By BassFan Staff
Friends will become enemies for six hours Thursday in one of the Bassmaster Classic Bracket semifinals.
It’s the scenario neither desired to play out, but now that it’s upon them, both Ish Monroe and Mike Iaconelli plan to make the best of it at Lake Pokegama.
Monroe, the No. 6 seed, came out of the first part of his quarterfinal match against Jonathon VanDam with a 9 1/2-pound lead and followed up with a limit for 9-10 Wednesday morning to cruise to a victory with a two-day total of 22-09. In the end, Monroe didn’t need to catch a fish today in order to eliminate VanDam, who had 6-14 in today’s session and 10-06 overall.
Iaconelli, meanwhile, had a 2 1/4-pound lead over Adrian Avena and briefly fell behind this morning before turning the tide with a 3-10 largemouth at 8:09 a.m. CST that gave him the lead back for good. Iaconelli, the No. 2 seed, finished the morning with a stout 14-00 limit to push his total to 24-00 while Avena had 13-07 and finished with 21-03.
That sets up a meeting between the two longtime friends – Monroe was a groomsman in Iaconelli’s wedding – and traveling partners on the Elite Series on Thursday with a berth in Friday’s final on the line.
“When people see two friends get paired off, they gasp, but for us it’s the opposite,” Iaconelli said. “We talk about everything. It’s cool. I couldn’t think of a better guy to be paired with. It’s nice because if I don’t advance I want him to win.”
Iaconelli said their friendship dates back to the start of his career.
“It was a natural connection when we hung out back in the beginning of my career,” he said. “With him being from the West Coast and me being from the East Coast, it was similar to how we grew up and our backgrounds. Our interests and hobbies are the same. I’ve been traveling with him since the beginning and he’s the kind of guy who’d do anything for you. If you need baits and he’s an hour away, he’ll drive them to you. That’s who he is.”
In the other matches that concluded Wednesday afternoon, both Jacob Powroznik and Dave Lefebre posted lopsided victories as neither of their opponents recorded a limit today. That set up a semifinal duel between
Powroznik eliminated top seed Steve Kennedy by catching 12-14, which gave him a two-day total of 26-05. Kennedy didn’t catch a keeper until final 30 minutes and finished with a pair of keepers for 2-09, giving him a 14-02 aggregate.
Lefebre took out No. 4 seed Kelley Jaye behind a 11-08 limit today that pushed his total to 24-05. Jaye mustered three keepers for 3-15 and closed with 13-02.
Below is a brief summary of how the four quarterfinal matches finished up:
> Match 1: Jacob Powroznik (10, 26-05) def. Steve Kennedy (6, 14-02)
> Match 2: Dave Lefebre (10, 24-05) def. Kelley Jaye (8, 13-02)
> Match 3: Ish Monroe (10, 22-09) def. Jonathon VanDam (7, 10-06)
> Match 4: Mike Iaconelli (10, 24-00) def. Adrian Avena (9, 21-03)
Competition will resume at 8:30 a.m. EST Wednesday with Monroe facing Iaconelli and Powroznik meeting Lefebre in the semifinals. The finals will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST on Friday when each legal-sized bass will count as opposed to just the best five.
The post-front conditions today featured mostly overcast skies in the morning that gave way to abundant sunshine in the afternoon. On Thursday, more sun is in the forecast with some clouds possible in the afternoon. The wind is expected to blow out of the southeast at 10 to 15 miles per hour.
Monroe Cruises Past JVD
> Day 1: Monroe – 12-15 (5), VanDam – 3-08 (2)
> Day 2: Monroe – 9-10 (5), VanDam – 6-14 (5)
> Total = Monroe – 22-09 (10), VanDam – 10-06 (7)
Monroe fished like he had a 9 1/2-pound lead today. He tried some different things in hopes of developing other options for Thursday. He caught his third keeper at 9:15 local time, then didn’t catch another until the final minutes when he finished his limit with two fish right before the session ended.
“I explored some stuff and it didn’t pay off,” he said. “In the last minute I checked something else and caught two in literally 3 minutes.”
He said it’s been difficult to gauge how much the smallmouth will impact the event because he hasn’t competed under sunny skies at all. He’s caught all largemouth so far.
