Hook, Line & Thinker

by Steve Chaconas

The Ike Story

   Michael “Ike” Iaconelli from Jersey, break dances, fished for bass when fishing wasn’t cool, worked his way into pro bass fishing, won the championship, has been elected to the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. 

  Young Iaconelli contrasted with good old boy fishermen, breaking the mold of heavyset, tobacco-chewing, aw-shucks anglers. Ike set himself apart becoming a top pitch man. 

   Studying advertising and public relations, graduating summa cum laude from Rowan University, Ike understood marketing. Working at Dick’s Sporting Goods, he helped anglers catch more fish. Maybe he dreamed these fishing fans would become Ike fans.

  Ike shouts when catching bass. It’s not an act but it became his act. After his emotional BASSMASTER Classic win, we went fishing on the Potomac. He hooked up and in inimitable Ike fashion screamed, “Giant, oh my God!”. No cameras. His excitement was real.  

  Ike devoured Bassmaster Magazine and credits 80s and 90s fishing shows with creating the dream for him, admiring how older guys carried themselves as role models. Poise isn’t found in magazines. Ike’s stage presence feeds off fan energy and fans feed off the most excitable and exciting pro bass fishing angler. 

  Hard work off the water, Ike LIVE podcast and others, television shows “City Limits” “Fish My City” and “My World”, Twitter, Instagram, and Bass University satisfy fan and sponsor demands. Ike and wife Becky founded the Ike Foundation, introducing urban and rural children to fishing, and operate a full-service angler management and marketing company, Professional Edge Fishing, Inc.

  On his way to pro bass fishing’s big stage, he composed a CD “How to Turn Pro in Five Years or Less”, including tips for success and how to attract and keep sponsors. He eventually won this championship and made famous his last minute win with the mantra, “Never give up!”.  Relatable to anyone who has come from behind, his autobiography “Fishing on the Edge” was released following his win. 

  As Ike became one of the most accomplished, recognizable, and respected figures in the sportfishing world, in 2006 he was named one of the 10 most hated athletes by GQ magazine. Ike never had a problem being the bad guy knowing he could use it to grow the sport. Ike says everyone’s obligated to positively impact someone. Growing fishing is his obligation.

  Ike’s recent Hall of Fame message prioritized his faith, family, and fans, acknowledging his mom, Uncle Don, Becky’s parents, his four children, and the support and mentorship of writers and industry people. Several of his crew were in attendance, adding excitement to the presentation. It might have been the first time that many people from Jersey were in a room where a waste disposal contract wasn’t discussed.

  Early on he resisted changing to fit in. Congratulatory calls came for his Classic win. Legendary angler Rick Clunn encouraged him, saying, “Don’t let the negatives discourage you…be yourself and keep doing what you do. You deserved that win.”  There’s no question we’ll hear more from Ike. The biggest question is who’ll play him in the movie?

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. YouTube video channel NationalBassGuide

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