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Recent Bassmaster Elite tournament brought fame to the Delaware River

Bluefish up to 16 pounds are being caught on the Jamaica headboat
Bluefish up to 16 pounds are being caught on the Jamaica headboat
by Capt. Howard Bogan

With the unseasonably cool weather we’ve had over the past few days, fishing has turned on in local lakes, some larger trout streams and of course the Lehigh and Delaware rivers.

Speaking of the latter, last weekends Bassmaster Elite bass fishing tournament held in the lower Delaware River was won by Mike Iaconnelli who was born in Philadelphia but now resides in Pitts Grove, NJ.

Iaconnelli beat out 105 other bass pros with a total weight of 47 pounds, 14 ounces comprised mostly of largemouth bass. This earned him a cool $100,000 first place prize.

What is interesting about his fete is that few anglers consider the lower part of the Delaware a viable fishery because of the commercial and recreational boat traffic in that sector. But Iaconelli proved the lower Delaware is a quality fishery as echoed by Jon Arway, PF&BC’s Executive Director who said, “Iaconelli’s win demonstrates that a high-quality bass fishery can exist at the doorstep of our nation’s fifth largest city.”

But what most weekend anglers want to know is where Iaconelli caught his fish and on what.

Since the lower Delaware is primarily tidal water, the pros had to know when high, medium and low tides were happening and have a game plan to fish the appropriate areas during those times.

For Iaconelli, the low spots were around docks and at the mouth of Timber Creek where, he believed, bass moved to when the tide went out. Here he picked up a few bass.

The other hotspots were big concrete storm drainpipes and tidal-pond drains that had steel grates protecting them from large debris entering them.

So how did he fish them? If your first thought was with the flippin’ method, you were right as he tossed his lures in between the grates.

Iaconelli said he used but two lures for the entire tournament.

According to Bassmaster Elite’s website, he used a brown and purple, ?-ounce prototype finesse jig from Missile Jigs. The jig was tipped with a green-purple Berkley Chigger Chunk

The other lure was a green-pumpkin and blue metalflake Berkley Havoc Pit Boss rigged with a 3/8-ounce VMC tungsten weight and 5/0 VMC Flippin’ Hook which played an important part in hooking these fish.

Said Iaconelli, “The key there is that I had to get a good hook into these fish and then kind of wait ‘em out as a lot of these fish were on for two to five minutes before I could land them. You had to play them until you can get an angle to reach them. If they get stuck, it’s a waiting game to see if you can get your rod at an angle to get them unstuck.”

He admitted he lost very few fish because of the VMC hook as it comes with a unique, dual-barbed bait keeper that holds the bait in place.

“Both the Heavy Duty Flippin Hook and lighter-wire Flippin’ Hook feature a 1/8-inch gap above the bait-keeper to allow room for a snell knot. However, you can tie them to your line with a Palomar or other knot as well,” advises Iaconelli.

The winner also said that for about 20 percent of the fish he caught, he used a Junebug colored Havoc Bottom Hopper shaky head rig on a 3/16-ounce VMC jighead and a white Molix Lover vibrating jig.

The tournament will be televised on ESPN2’s Bassmaster show Aug. 24 and 31 from 8-9 a.m.


Cooler temps have also perked up the Jersey/Delaware shore saltwater fishing action. Fluking is reported to be good in the Ambrose and Reach channels in the Hazlet, NJ area while bluefish, bonito and dolphin are cooperating in the Barnegat Bay area.

Capt. Howard Bogan’s 125-foot Jamaica charter boat out of Brielle, NJ has been loading up with bluefish, many up to 16 pounds. Most blues were caught on jigs and bait after some chumming just east of Brielle at night.

In the popular Avalon vacation spot, weakies, drum, stripers, blues and some fluke are being hooked predominately on bloodworms and plastic artificials.

Down in Rehoboth Beach, croakers are falling for squid and bloodworms while stripers prefer eels and sand fleas. Surf anglers there are hooking blues, king fish and some croakers.

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