May 19, 2005

Iaconelli takes early lead on Dardanelle

2005 Bassmaster Elite 50 Series - Russellville, Ark.

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. - With the BASS Federation Championship just concluded, it's only fitting that New Jersey's Michael Iaconelli is in the lead at the Lake Dardanelle Elite 50 event. The 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion earned his way into the pro ranks by first qualifying for the Classic as a Federation angler. In the first round at Dardanelle, Iaconelli bagged a limit of five bass that weighed 15 pounds, 1 ounce good enough for a 6 ounce lead over Texas' Gary Klein, the 9th greatest bass angler of all-time according to ESPN Outdoors' Greatest Angler Debate poll.

"I'm optimistic about the rest of the tournament," Iaconelli said. "I'm one step closer to making the cut, and that's my ultimate goal with any tournament."

Iaconelli caught his limit by keying on post-spawn fish holding on shallow ledges. He caught only five bass all day and has yet to put together a solid pattern on Dardanelle.

"I caught five fish on five different baits," Iaconelli said. "I'm not really on them, but I'm covering as much water as possible, and I'm in a great position to make the cut."

Adding to Iaconelli's uncertainty is a pair of veteran Texas bass pros who are less than a pound behind him Gary Klein (14-11) and Zell Rowland (14-9). The two have 35 Classic appearances between them.

Klein's situation is as precarious as the leader's. He, too, caught only five keepers on the day, but Klein's fish were taken on shallow banks.

"I was really fortunate to catch these fish today," Klein said. "I was junk fishing with a worm and a crankbait."

Of the leaders, only Rowland had a pattern working. He's swimming a jig in just 1-3 feet of water. Rather than look back at his third place catch, though, Rowland is busy looking at tomorrow's weather report.

"If it gets cloudy tomorrow," Rowland said, "watch out because I'm really going to catch 'em."

Luckily for Rowland, the forecast calls for clouds on Day Two.

Rounding out the top five are a couple of Classic champions, 1999 champ Davy Hite (14-0) of South Carolina and 1993 champ David Fritts (13-6) of North Carolina.

Missing not only from the top five, but even from the top 20, are any of the six Arkansas pros in the tournament. George Cochran of Hot Springs is the top ranking Natural State resident, and he's in 21st place.

Just in front of Cochran in 20th place is Texas' Dean Rojas, who caught only two fish on the day, but one of those was a seven pounder by far the biggest bass of the day that earned Rojas a check for $1,000 and took Purolator Big Bass honors.

Rojas landed his behemoth on a prototype frog that is the talk of the tournament.

"Kevin VanDam is begging me for some of these frogs." Rojas said.

Weigh-ins will be held at 7:00 p.m. at Dardanelle State Park on Thursday-Saturday.

Each Elite 50 angler will have a payday in the no-entry-fee event. The winner will take home a check for $100,000, and the last place finisher will earn $5,000. The total payout for each of the four Elite 50 events is $400,000.

Part one of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series event on Lake Dardanelle will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, May 28 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Part two will air on Saturday June 4 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).

Local Sponsors include the Russellville Tourism & Visitors Center.

BASS Communications -May. 18, 2005

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Posted by DODGE at May 19, 2005 03:40 PM in Tournament (BASS)