(Editor's note: Here's a short feature on Mike Iaconelli from industry rep Alan McGuckin, who's on-site at Table Rock this week.)
Locals proudly call this cedar-lined, 43,100-acre reservoir in the Ozarks “The Rock." For Mike Iaconelli, it sets the stage for an unavoidable pun.
After a 75th-place finish at Lake Seminole and a 64th on the St. Johns River, he finds himself between “The Rock” and a hard place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings as he and the other Elite Series pros practice on Table Rock today.
Will this be the tournament where Ike turns around his 2014 season?
“I’ve had good finishes here and I’ve had bad finishes here, but most importantly this lake holds one of the greatest memories of my career and life, because this is where we were the day I won the 2006 Angler of the Year title,” he reflected.
So leveraged by positive memories delivered here 8 years ago, Iaconelli is breaking “The Rock” into thirds.
“I’ll practice the lower end one day, mid-lake the next and the upper end as well until I get a feel for where I’m getting the most bites and gaining the most confidence,” he said of an approach that Rick Clunn has long professed to figuring out any large reservoir, and which Iaconelli now teaches in the Bass University courses he hosts.
“The cool thing about Table Rock is that it patterns really well, so if you figure something out in practice, you can usually apply it throughout the competition days."
He’s guessing he’ll need an average of 15 pounds a day to make the Top 12 cut.
“It’s early April, but it’s been such a harsh winter that the water temps are still in the 40s and nature is behind its normal schedule, so I’ll approach this more as a pre-spawn tournament than the bed-fishing tournament it might normally be."
With bed-fishing mostly ruled out, Iaconelli says he’ll rely on Rapala’s DT crankbaits, as well as a no-longer made, hard to get series of vintage Wiggle Warts that sell on eBay for about $50 a piece, plus a Berkley Beat Shad swimbait, and of course, the shaky-head that has served as a productive security blanket over the many successful years of his pro career.
Perhaps the most important tool he’ll have onboard this week will be a list of notes he’s written to himself with a Sharpie and taped to the inside of his windshield – mental reminders to not rule out anything, to aggressively fish everything the day will allow and to never give up, especially when caught between a rock and a hard place.