Iaconelli Finds Gold in Junk at Dardanelle


Russellville, Ark. – They call it junk fishing, but it sure has been valuable to 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic Champion Michael Iaconelli at the Lake Dardanelle Bassmaster Elite 50. Iaconelli brought in the biggest catch of the day at 18 pounds, two ounces – the second consecutive day he’s accomplished that feat. He leads going into the semifinal round.

The biggest drawback of the tournament for New Jersey’s Iaconelli is the Elite 50 format, which zeroes weights after two days, making for an even playing field on Day Three.

“It’s called junk fishing,” said Iaconelli, whose two day total is 33 pounds, three ounces. “Post-spawn conditions usually call for throwing a number of baits, and that’s just what I’m doing.”

Junk fishing, in simple terms, is throwing a variety of baits at all types of cover. Iaconelli’s style of fishing certainly qualified on Day Two. He caught fish on a topwater bait, a jig, a spinnerbait and a crankbait, focusing primarily on three locations.

“I’ll be junk fishing until I get knocked out of the tournament.” Iaconelli said. “This type of tournament really suits my style. I like to be forced to make a lot of decisions out there, and that’s what this lake makes you do.”

At the very least, Iaconelli’s junk fishing has earned him $3,000. He earned $1,000 each for the two Busch Heavyweight Bags for Days One and Two. His big bag on Day Two included a six pound, one ounce lunker, which was good enough for the Purolator Big Bass of the Day and another $1,000.

Trailing Iaconelli is perhaps the most feared angler on the BASS circuit right now, three-time CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam (28-10). Although the Kalamazoo, Mich., angler would have faced a daunting challenge to overtake Iaconelli on the final two days while trailing by more than four pounds, the weights start over at zero tomorrow, and VanDam will start in a 12-way tie for first along with everyone else.

“I got to fish on the course last year,” the 2001 Classic champion said, “so I’m ready. This is just a great lake no matter where you go.”

Van Dam is keying on bass that are holding on drops and ledges, throwing a wide variety of baits, much like Iaconelli.

Although Van Dam is already Classic-bound, 22-time Classic qualifier Gary Klein (28-5) is not. He sits in third place after two days and desperately needs a good finish on Dardanelle to have a chance to qualify for the Classic through the Elite 50s. The series represents the last method to qualify for the 2005 Classic to be held in Pittsburgh, Pa., July 29-31.

Klein has been working a crankbait and a big worm for all of his fish. After weighing in his fish, like Van Dam, he was eager to get things started for the final two days.

“Just from what I saw out there earlier,” Klein said. “I’m really looking forward to fishing on the course. I really like it.”

Rounding out the top 12 and surviving to fish on the Illinois Bayou course tomorrow are 1993 CITGO Bassmaster Classic Champion David Fritts (27-15), Texas’ Alton Jones (27-8), North Carolina’s Dustin Wilks (26-2), Florida’s Terry Scroggins (26-2), 2005 CITGO Angler of the Year Aaron Martens (26-0), South Carolina’s Davy Hite (25-13), four-time Classic Champion Rick Clunn (24-15) and Texans Dean Rojas (22-4) and Zell Rowland (20-12).

Noticeably missing from the final 12 are any Arkansas anglers. The highest finisher from the Natural State was Mike Wurm in 17th place. Defending champion Randy Howell also missed the cut, finishing 25th.

Weigh-ins will be held at 7:00 p.m. at Dardanelle State Park on Friday and Saturday.

Each Elite 50 angler will have a payday in the no-entry-fee event. The winner will take home a check for $100,000, and the last place finisher will earn $5,000. The total payout for each of the four Elite 50 events is $400,000.

Part one of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series event on Lake Dardanelle will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, May 28 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Part two will air on Saturday June 4 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).

Local Sponsors include the Russellville Tourism & Visitors Center.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.