IKE OWNS DAY 1 - CHAPMAN IN CONTROL OF AOY
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush
Brewerton, NY - Through the first seven Elite Series tournaments of the 2012 Elite Series season, Mike Iaconelli wallowed in what he described as “mediocre finishes.”
He’d cashed just four checks, and only once finished inside the top 20 with a 19th place finish on Bull Shoals Lake back in March. As a result, the New Jersey pro, who hasn’t missed the Bassmaster Classic since 2001, entered the final regular season tournament of the 2012 season in serious danger of missing the big dance for the first time in over a decade.
Iaconelli all but ensured his spot in the 2013 Grand Classic on Thursday in New York after putting together a staggering limit of Oneida Lake largemouth and smallmouth bass weighing 20-3 to take a commanding lead over 2nd place finisher, Brent Chapman, who brought in a limit weighing 16-12 and widened his Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year lead to 40 points over Todd Faircloth.
A relieved Iaconelli said that his effort on Thursday was just what the doctor ordered to remedy an up and down season. “There were a lot of things going through my mind during the three days of practice, and at the top of that list was being on the bubble for (making the) Classic. I’ve had one of those years that has been riddled with mediocre finishes, and I can’t put my finger on why,” he explained.
He said that his impressive limit on Thursday was a result of putting together all of the subtle clues that he picked up during his time on the water at Oneida Lake. “Things just started happening,” said Iaconelli. “Everything that I did was magic.”
At one point in the day, Iaconelli was putting a keeper in the livewell when a giant school of bass started busting on the surface. He quickly picked up a rod and proceeded to catch them “at will.” At another point in the day, Iaconelli said that he pulled up to a foot-long piece of shallow cover and caught a five-and-a-half pounder.
“My game plan was to smallmouth fish until I had about 13 ½ pounds,” said Iaconelli. “I had that at around 11:00, so I went up and largemouth fished. I didn’t catch as many, but I was able to upgrade all but one of the smallmouth. It’s important at Oneida to have a few big green ones.”
Culling through 20 keepers over the course of the day, Iaconelli said that he was shocked at the number of keepers that he landed considering that in two-and-a-half days of practice, he had just 15 keepers. “I went out and trumped that in one day. It’s magic when that happens, but it doesn’t happen a lot,” he stated.
2nd Place: Brent Chapman (16-12)
Kansas’ Brent Chapman squashed any possibility of Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year jitters rather quickly on Thursday morning. With a solid limit of smallmouth in the boat early, Chapman consistently upgrade to the tune of 16-12. As a result, he widened his gap substantially in the TTAOY race, pulling 40 points ahead of Todd Faircloth and 51 points ahead of Terry Scroggins, who moved into 3rd in the TTAOY standings with a 14th place finish on Thursday.
“I’m not as anxious or nervous now,” he admitted. “At least I have a clue what to do tomorrow and I have a little bit of a cushion. If I can go out and catch another 15 or 16 pounds tomorrow, we’ll really be sitting good.”
Like Iaconelli, Chapman said that his practice on Oneida was anything but stellar. “I literally had one bite in practice yesterday, and only had five or six bites the day before. They were very scattered and I didn’t find anything overly exciting.”
Rather than rolling the dice on an unproven pattern, Chapman stuck to his guns and relied on water that he had found success on during his pre-practice scouting trip to Oneida over a month ago. “Coming up to pre-practice really helped for sure,” he stated.
He also took advantage of a valuable lesson that he learned when he won earlier this season on Toledo Bend. “At Toledo Bend, it was all about timing,” he explained. “That’s what it is right now. If we could get some wind, the fish would bite a lot better. The bluebird skies and no wind is making it tough.”
Closing in on the TTAOY title, Chapman said that he knew each bite on Thursday drew him closer to his goal. “I knew that I was building a cushion with every fish that I put in the boat. I’m still shocked at how good the weights are today.”
