- After a three-year hiatus from the Bassmaster Elite Series, I think New Jersey pro Mike Iaconelli would be the first to admit that his return to the Elites started with a resounding thud. After catching one barely legal keeper on Day 1 that weighed 14 ounces, he caught two bass for 2-8 on Day 2 and finished in 93rd place with 3-6. He was 2 ounces shy of dead last. The silver lining for Ike is that it’s probably better to bomb during the season opener than it is two months down the road when you’re in the thick of the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. He has eight tournaments to make up for this one bad one in terms of making the Classic and chasing AOY — and many anglers have shaken off one bad event to accomplish those feats in the past. The good news for anglers at large is that, anytime you have a bad tournament, you can look at Ike’s results from this week and take comfort in the idea that it happens to the best of the best.
- Say it ain’t so, Matt Robertson. That nasty, smelly, sweaty, fish slime-covered “On ‘Em” hat that has brought him so much luck the past four years blew off his head during Thursday’s opening round and was lost for good. I’ve been there. My treasured Alabama hat, which I wear so much that Greg Hackney once said “that hat dresses itself with you every morning,” has blown off my head many times on the lake. I always just did a 180 and went back to pick it up floating. The only time it sank like a rock and disappeared was Nov. 27, 2013. Three days later, Alabama suffered one of the more soul-crushing losses I’ve ever experienced as a fan at rival Auburn in a game that is now known simply as the “Kick Six.” I’m not saying losing an old trusty hat is necessarily a bad omen. But if I was Matt, I’d be looking hard for something new to boost my on-the-water Ju-Ju.
- Unfortunately, one of the best ways to make the highlight reel on Bassmaster LIVE is by being the victim of simple misfortune. Just ask Kyle Welcher. The young Alabama pro was standing on top of his trolling motor for a better view of a bedding bass when he took a few too many steps backward and went straight into the drink. Before you laugh, consider this: When I turned 35, I wrote a column bragging about all of fishing’s pitfalls that I had somehow managed to avoid. Getting a hook in my hand was one of them — and that happened twice in the next eight months. Falling out of the boat was another — and since that still hasn’t happened, I don’t dare brag about it or take pleasure in seeing it happen to others. It can happen to anyone at any time — and with more sight fishing likely ahead this week at Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes, it might not be long before we have more video of it.
- For years, one of the chief complaints about B.A.S.S.’s scheduling policy is that we visit the same places year after year. But we really don’t because no fishery is ever the same for two trips planned 12 to 15 months apart. Some big-name anglers can attest to that. Greg Hackney finished second in last year’s Elite at the St. Johns River and 58th last week. Rick Clunn, who won events on the St. Johns in 2016 and 2019, has finished 99th and 78th in the last two events held there. Those are two pretty good sticks who would probably argue the venue fishes drastically different from one trip to the next.
- Minnesota pro and reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year Seth Feider started this year’s season in stark contrast to last year’s historic run. Feider finished third at the season opener on the St. Johns in 2021, surprising even himself on the shallow, largemouth fishery. That set the stage for an incredible season that included no finishes below 29th place. Now, having missed a semifinal cut for the first time in almost 500 days, he has some work to do if he plans to repeat as AOY.
Life isn’t all doom and gloom, so click this link for 5 happy thoughts from the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River.