GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – Michael Iaconelli arrived in Alabama Sunday limping on a swollen right ankle, and he went to bed Wednesday night worried the fish he had found in practice would disappear due to rapidly rising water temperatures.
But neither issue was a problem once he hit the water Thursday morning.
|Iaconelli rolled the dice and followed the bass.
Kelly Jordon (26-1), Bernie Schultz (25-8), Skeet Reese (24-15) and Kelley Jaye (24- 4) rounded out the Top 5 with eye-popping catches of their own.
“The water temperature in practice on Monday was 60 degrees,” said Iaconelli, who injured his ankle during last month’s Elite Series event on the Sabine River in Texas. “By Wednesday, it was 65 to 67 degrees. That’s a huge difference, and I kind of knew those fish I found in practice were going to go away.”
Rather than going completely back to the drawing board, Iaconelli just moved with the fish.
“Today, I tried to visualize where they went,” he said. “Knowing the water went up six or seven degrees, I knew they didn’t go deeper. Everything wants to spawn right now, and I tried to visualize the route they would take.”
Iaconelli, who is often much more open with details of how he’s catching fish during tournaments than other anglers, wouldn’t say much about his techniques Thursday. He said he wasn’t sight fishing for bedding fish like many of the other top anglers, and he said he was fishing “all new water” with a “new bait.”
“I marked about 30 fish on beds during practice, and I’m not saying I won’t have to do that eventually,” said Iaconelli, who won an Elite Series event on Guntersville in 2006. “But that’s not my strength. That would be like telling Kevin VanDam (a noted power fisherman) to go out finesse fishing.”
The fact that Iaconelli is not sight fishing for spawning bass might play to his advantage if thunderstorms and heavy rains move into the region Thursday night and Friday morning as predicted. That nasty weather could cause headaches for anglers like Jordon and Schultz, who relied heavily on spawning fish during the opening round.
Jordon struggled early with a sight fishing game plan Thursday, only to see it come together rapidly after 10:30 a.m. as he culled his way up to 26-1. But he’s worried about what a nasty bout of thunderstorms could do the fish he’s depending on.
“The thunderstorms will run the fish off the beds,” said Jordon, who finished first in a Bassmaster Tour event on Guntersville in 2006. “I mean it is what it is. But man, it sure would be more fun if they’d just hold off a little while.”
Schultz also targeted shallow spawners for a catch of 25-8 that included two bass over 6 pounds. The second 6-pounder almost didn’t make it in his boat after wrapping around his trolling motor shaft and forcing him to pull the line in by hand.
He said stormy weather could take the all-important “sight” element out of his sight-fishing.
“It’s not going to help, because you won’t be able to see the fish,” Schultz said. “With the bigger fish, you’ve got to look at them and really work them. They’re not easy. They’re just not aggressive at all.”
No one was more surprised to see Reese find his way into the Top 5 than Reese himself.
After a particularly tough practice, the popular California pro decided to do something “completely different” Thursday. It resulted in a catch of 24-15 that he said could have been even better.
“I lost two big ones today that would have been nice to have,” said Reese, winner of the 2010 Elite Series Southern Challenge on Guntersville. “But to catch almost 25 pounds after the practice I had, I’m tickled to death. I’ll go out tomorrow, put the raingear on and see what happens.”
The 113-angler field will be trimmed to the Top 53 after Friday’s round. Take-off is scheduled for 6:15 a.m. from Guntersville City Harbor, with the weigh-in scheduled back at the launch site at 3 p.m.