3rd Place: J Todd Tucker
Georgia’s J Todd Tucker entered the week as a bubble boy. With a good finish on Oneida, he would punch his ticket to the Grand Classic, but if he slipped, he’d be watching from the sidelines. With a limit weighing 16-6, Tucker rose to the challenge under the sunny New York skies and moved up to 21st in the TTAOY standings.
“I had two largemouth and three smallmouth today,” said Tucker. “I’m catching some really big smallmouth, so if I can get five of them tomorrow, I should have around 15 pounds. I’m going to stay on that school of fish tomorrow because it seems to be the right school,” he stated.
Battling boat traffic throughout the day, Tucker said that he’s confident about Friday on Oneida. “I’ve got them figured out, dialed in, and I know how to make them bite in the morning and the afternoon. The fish are everywhere out there because you can see them busting and schooling. The main thing is that you have to keep your bait in the right strike zone.”
While many anglers prognosticated that the overall winning weight would be lower this year than in past years, Tucker said that he wouldn’t be surprised to see the winner surpass the weight that it has taken to win in previous Oneida tournaments. “All these fish seem to be about the same size. They’re really healthy and are all quality fish that seem to consistently be about 3 pounders,” he explained.
“I’m fishing the same area as Randy Howell and Brent Chapman, and we all seem to be on good fish. We are all within sight of each other, but we are fishing different spots. The last thing that you want to do is be on the same fish as a guy who has a chance to win Angler Of the Year, so I’m glad that I’ve got a little spot out there that he’s not fishing.”
4th Place (Tie): Clark Reehm (15-15)
While Iaconelli and Tucker spent Thursday battling for a Classic berth and Chapman worked towards his goal of an Angler Of the Year title, Clark Reehm spent the day looking to end his season on a high note.
With just one check under his belt in the 2012 season, Reehm stated after the second day of practice that he thought a 15-pound limit was well within the realm of possibility if he could just get five keeper bites. Those bites materialized, and with a limit weighing 15-15, he finished the day in a tie for 4th place with David Walker.
“It got awfully crowded on the honey hole today,” said Reehm. “There’s just a lot of fish in the area, but I think that it will last. There are some birds working early in the morning and I haven’t seen that before. The sweet spot is about a quarter mile long, but the entire area is about a mile long. There are just fish pulling in and out throughout the day.”
Even though he jumped off a 4 pound smallmouth, Reehm said that he caught a “gift” fish – a 5 pound largemouth. “I’ve seen some bigger fish in the area following baits or just cruising,” he said. “The size is random, and the smallmouth are really temperamental. The key is that there are some big largemouth that are mixed in.”
Fishing moving baits and covering water, Reehm said that although he has some secondary water, he’s planning on “hammering it out” on his primary water. “I’d just be happy to get a check this week,” said Reehm. We’re at the end of the year right now and it’s been a bad year for Clark,” he concluded with a chuckle.
4th Place (Tie): David Walker (15-15)
With a strong start on Thursday, it appears as though Tennessee’s David Walker is well on his way to notching his seventh top 30 finish this year in Elite Series competition. Walker’s 15-15 limit also vaulted him into 7th place in the TTAOY standings on Thursday, giving him an automatic invitation to Toyota All-Star week in September if he can hold his position in the top eight.
“I am so excited,” said Walker. “I had three days of misery during practice. A lot of the stuff looks the same, but the fish were just acting totally differently. I spent most of the time just trying to figure out what was going wrong.”
Walker, who planned on fishing for smallmouth, said that he was forced to look for largemouth when his smallmouth bite didn’t pan out. “I caught a few during practice yesterday, and I was just praying that it would be good today. I started catching them right off the bat and I caught a quick limit off of my first spot.”
Culling through a dozen keepers, Walker said that he only boated two smallmouth on Thursday. “Right now, this feels like a breath of fresh air because it was like I was sitting in a parking lot with the windows rolled up during practice,” he concluded.
DAY 1 STANDINGS