Professional athletes have long used their celebrity to raise money and awareness to fight illness and injustice in our society. The 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, Michael Iaconelli, is doing just that in the world of professional angling.

Iaconelli is using the notoriety of his Classic victory to draw attention to one of our nation’s biggest killers and will make a donation of more than $5,000 to The V Foundation for Cancer Research this Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004 at the 5th annual Angling Against Cancer Benefit in Kissimmee, Florida.

Iaconelli has a very personal stake in cancer research. His uncle, whom Mike says is more like a father to him, battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before going into remission recently.

“Anglers Pounding Out Cures,” Iaconelli’s fundraising organization, works a lot like the walkathons that are common to other charitable endeavors. Iaconelli started the ball rolling by pledging $2 of his own money for every pound of bass he caught in BASS tournaments this year.

Then he went to his sponsors and asked them to match his pledge. Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Mann’s Bait Company, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Stren Fishing Line, and Fitover Sunglasses all agreed to help.

Others also stepped up to the plate, including Jerry McKinnis, co-host of “The CITGO Bassmasters” and host of ESPN2’s long-running favorite, “The Fishin’ Hole.”

“Jerry doubled my personal pledge!” Iaconelli said.

Every pro angler would like to follow Iaconelli’s footsteps to a Classic victory, but Mike would like to see them follow his lead in the area of charity work.

“A couple of my friends on the tournament trail are planning to do something similar to Anglers Pounding Out Cures for next year,” Iaconelli said. “Who knows, maybe we can raise even more money!”

The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano. The Foundation has raised approximately $40 million and has awarded more than 200 grants nationwide. Over the past five years, an average of 83 cents of every dollar raised is available to fund cancer research. To learn more about The V Foundation, visit www.jimmyv.org or call 1-800-4JIMMYV.