- Lynn Burkhead
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Mike Iaconelli, the high-energy angler who captured the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic in dramatic fashion with a last-minute bass pulled from the Louisiana Delta, rarely if ever holds back when it comes to life or bassing.
It could easily be said that Ike often lives on the edge as he continues to weave the career tale of one of modern angling's most intriguing success stories.
That story so far, at least is the subject of Iaconelli's highly anticipated new book, "Fishing on the Edge," (Delacorte Press; $22) which was released this month.
Ike's new read and the waves it might cause will be the subject of Tommy Sanders' interview with the New Jersey angler this Saturday during the coast-to-coast airing of the "The Outdoors Show on ESPN Radio" at 6 a.m. ET. ("BassCenter" also will spotlight Iaconelli this Saturday at 7 and 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2 television.)
"I'm real proud of it," Iaconelli said. "Basically, for a long time, I've envisioned that I would eventually love the opportunity to write a book.
"Well, the opportunity came this early (in my career) and it kind of took me by surprise. It's an autobiography. But more than that, it's a behind the scenes look at professional bass fishing."
While millions of bass anglers around North America dream of fishing on the CITGO Bassmaster Pro Tour as Ike and his competitors do, the angler-turned-author cautions that it's not all glitz, glamour and big bass.
"Readers are going to see a lot of reality," Iaconelli said. "The harsh reality is that it is not all roses and not all positives.
"Too many people flick it on ESPN2 on Saturday and think, 'Cool, I'd like to go bass fishing for a living. That would be the coolest thing in the world.'
"But they don't see the hours of driving, the struggles, the harsh (stuff) and all of the negatives. They don't see the big picture behind it. I think they'll be able to get a real good look at this sport."
Ike indicates that the book, co-authored with Andrew Kamenetzky and Brian Kamenetzky, is written in much the same style as the way he fishes in front of the ESPN Outdoors television cameras no holds barred.
"Yeah, there's a lot of controversial topics that come up in the book," Iaconelli said. "Again, it's a real look."
"It wasn't intended to go out and bash people; it was to show what really happens out here. It's not bashing, but being real."
If his new book would seem to be bold and up front, that is really nothing more than Ike just being Ike.
In other words, when it comes to Iaconelli, what you see is what you get whether it's on the water, on television, on the radio or in print.
"I think a lot of people were put off by Mike's manner at first, especially because it was so different," said Ken Cook, the 1991 Classic champ.
"But after looking at it several different times, I think it is genuine excitement (on Iaconelli's part) and I think that's great."
Ike concedes that there has been plenty of excitement so far in his young career, including his 2003 Classic title, three other BASS victories and more than $700,000 in career earnings.
But Ike also indicates that there have been more than a few low moments as he has battled his way up through the BASS Federation ranks to the Classic weigh-in summit.
These were low moments powerful enough to leave the New Jersey pro wondering if the flame in his competitive furnace, not his angling shirt was about to go out for good.
"This may surprise a lot of people, but I was on the verge of quitting the sport all the way up to the edge of winning the Classic," Iaconelli said. "This will open up a lot of peoples' eyes to the harsh realities of bass fishing."
Like his wide-eyed approach to fishing and his career, Ike is hopeful this tell-it-like-it-is book will be a bit different from other angling books on the shelves.
"When this idea came up and they said, 'Mike would you like to do a book?' I said I would love to, but I don't want it to be another 'how to fish' book," Iaconelli said.
While there's plenty to entertain and inform everyone from the tournament pro to a weekend warrior, Ike also hopes his book will appeal to non-anglers, as well.
"My hope is that the average guy that buys this book isn't the hardcore fisherman," Iaconelli said. "I'd like to reach the suburban kid, the guy from New York City that doesn't fish."
That's not to say that there aren't plenty of tips, techniques and how-to info to be gleaned from the pages of "Fishing on the Edge."
"Every chapter gives some sidebar tips," Iaconelli said. "It's a 32-chapter book, so there is a lot of hard-core, almost underground tips and tactics that have worked for me."
For the competitive angler trying to rise up through the Federation ranks and into the pros, there's some information geared toward such topics as marketing and attracting sponsors, for example.
Weekend anglers also should find plenty of info that Ike hopes will help them to maximize their time on the water.
"The average angler has one weekend off a month to chase his passion, to catch fish," Iaconelli said. "There's enough material in this book to show him an easier way to do it, a more logical way to do it.
"Fishing to me this comes up in the book over and over it's a puzzle and we're always trying to put the pieces of this puzzle together."
Ike would seem to have learned how to do just that put the pieces of the fishing puzzle together and then some.
But he admits that even today, with his first book being published, that he still has trouble at times believing how far a Jersey kid has been able to come thanks to a driving passion for fishing, plenty of hard work and some good fortune.
"To be honest, everyday I still have to pinch myself when I wake up and I go out to breakfast and I'm sitting next to Larry Nixon or Denny Brauer.
"I'm actually out here fishing with guys that I've read about for years and years."
With his new book on the shelves, it appears that it's now time for the next generation of anglers to begin reading about anglers just like Ike.
For details about purchasing Mike Iaconelli's new book, visit his Web site at www.mikeiaconelli.com.
2003 Classic champ Mike Iaconelli pens new book with an honest behind-the-scenes look at life as a bass-angling pro.