low 51st-place finish on Lake Tohopekaliga, he went on to record a top-twenty finish in seven of the eight Elite Series events, including a victory at the Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville. This run helped him lock up the 2006 Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year award. But it was not all roses that year as the 2006 Bassmaster Classic brought ike aerator issues, two dead fish and, out of frustration, a
broken light pole which resulted in his Day Two disqualification.
Ike’s flamboyant style, including his famous break dancing, has made him a guy people either love or… well, you know. He has focused a lot of his attention on building a media presence. He co-founded The Bass University, a bass fishing education organization specializing in bass fishing seminars, online training, and on-water education, with fellow bass angler Peter Gluszek. He has had a number of television shows such as Going Ike, City Limits Fishing and others. Iaconelli hosts 'IKE LIVE!', a live stream/podcast fishing talk show that includes the top professional anglers in bass fishing, pro athletes & other fishing enthusiasts as special guests.
Ike also focuses on his charity work having established The Ike Foundation in 2014. The main goal is getting more kids involved with the sport of fishing. Ike now calls Pittsgrove NJ home, where he lives with his wife and four kids, the oldest now in college. After trying his hand at the MLF Bass Pro Tour format, Ike returned to B.A.S.S. fishing the Opens and will return to the Elite Series for 2022 where he hopes to add to his $3.3 Million in career winnings, and add to his 7 career professional wins, which not only include the 2003 Classic but also a 2014 Elite Series win on his home Delaware River in Philadelphia.