“It is what it’s going to be,” he said. “I’m just going fishing. It’s all about getting a couple good bites, whether they’re smallmouth or largemouth.”
As for his meeting with Iaconelli, he said the six continuous hours will allow him to pick over areas better.
“I’m fishing for big bites so with six hours, I can fish slower in areas with the potential for big bites,” he added.
He said fishing against Iaconelli will be a challenge, but they’ve always shared information at events and this one is no different.
“We still talk,” he said. “We talked about patterns today when we were done. The thing is one of us will move on to the finals and we want to make sure one of us is the guy going to the Classic. For us, nothing changes. We’re good enough friends that I want to win, but If I’m going to lose to someone, I’d rather it be him. The other guys, I want to beat them.”
VanDam’s plan was undercut by the weather the last two days. During Monday’s practice session, the sun was out and there was a slight breeze. He was able to develop a smallmouth pattern offshore, but it never materialized once competition began.
“The weather killed me a little bit,” he said. “During the tournament the wind was blowing and I wanted that, but I didn’t get any sun. It’s a weird thing with those three-hour blocks. Both days I spent an hour to 90 minutes trying that offshore stuff, but couldn’t get anything going.
“The next thing you know, you’re down to 90 minutes and you have to scramble.”
He still has a chance to make the Classic, but it’s a longshot and would involve Kennedy or Iaconelli winning this event and then the final two Bassmaster Opens being won by anglers already qualified for the Classic.
“To be honest, it’s a disappointing end to the season, but at the same time I’m thankful for how it went,” he said. “I had to fish my butt off to even have a chance to make it there. I had to scratch and claw my way up the points to have this opportunity so I’m proud of how I did to wrap the season up. It’s still a bummer.”
Smallies Carry Ike Past Avena
> Day 1: Iaconelli – 10-00 (5), Avena – 7-12 (4)
> Day 2: Iaconelli – 14-00 (5), Avena – 13-07 (5)
> Total = Iaconelli – 24-00 (10), Avena – 21-03 (9)
All five of Iaconelli’s fish were 2 1/2 pounds or bigger today, an indication he’s starting to get keyed in on things at Pokegama.
“I’m learning a little bit every day,” he said. “I learned something at the end of the day Tuesday and got a key bite that clued me in on what to do today. I went with that and it worked for a while, then it fizzled. Then I found something at the end of the day today that could work for me tomorrow. I’m trying to learn and establish a pattern, but at the same time trying to learn something new.”
“Tomorrow will be a totally different day. We’re going to have different wind directions and sunny skies and new conditions. It’s constantly changing.”
There was a key sequence midway through the session that saw Iaconelli pick up a jerkbait and catch three quality smallmouth (all 2-08 or bigger) and he thinks the brown fish will loom large as this event progresses.
“The first round and a half was cloudy for me, but at the end of my round today the sun broke out so I think you’re going to see smallmouth play a bigger role going forward,” he added.
If he had a chance to rewind this week, Avena would’ve spent his practice day differently.
“Hindsight is always 20-20,” he said. “I practiced to win the tournament. I thought if I could find an offshore pod of bass I could win. I wasn’t able to capitalize on what was going on shallow. Of course, not catching five hurt Tuesday.”
He committed the end of his session today to a small overpass and a small channel and backwater lake at the south end of Pokegama. The bridge produced a number of good fish, but he wasn’t able to keep the magic going once he eased back into the small lake.
“I took the chance some big ones were back there, but the gamble didn’t work out,” he said.
Overall, he comes away from the event with a positive outlook. He was the last angler to qualify for the AOY Championship and fished his way into the Bracket last week at Mille Lacs.
“Honestly, I’m pretty satisfied,” he said. “You never like getting beat, but when it comes down to it, I did what I feel I needed to do today. If Ike stumbled, I’d have won. He did his job today and had a lead and that was the difference.”
