NEW JERSEY'S IACONELLI TAKES TOP HONORS AT 2003 CITGO BASSMASTER CLASSIC
NEW ORLEANS - Confidence has never been a problem for Michael Iaconelli. And on Sunday, in the giant marshland known as the Louisiana Delta, he lived up to the old Dizzy Dean adage that, "It ain't bragging if you can back it up."
With three grizzled veterans hot on his heels, the 31-year-old New Jersey pro held up to the pressure of being the leader entering the final round of professional fishing's marquee event to score a narrow victory in the 33rd annual CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer.
It is the second year in a row, a member of Team Yamaha has won the fabled Bassmaster Classic, a championship that guarantees
The 31-year-old New Jersey pro held up to the pressure of being the leader by bringing home a three-day catch of 37 pounds, 14 ounces of bass to win. He caught his final bass with seven minutes left before deadline, and it was this bass that gave him the Championship.
Nearly one-third of the Classic contenders were members of Team Yamaha, making this year1s Classic the biggest showing for Yamaha ever. Twelve of the 25 finalists on Day 3 wore Team Yamaha1s distinctive blue and white jerseys, including five of the top 10 finishers.
7th Alton Jones, Waco, Texas
Menendez grabbed the first-day lead with a five-bass limit of 16-10, which included the largest bass of the tournament, a 6-2 lunker that earned him $1,000 for Day 1's Big Bass honors. Iaconelli was in second place on Day 1, jumping to the lead on Day 2 with a total of 27 lbs.
"When I realized that I had won, I looked down at my Mom, and I'll never
"I can sum my feelings up in two words," he said, "Yeah, baby!"
"I can't express how much the support of Team Yamaha made in this
In the battle of the Big Easy, Iaconelli's battled for every bit of his triumph.
Iaconelli entered this Classic with extraordinary confidence in one particular area in the Venice region of the Delta that he had located during an official six-day scouting period a month ago. When he visited the shallow, grassy lagoon during the lone practice day on Wednesday and shook off a dozen strikes in about an hour, Iaconelli grew even more assured about his chances.
"It's a dream come true. Since I was 12 or 13 years old and started reading Bassmaster Magazine and had heroes like Gary, it's something I've dreamed of all these years."
His Classic success came on a trio of Mann's lures - a Stone jig, Super Finesse Worm and prototype Swim Worm.
The two soft-plastic baits combined to help Iaconelli catch the most pivotal bass of the week, with about five minutes remaining in his fishing day, when a 33/4-pound fish swirled at (and missed) the Swim Worm before then inhaling the Super Finesse Worm.
"What a perfect punctuation to the day," he said.
For Klein, 45, the 2003 Classic will be remembered as another one that got away. He has come close in three of his 21 Classic appearances.
"Second place sucks," he said candidly. "I'm just being honest. But all this is going to do is make me more determined when we start next season."
Allen, 58, will remember his 14th Classic for an unusual, frustrating occurrence that might have played a role in his third-place finish. He was run out of his best spots on consecutive days by an angry airboater, who claimed that Allen was trespassing on private - but unposted - property. Following the order of tournament officials, he simply abandoned his most productive areas.
The televised Classic relied on relays. A flotilla of boats, two helicopters, and 80 people were used to produce television broadcasts of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer.
Television crews used 10 camera boats to follow anglers around the Louisiana Delta and four boats to shuttle videotapes from the fishing holes back to New Orleans to prepare them for broadcast. One helicopter was used for aerial shots of anglers and another for shuttling videotape from distant fishing holes.
Camera crews were able to keep track of anglers with GPS units connected to satellite telephones that relayed their location back to the television crew throughout the day. Observers in the fishing boats recorded the size and number of bass being caught into personal digital assistants that were also connected to the satellite telephones.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Chevrolet Trucks, Yamaha Outboards, Mercury Marine, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, and BankOne.
2003 BASSMASTER CLASSIC 08/01-08/03
Angler Hometown No./lbs-oz Pts Total $$$
1. Michael Iaconelli Woodbury Heights, N.J. 15 37-14
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