After enduring one of the worst seasons of his professional fishing career in 2022, Team Toyota pro Mike Iaconelli came into this year with a different mindset for the Bassmaster Elite Series. After reflecting on last year’s challenges with his wife Becky, Iaconelli set a simple but difficult goal of making every top 50 cut of the 2023 Elite Series season.
We’re now four tournaments into the season and so far, Iaconelli has accomplished his lofty goal. He’s earned a paycheck and fished every semifinal Saturday of Elite Series competition, which has Ike firmly in the top ten of the Angler of the Year standings and perhaps more importantly, he’s having fun.
“I think last year I was trying to overachieve,” Iaconelli said. “I was trying to win every event instead of just finding groups of fish in practice and focusing on consistency, which has been a huge strength throughout my career. This year I’ve recalibrated all that and man, it feels great.”
Iaconelli spent a lot of time analyzing his efforts last year during the offseason and came to two conclusions. He feels he was putting too much pressure on himself and secondly, he admits he may have gotten too complacent when it came to the work he was putting in off the water for each tournament.
Both elements have a way of stripping the fun out of tournament fishing and complicating the delicate mental side of this sport that is crucial in the outcome of not only every event, but every single day on the water.
“Last year was my return to the Elite Series and I was excited,” Iaconelli reflected. “I wanted to show out and put myself in position to win each tournament but that backfired for my fishing style. Subconsciously I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. On top of that, I was trying to fall back on history instead of breaking things down and fishing the moment. I got complacent. I think that probably comes with age, but it absolutely didn’t work for me. This year I’ve gotten back to basics.”
Iaconelli has spent a few days pre-practicing every fishery on the schedule this year before they went off-limits to competitors. He credits this extra effort for a lot of success earlier in his career but is something didn’t do at all in 2022. In Ike’s defense, he has a lot more responsibilities at this point in his life than he did in his twenties and thirties.
He’s a father and a husband, runs the Ike Live podcast, The Ike Foundation, and the Bass University with Becky and team, is extremely active for his sponsors, and he’s built a larger-than-life persona on social media that requires a lot of time to maintain. It’s hard to blame the Yamaha Outboards pro for spending a little less time grinding like he did in his youth.
The stark contrast between 2022 and 2023 for Iaconelli is a great example for anglers of all levels to take time to evaluate your efforts on the water. Celebrate the good, but you can’t avoid the bad and don’t be afraid to make a change if you feel like you aren’t fishing to your full potential. Above all, make sure you enjoy yourself.
“I got into this because I love it and I feel like I’m fifteen years old every time I catch a fish,” Iaconelli smiled. “When fishing doesn’t feel fun, there is a serious problem and that’s where I was last year. It’s a rut that’s easy to fall into when you expect too much out of yourself. So, learn from me… don’t do that! Focus on having fun, fish the moment, and let the result happen instead of trying to force it.”
Iaconelli’s bounce back this season has been super impressive but not shocking if you’ve followed his career closely. His work ethic and passion for fishing are unique even amongst his peers and helped him reach the pinnacle of the sport when he began his professional fishing journey. Now that he is reinvigorated it is no surprise to see Ike consistently finish near the top of the leaderboard, where he belongs.
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