By BassFan Staff

No matter the sport, winning a large-field event as the overwhelming favorite can be an extremely difficult task. Mike Iaconelli made it look relatively easy.

The Philadelphia-born Iaconelli closed out his first regular-season Bassmaster Elite Series victory in 8 years on Sunday by pulling a 10-14 sack from the Delaware River. After a mediocre first day, he dominated the rest of the way and prevailed by 8 pounds over runner-up Chris Lane.

He'd said previously that he viewed the derby on his home water "almost like a gift." He was very appreciative of it, too, as it arrived late in the season with him sitting far below the Bassmaster Classic cutoff line in the Angler of the Year (AOY) points. His participation in next year's Classic at Lake Hartwell is now assured due to the win-and-you're-in provision.

The final weigh-in's immediate aftermath produced a scene that was unprecedented in bass fishing history as a jubilant Iaconelli carried his trophy into the midst of the massive, fired-up crowd that had chanted his nickname (Ike) all week. It was reminiscent of a "Lambeau Leap" at a Green Bay Packers game, except it lasted a lot longer and far more fans were involved.

Iaconelli, who's won both a Classic and an AOY, said the victory might've been the highlight of his career.

"I've got to tell you, it's as good as (those other accolades), if not better," he said. "It's amazing ... all of the energy, the passion, the excitement.

"Winning here in Philadelphia this week in front of these fans – I've never experienced anything like that. Ever."

Lane boxed a day-best 12-14 to finish 2nd with 39-14. Jason Christie, the top-ranked angler in the world who'll have to make do with a very short practice for this week's Forrest Wood Cup at South Carolina's Lake Murray, was next with 39-01 after a final-day sack that registered 10-14.

Kevin Short's 11-pound bag moved him up two places to 4th with a 39-00 aggregate. Shaw Grigsby completed the Top 5 with 36-14 despite an 8-14 final-day stringer that was one fish short of a limit.

Here are the totals for the remainder of the Top 12:

6. Skeet Reese: 34-11
7. Bill Lowen: 34-00
8. Boyd Duckett: 33-07
9. Scott Rook: 32-08
10. Byron Velvick: 31-08
11. John Crews: 31-05
12. Chad Pipkens: 30-09

The circuit takes this week off, but will get right back at it starting Aug. 21 for the final regular-season derby at New York's Cayuga Lake. Greg Hackney, the FLW Tour AOY in 2005, will enter that tournament with a 1-point lead in the standings over defending champion Aaron Martens.

The Top 50 in the points after Cayuga will qualify for the AOY Championship in September at Michigan's Bays de Noc.

Ike Thrilled

> Day 4: 5, 10-14 (20, 47-14)

Iaconelli was the lone angler to weigh a limit on each day of the event. He said that catching five keepers today wasn't all that easy.

B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Iaconelli (center) allowed the partisan crowd to be part of his victory celebration.

"The day never totally fell into place like the second and third days did," he said. "I just never really felt the pulse of the fish."

He spent his first 30 minutes on the main river without a bite, and then caught a 3 1/2-pounder (his best fish of the day) immediately after entering a tributary. That was his only bite in there, however, and he went back to the main channel an hour later and picked up a 2 1/2.

He didn't have a quintet in the box until 2:45 – about 45-minutes after he'd switched to a high-tide pattern.

"I don't want to say I was worried, but I wanted to catch five. I know how stingy this river can be and if somebody behind me had a banner day, they could catch back up. I never really felt good until I brought them to the scale."

He said his biggest sense of relief comes from knowing he's in next year's Classic.

"In 60th-something place, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. As far as the hometown thing, I felt like that pushed me harder this week.

"Sometimes when you're under pressure you falter and it hurts your performance. Being at home here in Philadelphia, I think it enhanced my performance."

His key bait was a prototype Missile Baits jig with a Berkley Havoc Pit Boss trailer. Full details of his winning pattern, as well as those of the other top finishers, will be published soon.

2nd: Lane's Hope was Fleeting

> Day 4: 5, 12-14 (18, 39-14)

Lane finished far behind Iaconelli in the total-weight department, but he nonetheless came within one place of his second victory of the season.

"Coming into this event, we all knew Ike was going to be tough to beat," he said. "For me, it goes back to day 2 when I only caught three fish. I knew that was going to hurt, but this is the Delaware River and anything can happen, so I just put my head down and fished as hard as I could."

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Chris Lane's day-best bag moved him up six places to second in the final standings.

His day-4 sack was topped by a 3-14 and it contained another fish that was pretty close to that mark.

"To be honest, after I caught those two, I started thinking I had a shot to win. But after we got past that first hour of the incoming tide, that feeling went away. I struggled with that every day.

"I've got no complaints, and congratulations to Ike."

3rd: Familiar Logistics for Christie

> Day 4: 5, 10-14 (18, 39-01)

Christie, the lone final-day competitor who's also fishing the Forrest Wood Cup, figures he'll get about 1 full day of practice for that derby. He figures to arrive at Murray at about 4 a.m. Monday, but his boat batteries would require charging for several hours before he can get on the water. The final practice day on Tuesday is abbreviated.

