September 20, 2008 by Rob Newell
HENDERSON, N.C. - Throughout Mike Iaconelli's illustrious fishing career, aquatic vegetation has played a key role in many of his biggest wins.
Whether it was his 2003 Bassmaster Classic win in the Louisiana Delta, his FLW Tour win on the Potomac River or his BASS Tour wins on Lake Seminole and Lake Guntersville, fishing grass has been a primary component of his most defining moments.
So when the Runnemede, N.J., pro showed up at Kerr Lake for the Stren Series Northern this week with just two days of practice and found healthy hydrilla in the Little Nutbush area of the lake, he immediately fell into his comfort zone.
Over the course of four tournament days, he relied on his hydrilla-fishing expertise to refine a dominant grass pattern and win the Stren Series event with a four-day total of 45 pounds, 6 ounces worth $25,000 cash.
Kerr Lake, or Buggs Island Lake, has never been known as a grass lake. But that's all changed now thanks to Ike's win.
"I'd heard there was a little bit of grass in the lake," Iaconelli explained. "But on my first practice day I discovered there was a lot more than a little; there is a lot of grass here - and it's healthy, too. Down in the Little Nutbush area, it's everywhere; it grows anywhere from 3 feet out to 12 feet."
Just a couple of keepers in practice was all it took to light Iaconelli's fire on the grass pattern. From there he spent four tournament days dialing in on the most productive way to mine bass out of the green stuff.
Ike discovered that bass were relating to thin spots or bare areas in the grass created by the drains in the backs of pockets and the rounded flat points that connected the pockets.
"I basically used a three-prong approach," he detailed. "My primary bait was a vibrating rattling bait - a 1/2-ounce Strike King Redeye Shad in sexy-shad color - it was backed up by a big wooden square-bill crankbait called an Ikon made by Custom Lures Unlimited and a shaky head. Probably 70 percent of my fish came on the Redeye Shad and the other 30 percent were split between the Ikon and the shaky head."
Ike fished the Red Eye Shad on 10-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
"That may sound a little light for a rattling bait, but there's a reason for that," Iaconelli explained. "I actually wanted the lure to get down in the grass so I could pop it out - that's what provoked the strikes. Heavier line would keep the bait up too high over the grass and not as much contact was made with it."
He mixed in the Ikon with the Redeye Shad when fishing grass and pitched the shaky head, which consisted of a 3/16-ounce Tru-Tungsten Iky Head teamed with a green-pumpkin finesse worm, to any hard objects he came to such as stumps or docks.
The shaky head was fished on 8-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon while the Ikon was served up on 12-pound-test.
"Fishing new water every day was a big key too," he said. "Today I caught 12 keepers on water I have never fished before in my life. At first I was worried I might actually run out of grass to fish this week, but it just kept materializing; every pocket I went to had grass."
And as for his infatuation with the green stuff, Ike says he grew up fishing it.
"Our lakes and ponds up in New Jersey are chock full of milfoil, coontail and eelgrass, and that's what I cut my teeth fishing," he added. "To this day, whenever I get around any kind of vegetation, especially hydrilla, I feel right at home."
Wilks winds up second
Dustin Wilks of Rocky Mount, N.C., held on to his second-place position on the final day with a four-day total of 43 pounds, 5 ounces worth $5,696.
Wilks, too, was keying on grass, but he was fishing it with a 1/2-ounce jig on 15-pound-test fluorocarbon.
"I probably caught 95 percent of my fish by ripping a jig out of the grass for a reaction bite," Wilks said. "It's a great technique, but it caused me to lose a lot of fish because they would bite it on a slack line after I ripped it up, and the fish would swim straight to the boat and jump. It was pretty frustrating to lose as many fish as I did this week."
The comeback limit of day four belonged to Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va., who brought in 13 pounds, 13 ounces today to jump from 10th to third with a four-day total of 43 pounds, 4 ounces worth $5,126.
Powroznik spent the week fishing deep, chasing bait pods around with his depth finder and throwing a big 12-inch Berkley Power Worm teamed with a 1/2-ounce Tru-Tungsten sinker into the bait and letting it flutter down to the bass.
This approach worked great for Powroznik all week until this morning, when he decided to break out of his deep mold and go shallow with Zara Spook (Saltwater Series).
"I'm now kicking myself for not fishing topwater more this week," lamented Powroznik, who boated some 15 keepers on topwaters today, all between 2 and 3 pounds. "All I did was fish over top of the grass, and they would come up and annihilate that Spook."
Kerr crankbait legend David Wright of Lexington, N.C., ended up fourth with a four-day total of 42 pounds, 10 ounces worth $4,557.
Not surprisingly, Wright spent most of the week fishing a crankbait on wind-blown points and creek channels.
Today he gave his co-angler, Moo Bae, a crankbait lesson by lending Bae his crankbait and leading him to the Co-angler Division winner's circle on the deep-diving plug.
Chad Pipkens of Holt, Mich., rounded out the top five in the Pro Division with a four-day total of 41 pounds, 1 ounce for $3,987.
Pipkens fished over suspended fish and schooling fish with a Lucky Craft Sammy and Pointer 100 to catch his fish this week.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Stren Series event on Kerr Reservoir:
6th: Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa., four-day total of 38-6, $3,417
7th: Robert Vogelsang of Jessup, Md., four-day total of 35-10, $3,135
8th: Joshua Wagy of Dewitt, Va., four-day total of 34-8, $2,848
9th: Steve Roberts of Lynchburg, Va., four-day total of 33-14, $2,562
10th: Mike Miller of Trinity, N.C., four-day total of 32-4, $2,279
The fourth and final Stren Series event of the Northern Division will take place on the Potomac River Oct. 15-18.