Powroznik Pulls Away
> Day 1: Powroznik – 13-07 (5), Kennedy – 11-09 (4)
> Day 2: Powroznik – 12-14 (5), Kennedy – 2-09 (2)
> Total = Powroznik – 26-05 (10), Kennedy – 14-02 (6)
Powroznik racked up four keepers for 10-10 in the first 30 minutes of his session today and Kennedy had no answer. The Virginian finished his limit for 11-15 and culled two times later as he shifted to practice mode for the semifinals over the last 30 minutes.
“It feels good (to win),” Powroznik said. “It’s probably the highlight of my season so far.”
He’s focusing on an area away from the bank and discovered a sizeable group of fish there that he hopes are still there in the morning.
“Out there where I’m fishing if I pull up tomorrow and they fire I think I can catch 14 pounds pretty easy,” he said. “If they don’t, I went practicing today and saw a couple nice ones swim off with my stuff, so I know what to do.”
His back-up plan is to “skip as many docks as I can.”
“I’m not going to do the reed deal because I think that’s a cloudy deal and it’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow.”
He’s relied mostly on largemouth so far and doesn’t anticipate smallmouth coming into play too much.
“Where I’m fishing I could stumble across some, but I think this is mostly a largemouth lake,” he said.
Kennedy’s first keeper, a 1-04 largemouth, didn’t come until 3:01 local time and his second fish came in the final minute. His struggles were a product of his trying to fire up a school of fish in the area where he caught his best fish on Tuesday morning.
“I don’t know what was going on,” he said. “The perch were pestering me to death. I kept me thinking I’d figure it out.”
He suspected he’d struggle with his swimbait strategy under post-front conditions, but his screen was littered with marks. The fish just weren’t in feeding mode.
“I don’t feel like I was doing the wrong thing,” he added. “The conditions changed and I didn’t figure out how to catch them. They’re there. I can see them. I just couldn’t figure it out.
“It was kind of expected for the conditions we had, yet I did it again. It’s hard to get away from those kinds of bites.”
Kennedy’s chances of making the Classic were damaged by his loss but he’s not totally out of it. Due to his points finish (40th), if a Classic-qualified angler wins one of the final two Bassmaster Opens, he’ll get a Classic berth. He’s even considered registering for the upcoming Southern Open at Smith Lake.
“I’m still hopeful,” he said.
Lefebre Stayed Shallow
> Day 1: Lefebre – 12-13 (5), Jaye – 9-03 (5)
> Day 2: Lefebre – 11-08 (5), Jaye – 3-15 (3)
> Total = Lefebre – 24-05 (10), Jaye – 13-02 (8)
Lefebre settled into a good rhythm early on today and it allowed him to amass a 9-07 limit to take a commanding lead over Jaye, who caught his first keeper 15 minutes into the session, then went another hour before landing his second.
“I didn’t fish a lot of good stuff,” he said. “I wanted to get decent limit in the area I started and I did. After that I was just bobbing around.”
Lefebre has done most of his damage around shallow cover and feels like he should be able to expand on the pattern tomorrow.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “I like what I’m doing and some of the things I have in my mind to try. I have an 8-fooot rod in my hand and 20-pound test so it feels good. I was able to look around to run around to some other stuff. I feel like I haven’t seen much of the lake.”
He said the afternoon sun was deceiving in that it was post-frontal – “It wasn’t good sun,” he joked.
Aside from the conditions, he thinks the biggest factor to overcome is the thought that he’s going through stretches that had already been fished today. Tomorrow that won’t be an issue.
“It was a big obstacle fishing behind somebody,” he said. “I had a feeling somebody raked them in the morning where I was fishing.”
Jaye lost a couple key fish Tuesday, but today those opportunities never materialized.
“It was really simple for me,” he said. “The wind changed direction and the docks I had been skipping had bad waves crashing in on them. Every time I tried to skip a worm, it was like it was hitting a ramp and it screwed up me.”
He tried throwing moving baits and reaction bites, but that only seem to attract pike bites.
“It was one of those deals where I knew where the leaders were and the wind wasn’t bad for them, but where Steve and I were, it was bad,” he added.
> Thurs., Sept. 21 – Mostly Sunny - 74°/62°
- Wind: From the SE at 10 to 15 mph
> Fri., Sept. 22 – Mix of Clouds, Sun - 79°/62°
- Wind: From the SSE at 10 to 15 mph