After Murray, he'll head straight for Cayuga.

"At the beginning of the year I knew this was coming up and I just have to take it one tournament at a time," he said. "I had to deal with the Delaware this week and I hadn't thought about the Cup, and then as soon as I weighed in today I started thinking about this week. It'll be the same thing next week."

He caught eight keepers on day 4 and weighed five that were all slightly over 2 pounds.

"I actually didn't get them as early as I thought I would. My batteries didn't charge last night and I had to switch them out at 10 o'clock and I had zero (fish) at that time.

"After that, I caught a limit in about an hour or so. I just wasn't able to move fast enough with dead batteries."

4th: No Company for Short

> Day 4: 5, 11-00 (19, 39-00)

Short logged his second Top-5 of the season and his best placement since he won at Pickwick Lake in 2010.

"It was really nice to come to a place where almost nobody had very much info and everybody just had to fishing," he said.

He fished far up a tributary and had no company all week, but he had to make the most of his bites. His final-day bag was topped by a 3-11.

"I had five keeper bites (on each of) the last 2 days and six on each of the first 2 days. I figured I could go into that creek and catch a limit or two, but I didn't think I could make 4 days in there.

"I didn't think there were 20 fish in there, but obviously there was."

5th: Grigsby Enjoyed Himself

> Day 4: 4, 8-14 (16, 36-15)

Grigsby said he enjoyed the event, but lamented losing several key bites that would've added weight to his total.

"This one was fun," he said. "I like tough tournaments and this one had great crowds and great people. It wasn't easy, but you knew when you caught one or two you were doing good.

"On the downside, every fish you don't put in the boat at a tournament like this is huge. It legitimately cost me anywhere from 4 to 6 pounds. Still, I don't think I could've pushed Ike by any means – he had way too many bullets and there were too many things he could do."

Lost fish weren't an issue on the final day – he got only the four keeper bites.

"I feel like I fished pretty flawlessly today."

Notable

> Day 4 stats – 12 anglers, 5 limits, 4 twos, 3 threes, 1 two, 1 one.

Day 4 (Final) Standings

1. Michael Iaconelli -- Pittsgrove, NJ -- 20, 47-14 -- 100 $101,500
Day 1: 5, 09-02 -- Day 2: 5, 15-01 -- Day 3: 5, 12-13 -- Day 4: 5, 10-14

2. Chris Lane -- Guntersville, AL -- 18, 39-14 -- 99 -- $25,000
Day 1: 5, 10-09 -- Day 2: 3, 07-00 -- Day 3: 5, 09-07 -- Day 4: 5, 12-14

3. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 18, 39-01 -- 98 -- $20,000
Day 1: 5, 09-12 -- Day 2: 3, 07-12 -- Day 3: 5, 10-11 -- Day 4: 5, 10-14

4. Kevin Short -- Mayflower, AR -- 19, 39-00 -- 97 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 11-06 -- Day 2: 5, 10-01 -- Day 3: 4, 06-09 -- Day 4: 5, 11-00

5. Shaw Grigsby Jr. -- Gainesville, FL -- 16, 36-15 -- 96 -- $14,000
Day 1: 3, 04-02 -- Day 2: 5, 14-15 -- Day 3: 4, 09-00 -- Day 4: 4, 08-14

6. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 19, 34-11 -- 95 -- $14,500
Day 1: 4, 07-09 -- Day 2: 5, 06-12 -- Day 3: 5, 13-03 -- Day 4: 5, 07-03

7. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 18, 34-00 -- 94 -- $13,750
Day 1: 5, 11-01 -- Day 2: 5, 10-12 -- Day 3: 5, 08-10 -- Day 4: 3, 03-09

8. Boyd Duckett -- Guntersville, AL -- 13, 33-07 -- 93 -- $13,000
Day 1: 5, 16-14 -- Day 2: 3, 06-07 -- Day 3: 1, 01-12 -- Day 4: 4, 08-06

9. Scott Rook -- Little Rock, AR -- 16, 32-08 -- 92 -- $12,000
Day 1: 5, 10-15 -- Day 2: 5, 09-13 -- Day 3: 5, 08-14 -- Day 4: 1, 02-14

10. Byron Velvick -- Boerne, TX -- 14, 31-08 -- 91 -- $11,500
Day 1: 4, 10-05 -- Day 2: 5, 07-15 -- Day 3: 3, 08-02 -- Day 4: 2, 05-02

11. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 15, 31-05 -- 90 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 09-13 -- Day 2: 5, 11-14 -- Day 3: 2, 03-09 -- Day 4: 3, 06-01

12. Chad Pipkens -- Holt, MI -- 17, 30-09 -- 89 -- $10,500
Day 1: 5, 11-04 -- Day 2: 4, 07-02 -- Day 3: 5, 08-00 -- Day 4: 3, 04-03