By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
From day 2 on at last week's Delaware River Bassmaster Elite Series, it was almost as if the anglers who eventually finished in 2nd through 106th place were competing in their own tournament. Mike Iaconelli simply had too much knowledge of the complicated tidal venue for them to contend against, and only a major meltdown on his part would've prevented him from winning.
Iaconelli's daily average of just a hair under 12 pounds was 2 pounds better than his closest pursuer. However, the remainder of the Top 5 all compiled averages of at least 9 pounds, which was no mean feat on that complex.
2nd: Chris Lane
> Day 1: 5, 10-09
> Day 2: 3, 7-00
> Day 3: 5, 9-07
> Day 4: 5, 12-14
> Total = 18, 39-14
The Delaware bears little resemblance to the Florida fisheries that Chris Lane grew up on, but he nonetheless fished it in much the same manner. Most of his fish were enticed by a frog.
"I just ran the tides," he said. "That's something I've done in Florida, mainly in the saltwater. I'd always spend the last couple hours of the day down south and I caught a 2 1/2-pounder and a 3 down there the first day.
"All of my stuff was on the main river. The one creek I did fish was just at the mouth – I never went back in there. I fished eelgrass and hydrilla and just stayed on the edge – the edges were a big key."
He said his practice was solid, but it gave him no inkling that he was destined for such a high finish.
"If I'd get one bite in an area, I'd leave it – I didn't try to catch another fish. I moved really fast and covered lots of water.
"I knew it'd be a challenge to get five (keepers) a day, but I knew that if I could do that I'd probably be in contention to win."
He caught a couple of his best fish on a dropshot rig and got a 3-pounder on a topwater plug on day 4.
> Dropshot gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Team All Star dropshot rod, Abu Garcia Revo SX 10 spinning reel, 6-pound Stren 100% Fluorocarbon line, 1/4-ounce round Reins Tungsten dropshot weight, unnamed size 1 hook, unnamed 5" worm (purple, green or brown).
Main factor in his success – "Probably going about it a little differently than most. I don't know of anybody else who was mainly throwing a frog."
Performance edge – "The 6-pound Stren fluorocarbon – those two big fish I caught on it, it was pretty crazy that they didn't break the line. After that it'd be the entire setup on my boat that let me make those long runs without getting the heck beat out of me."
Jason Christie just kept covering water and occasionally ran into a fish.
3rd: Jason Christie
> Day 1: 5, 9-12
> Day 2: 3, 7-12
> Day 3: 5, 10-11
> Day 4: 5, 10-14
> Total = 18, 39-01
Jason Christie may be the top-ranked angler in the world, but he admits to near-total ignorance when it comes to tides and their effect on bass. Therefore, he basically paid no attention to them.
He just confined himself to one creek and stayed on the move constantly, fishing whatever water was available.
"I really didn't have a good practice and I didn't figure anything out until the end," he said. "There's so much stuff for the fish to get in, I figured the best thing for me to do was cover tons of water and for 4 days I fished with the trolling motor on high, going about 3 1/2 mph.
"I caught the majority of them on a buzzbait, but if I'd come across a real good log I'd flip it, or I'd flip to one that blew up on the buzzbait but didn't get it."
He threw two different buzzbaits – a Booyah and a homemade model – depending on the type of cover in the area and the amount of floating grass that could tangle the blades, and also on how much noise he wanted the bait to generate.
> Buzzbait gear: 7' Falcon Jason Christie Signature Series buzzbait rod, Lew's BB1 Pro, 60-pound Sunline FX2 braided line, 1/2-ounce Booyah buzzbait (chartreuse/white with black or gold blade) or 1/2-ounce homemade buzzbait (black with gold blade).
> Flipping gear: 7'3" Falcon Cara Pitching/Swimbait Stick, same reel, 25-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce unnamed tungsten weight, Lazer TroKar TK135 flipping hook, YUM Christie Critter (black/blue).
Main factor in his success – "I realized that the more water I covered and the more casts I made, the better my chances were for running into some fish."
Performance edge – "Absolutely my MotorGuide trolling motor. About 80 percent of the time I was running it on 100 percent."
Kevin Short had a creek all to himself for the entire tournament.
4th: Kevin Short
> Day 1: 5, 11-06
> Day 2: 5, 10-01
> Day 3: 4, 6-09
> Day 4: 5, 11-00
> Total = 19, 39-00
Kevin Short found himself an out-of-the-way creek that he had to himself for the duration of the event. He employed a limb-pruning saw to improve his access to it.
"There were some big laydowns in the creek and I needed to cut the ends of them off," he said. "At high tide I could go right over them, but at low tide it was a real problem.
"I thought about going in there with a full-on chain saw, but people probably would've heard that and wondered what was going on back there. The way I did it took me a little longer, but it was a stealthier approach."
He pitched and flipped to laydowns and hydrilla most of the time and added some lily pad-type vegetation to the mix when the water level was high.
"I caught them the best when the water was moving and dirty. It didn't really matter which way it was moving, but when it wasn't moving it was too clear because of that hydrilla."
He had two key stretches – each about 100 yards long – that he bounced back and forth between. A jig and a creature bait combined to produce all of his fish.
> Jig gear: 7'3" extra-heavy fast-action Team Lew's rod, Lew's Super Duty casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 25-pound Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon line, 9/16-ounce Jewel Magnum Casting Jig (Texas craw), Zoom Z Hog trailer (watermelon candy).
> Creature-bait gear: Same rod and reel, 17-pound Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon, 1/4-ounce Strike King Tour Grade tungsten weight, 2/0 Mustad flipping hook (with grip pin), Zoom Z Hog Jr. (watermelon candy).
Main factor in his success – "Probably picking an area that I was comfortable with. I really wasn't into trying to run the tide. I stuck with a place that had some quality fish and it worked out that there were enough there to do reasonably well."
Performance edge – "My Power-Poles. Most of those laydowns, either at high tide or low tide, I could sit off the ends or beside them and just flip, flip, flip or work a brush top all the way around. They allowed me to be very precise and persistent."
A huge day 2 carried Shaw Grigsby to a Top-5 finish.
5th: Shaw Grigsby
> Day 1: 3, 4-02
> Day 2: 5, 14-15
> Day 3: 4, 9-00
> Day 4: 4, 8-14
Shaw Grigsby spent the tournament in Rancocas Creek along with several other competitors who finished in the Top 20. He had a lousy first day, but produced a stellar day 2 after unpegging the weight on his Strike King Rage Bug.
"It was a place where I was hoping to get three, four or five decent bites a day," he said. "Day 2 was just stupid (in a good way) – after the first few minutes I had a nice limit, and then it continued to be stupid after that, too.
"Things didn't work out that way on day 3, though."
> Flipping gear: 7'6" heavy-action Quantum EXO Tour PT flipping stick, Quantum Tour MG casting reel (7:1 ratio), 20-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon line, 5/16-ounce Strike King Tour Grade tungsten weight, 7/0 Lazer TroKar TK130 hook, Strike King Rage Bug ('Bama craw).
Main factor in his success – "Just being on some fish and plinking away at it. After I unpegged the weight, I literally caught every fish after that."
Performance edge – "In a tournament like this it all goes together – my Triton/Mercury for getting me there and back, the GPS was priceless and my Odyssey batteries never did get fully charged on the generator at the motel, but they never budged all day against that current."
Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here..