The Buffalo Bills claim one of the most notorious streaks in professional sports: Four straight Super Bowl losses. Bills fans and players outwardly claim they're proud of that resilient team, but deep down inside, the pain is still evident two decades later.
Mike Iaconelli, on the outside, might talk about how well he's fishing,
but on the inside, his Bills-like run of 2nds has to hurt.
He's not alone in his bridesmaid streak. Aaron Martens finished 2nd in four Bassmaster Classics, while Tommy Biffle finished 2nd in two Classics and three Forrest Wood Cups (FLW Tour Championships). But Ike's bridesmaid streak – four seconds in championships over the past 2 1/2 years – is the most recent.
Two of Ike's 2nds came in the same year (2009) at the Classic and Cup. His other two were in back-to-back Toyota Texas Bass Classics, the most recent of which ended Sunday, and went to a 1-hour sudden-death overtime period.
Ike self-evaluates – it's what professional athletes do. He couldn't be reached the night he lost the TTBC – according to Ike, he stayed out on the water in a personal battle against the fish. But he was ready to talk the day after.
Below he answers some questions about the string of 2nds, the TTBC and where he is mentally right now.
BassFan: When you look at the string of 2nds – not only the championships, but also the Potomac FLW Tour Open this summer – are they a positive or a negative?
Iaconelli: Good question. I don't know how to feel about it. There's both, I guess.
BassFan: How about the positives first?
Well, you have to come away with a lot of good, knowing that you're fishing well and a Top 10 finish in a tournament – I never take that stuff for granted. It doesn't happen all the time, and when you have an event like that, it's an awesome thing. You're fishing well and making good decisions and that's a good feeling. So that's definitely the positive way to look at it.
And like I said, I never take Top 10s, Top 5s, 2nd places for granted, especially in a championship-style event against the best of the best. So I'm happy from that perspective.
Then the not so positive?
I guess the next level is the middle level. At some level, you just start to get a little frustrated and disgusted. After having so many opportunities in the last 2 or 3 years to win a big one, and being an ounce away, a fish away, whatever it is, that's frustrating. It just kind of eats at you a little – it wears on you.
It's a little easier to swallow when you have the championship trophies already. When I get home to my office, the trophies are there. I've won titles – the Classic, Angler of the Year. That stuff makes you feel a little better.
But the night (of the TTBC loss), I was freaking POed. But I woke up and there's Becky, there's the baby, and I talked to (daughters) Drew and Riley on the phone. So at the end of the day, I still do something I love and I'm with people who love me and I can't complain. I'm a lucky guy. I don't take that for granted.
Is there another level then?
There's the third level, and this is more definitely just related to the last two TTBCs and coming in 2nd. I want to preface this by saying, and I mean this: I don't take anything away from the guys who won the last two TTBCs – Brian (Snowden) last year and Keith (Combs) this year. They were tremendous, they deserved to win and they flat-out won. The way they won was awesome and they're great anglers. So I don't take anything away from the wins whatsoever. They deserved to win and I'm happy for them.
Ike stayed on the water after he lost and continued to compete against the fish.
But in saying that, both of the last 2 years, I feel slightly slighted in the fact that in both cases, I know these guys went out before the official cutoff. They did nothing wrong, but they spent a lot of time here before the off-limits – scouting the lakes, fishing with local guys and going into the tournament with hundreds of waypoints.
I know BassFan has written about this before, but everybody has somewhat of a hard time with this information thing. Again, what they did was totally legal, but here I am and I show up, the average guy from New Jersey, and I have three days of practice on a lake and it's like I found the winning pattern on my own.
Somewhere deep down inside that hurts a little bit – that I'm getting beat by info to a certain extent. It's hard to say it and not look like a bad guy, and again, I don't take anything away from Brian and Keith because they flat-out won and I got beat, but it does make me a little upset that it's now 2 years in a row.
I don't know how else to say it, but it makes me a little more angry than normal.
You're talking about the two TTBCs and not the Classic and Cup 2nds?
I wouldn't extend it to the Classic and Cup. In those cases, I don't think local knowledge had anything to do with it. I talked to Greg (Hackney) after his win and he got on his pattern during the official practice period. And I talked to Skeet (Reese) and I felt like those guys went out and worked hard during the official practice period and found on their own what they needed to find. I don't think that was the case the last 2 years in the (TTBC). I think a lot of that stuff was shown to them.
It's legal. It just sucks. It's not the way fishing should be. I think some of these new circuits – this MLF I'm fishing in another week – I really think it's the future of what needs to happen. It's pure fishing. Either no practice or a very limited practice period or everybody under the same constraints. I don't know. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, knowing guys spent weeks GPSing individual brushpiles. It just doesn't seem right to me.
Would you support some kind of GPS ban or limitation during competition?
To ban GPS during an event itself – I think navigationally it would hurt a little bit. But it depends on how you do it. I think what the MLF is doing, where they check your GPS and you can't come in with a chip, and they clear waypoints before the start of the tournament, that's great. Why not just do that? I think that's a super-great way to approach it.
You'd be looking at about $1.3 million if you'd won the four championships. Does the money part sting?
I don't want to come off sounding pompous, because in this day and age any income is great and important, but for me it's more about income and not winnings. I've built up my brand over the past 15 years, working my butt off not only through tournaments but through fans and web stuff and TV and Bass University. I've done all that stuff and worked really hard to build up my business to where I don't have to rely on tournament income to survive.
So honestly, it's not about the money at this point. It does hurt to see the money go, and the Legend boat go, but it's more just the fact that a win means something, whether it's the Classic or the Cup or the TTBC or just a little club tournament. I still get mad, and that hasn't changed since I fished for Top Rod Bassmasters in 1991. I was just as mad about coming in 2nd back then as I am now, and that's never going to change. I'm a competitive angler and that's just my personality.
What happened after you lost the overtime at Conroe? Did you just check out for a while?
I kept fishing. I knew I hadn't won and at that point I was more frustrated with the fish than anything else.
What I ended up doing in the overtime was I started close. All I had to do was catch a keeper and I thought the best thing to do was to start at the dam area – the riprap right where we launch – and throw a small crank and a shakey-head and a small jig. Those are baits that almost always catch keepers. I caught two that were short, then with 30 minutes left, I decided to run back to the place that got me there.
It was a 10-minute run, and I got there and I did get a full pass on the spot before the phone rang. So I was more frustrated with the fish on that spot, knowing what lives there. So after that call came, I kept fishing and fished until dark. I stayed on that bank and tried to make one bite. In my mind I was still fishing against the fish. I was still mad at the fish. The place was so good to me the entire event, and at the very end it let me down. So I was mad at the fish, and I fished until dark and then another 30 minutes and never had a bite.
That was kind of the end of the event for me. As the sun set in the background, so did my chance of winning the TTBC.