Controversy seems to follow Mike Iaconelli no matter where he goes. His 2003 Classic celebration on the front deck of his boat was met with divided support – some understood the feeling he must have had knowing he’d accomplished his goal of a Classic win, while others thought it was showboating. In fact, the 2003 Classic was really the first time we got a view of IKE.
Prior to that 2003 win, he almost quit the competitive world of bass fishing. But that Classic win not only reinvigorated his confidence that he could fish at the top level, it brought him into the spotlight. No longer would he be considered a Federation angler who fished the tour – he would be seen as a competitor – and a colorful character. Television crews loved him because you never knew what outlandish thing he would do next.
Then came the 2006 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Toho.
The first day of the event Ike had a livewell malfunction and lost it. During the course of realizing he was losing fish, he threw a fit, which included kicking his anchor light and pulling it from its socket to render more damage. There was a problem, though. To the light pole was affixed an American flag. The video recorded and played on ESPN of the incident did not play out well for Ike. Ike was also DQd from the event for un-sportsman-like conduct.
To Ike it was just a light pole. To the rest of America, it was The Flag.
The incident turned into Ike losing sponsors, such as Ranger Boats, and becoming one of the Top-10 most hated athletes in sports, a poll conducted by GQ every year. Things weren’t looking to bright for Ike.
In most instances any person would have caved to the pressure and quit. Just put down the rods and walk away from it all. But not Ike. He used the bad choice he made as fuel for his career. The next season he went out a semi-new man and won the Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
The video below, taken at ICAST 2014 a couple weeks ago, is about Ike and his 2006 Classic meltdown, how he recovered from it and then went on to win the 2006 AOY. It’s not only an interesting story but a look into a man who has been as low as a professional angler can get and yet recover.