We can’t be sure why Mike Iaconelli returned to the ramp at dark following a long day of practice on Lake Murray with one dead shad and one dead blueback herring in his boat. But one thing’s for certain, he’s very much in touch with how bait will largely determine where and how bass will be caught in this tournament.
Lake Murray is fishing extremely well right now. Fans should expect to see numerous limits over 17 pounds weighed-in, and it’s likely that Elite Series pros will need to average 18 pounds a day to take home a Top 10 finish, but blueback herring still remain an often-perplexing piece of the puzzle.
“First off, I’m not sure why they’re called blueback herring, because to me their backs look brown,” laughs Iaconelli. “They’re a blessing because they make such awesome forage for growing big bass, but a curse because they’re always moving, which makes finding the bass that feed on them a constant challenge,” he explains.
Iaconelli says he’s seen bluebacks as shallow as five feet where so many of them are spawning on Murray right now, but also as deep as 30-feet. So, it’s anybodys guess as to where they’ll show up in the midst of a tournament day, but wind is highly influential in determining which of the hundreds of flat clay points they’ll show-up on.
While bluebacks will be talked about excessively this week, Iaconelli is wise enough to realize they’re not the only baitfish Murray’s bass will be chowing down.
“Just about everything in this lake seems to be in some phase of the spawn right now, including largemouth and bluebacks, but also shad. So, while the bluebacks are kind of the star of the show here, you can’t ignore the importance of shad too,” emphasizes Iaconelli.
That said, the recent Bass Fishing Hall of Fame electee is tying on numerous lures to imitate both species of bait.
“I’ve got an entire tackle tray full of lures designed to look like blueback herring, and a soft jerk bait is a proven winner on this lake, but when I’m around shad, I’ll pick up something like this Rapala OG Tiny crankbait to better imitate them,” he explains.
Practice is going well for the Team Toyota pro. He’s dialed-in Murray’s bass and the forage they feed on. In fact, if Iaconelli had a spirit animal this week, it’d be a Lake Murray baitfish. That awful smell on his hands proves it.