You may know Mike Iaconelli best for his long list of tournament wins, accolades, and infamous on-the-water antics that includes genuine elation, shouts of disappointment, enthusiastic screams of joy, growls of frustration, or the occasional animal noise.

What fishing fans might be surprised to hear is the Team Toyota pro has been spending a lot time the past few months on small, serene bodies of water fishing out of his Hobie Kayak or jon boat with no one in sight except for his son Vegas or daughter Stella. The New Jersey native still “goes Ike” when one of them catches a fish, but in a way that lights up his soul instead of the SCORETRACKER.

Lately Iaconelli has thoroughly enjoyed watching his children’s passion for fishing grow; while simultaneously reconnecting himself to the genesis of his own fishing pursuits.

For the love of the game

If you follow Iaconelli on social media you’ve seen he and his son, Vegas “the hammer”, spending a lot of time on the water in a small jon boat recently. Like thousands of other Americans, Ike turned to the outdoors when social distancing became the norm for he and his family. He took the time to teach his kids more about the outdoors, while simplifying his own passion for fishing.

“When I developed my love of the sport it was at the grass roots level,” Iaconelli explained. “I’d fish anywhere and any way I could. On the bank with a backpack, out of canoe, kayak, or jon boat; any way I could get on the water intrigued me. It’s been great to reconnect to that style of fishing. It takes away the noise and the business side of this gig… It’s much needed sometimes.”

Make no mistake, Iaconelli is still partial to his Yamaha powered Bass Cat and tournament competition, but he values the nostalgia and connection felt when fun fishing out of a small vessel. There is something special about catching a fish without all the latest, greatest bells and whistles.

“As a professional angler it’s my job to keep up with new technology, new gadgets, and that sort of thing,” Iaconelli said. “But sometimes it is good to re-learn how to fish without all of that crap. It’s just you and the fish. I’ve fished that way my entire life and I’ll never stop.”

Growing the sport

Another reason Ike appreciates this pace of fishing is just how available it is to new anglers. Iaconelli is no stranger to efforts that help grow the sport. Through The Ike Foundation, Iaconelli and his team do a tremendous amount to help get more people involved with fishing, especially youths. Anything that helps remove barriers to first-time anglers is right up Ike’s alley.

“The best thing about kayak fishing is the affordability and accessibility,” Iaconelli said. “Not everyone can afford a $50,000 bass boat, but any kid with a dream can budget for a cheap kayak or old jon boat. It makes getting into the sport so much easier, and helps people fall in love with bass fishing.”

Kayaks or jon boats also have the ability to access smaller more remote fisheries than a traditional bass boat. Iaconelli travels the country with a Hobie Kayak on the roof of his Tundra and lately has found himself taking advantage of its “off-road” capabilities more and more.

“I’ll be honest I’ve been doing a bit of kayak training,” Iaconelli admitted. “I’ve competed out of a bass boat for 20+ years, and I’ve been with Hobie Kayaks for six years… but I’ve never fished a kayak tournament. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m looking forward to changing that this fall.”