If you are at all familiar with professional bass fishing, you no doubt know about Mike Iaconelli. He won the 2003 Bassmaster Classic, and he was the 2006 BASS angler of the year. He's the guy who often screams for the television camera when he catches a fish. He's been known to begin breakdancing on the deck of his bass boat. He is also the host of "City Limits Fishing" which is broadcast on the Versus cable network.
And, oh by the way, "City Limits Fishing" will be focused on Charleston this week. Iaconelli came to town last October and fished with local guide and professional angler Ben Alderman (www.benalderman.com) for a show that will be televised Friday at 9 p.m. and midnight; Feb 22 at 9 a.m.; Feb. 23 at 2:30 p.m.; Feb. 25 at 5:30 p.m.; Feb. 26 at 10:30 a.m. and March 18 at 9:30 p.m.
The basic concept of the show is to visit an urban location and catch a limit of fish in an eight-hour fishing day. In Charleston, that meant catching a limit of redfish (three) that fell within the state's slot limit (each fish had to measure between 15 and 23 inches in total length.) After the fishing part was done, Iaconelli and a cameraman strolled the streets of Charleston, asking people if they knew anything about the fishing in the area.
Iaconelli, who is 38, said the Charleston fishing was unbelievable. He and Alderman caught more than 30 fish, many of them over the limit, with a bonus shark.
"Not to puff Charleston up, but this was one of our best shoots for sure," he said. "Just the sheer number and the fight of the redfish."
"We set some lofty goals in this (show). Most shows it's a challenge to just get a limit. It actually took us a little bit of time, a little under three hours to get our limit of slot fish. From there, we went and tried to target bigger fish.
"This was a treat for me because I spend most of the year specifically freshwater bass fishing. Don't get me wrong, I love that. But redfish are very addictive. A lot of my friends that have bass-fished their whole life went to redfish and never came back to freshwater bass fishing."
The show is a collaboration between Iaconelli and producer Doug Bunze, who several years ago produced a short, vignette-type show for ESPN called Urban Fishing. Bunze brought the idea of "City Limits Fishing" to Iaconelli, who grew up outside Philadelphia.
"Urban fishing is the last great-kept secret in the outdoors. People automatically assume you have to go to Wyoming or the mountains of Pennsylvania, places like that, and there is great fishing right here. You don't have to travel and spend that money," Iaconelli said.
The two have done four seasons of the show and it has become very popular.
"Every year before we start shooting, we start putting together a list of cities," Iaconelli said. "I have input, the producer has input, the network has input. We used a lot of social media, what the fans or viewers are saying. We've had a lot of feedback saying come to Charleston. We do six cities per year."
Iaconelli compared fishing in Charleston to New Orleans, where he won the 2003 Bassmasters Classic. He said there he ran to Venice, La., a brackish area where he caught redfish and flounder in the same area he was catching largemouth bass.
"Every place we go has its own story and unique feature. They're all special," he said.
Iaconelli's climb up the ladder to the top of professional bass fishing is interesting. The kid from New Jersey fished from the bank until he was 18. He had a jon boat with a trolling motor during his college years, and when he was a sophomore he ended up winning a tournament where the prize was a fully rigged bass boat. The next step was winning the BASS Federation Nationals in 1998.
In college, he was an ad major, which may explain some of the antics television viewers have seen.
"I am absolutely passionate about the sport," he said. "When I'm out there fishing, I wear my heart on my sleeve. When I'm fishing, I'm definitely a different person, emotionally and everything. When I'm at home and having dinner with my wife and the Phillies win, I don't get up on the table and start yelling and screaming."
Iaconelli said his favorite lure for largemouth bass is a Shaky Head "just for sheer numbers." Fishing in saltwater, it would be a jighead tipped with a piece of Berkeley Gulp.
His biggest largemouth bass weighed 14 pounds, 1 ounce and came from Texas's Lake Amistad during tournament practice. His biggest in a tournament was 12-3 two years later, also at Lake Amistad.
His favorite getaway from fishing is "just behind at home. Pitts Grove, N.J., about 40 minutes south of Philadelphia. I've got 10 acres. We plant corn fields, plant gardens, and there's a 150-acre private lake in my backyard that's loaded with crappie and bluegill. It's loaded with bass, too." He's big on all Philadelphia sports.