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New-school fishing champ makes waves

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Meet Mike Iaconelli. Not your everyday bass-fishing champion, “Ike” is from New Jersey, not somewhere in the South, and he listens to rap music, not Country.

Even though Iaconelli has won only the 2003 Bassmaster Classic and an assortment of other prizes and sponsorships, he threatens to become the Tiger Woods of fishing and blast the sport beyond its staid, rural roots.

He’s a cocksure, fist-pumping showman who wears tattoos and whoops for the camera. A guy with the bravado, says Field & Stream, “that a lot of us don’t like to see in our bass champions.”

Here’s what makes Ike a leader:
  • He has vision. Iaconelli wants to revolutionize televised fishing, elevating it to the popularity level of golf or baseball, with major sponsors such as McDonald’s and Pfizer, and a draft system to attract young talent.

  • He’s passionate. Hitting a four-pound bass, he yells, “That’s what I’m talking about! That’s what I’m talking about!” His explosiveness is called “going Ike.”

  • He’s persistent. “If you’re down to the last five minutes” of a competition, he says, “you’ve got to fish like you’re going to catch a six-pounder on your next cast.”

    Landing a bass with five minutes to go in a recent competition, Iaconelli falls on his back, hollering, “Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!”

  • He’s no dummy. He graduated at the top of his class in college, majoring in advertising and public relations. He’s also studied the history of pro sports in America.

  • He stirs strong feelings. Among traditionalists, Iaconelli is as hated as the brash Cassius Clay and John McEnroe were in their sports early on. But he also may be as magnetic. Either way, he’s worth watching.
— Adapted from “The Bass Punk,” Bill Heavey, Field & Stream.

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