GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — After two full days of fishing the Bassmaster Classic Bracket last-chance tournament on Pokegama Lake, four anglers moved a step closer to earning a berth in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods to be held on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell.
During the morning session, California pro Ish Monroe won his head-to-head battle with Jonathon VanDam and earned a spot in the semifinals, while New Jersey veteran Michael Iaconelli kept his chances alive for a 17th straight Classic berth with a victory over second-year B.A.S.S. pro Adrian Avena.
During the afternoon session, Virginia pro Jacob Powroznik cruised past top-seeded pro, Steve Kennedy, who finished second in the 2017 Classic. Pennsylvania pro Dave Lefebre earned his spot in the semifinal round by defeating Alabamian Kelley Jaye.
The four remaining anglers will fish from 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. CT Thursday, with the weights starting back at zero. Iaconelli will face Monroe, and Lefebre will square off against Powroznik. The two anglers who survive Thursday’s round will fish head-to-head on Friday with a Classic berth on the line.
Here’s a look at how the matches played out Wednesday during the catch-weigh-release event that featured start-to-finish coverage by Bassmaster LIVE on Bassmaster.com.
No. 2 Michael Iaconelli vs. No. 7 Adrian Avena
The two New Jersey pros put on an entertaining show Wednesday, but it was Avena’s struggles on the first day of competition that ultimately made the difference.
Ike caught five fish Tuesday that weighed 10-0, while Avena managed just four that weighed 7-12. They were almost even Wednesday, with Iaconelli bringing in a five-bass limit that weighed 14-0 and Avena catching five that weighed 13-7.
But Avena’s one missing fish loomed large as Iaconelli won 24-0 to 21-3.
Avena promised a big change for Wednesday after his opening struggles, and it came in the form of a buzzbait that produced for him throughout the day. But Iaconelli never wavered.
After landing a nice fish from some pencil reeds late Tuesday, Ike returned to those reeds Wednesday with a Missile Baits Mini-Flip jig and caught bass almost constantly. On the rare occasions when a fish missed on the jig, Iaconelli would follow up with a wacky-rigged worm to put the bass in the boat.
“When I caught that last fish Tuesday, I said it was big in more ways than one,” Iaconelli remembered. “It showed me what I needed to be doing today.”
Now, it could also be big the rest of the week as Ike moves on to the semifinals.
For Avena, his season will end for the second straight year without a trip to the Classic.
“I told myself after yesterday that I wanted to come out and have fun with it,” Avena said. “That’s what I did. I just didn’t get enough bites, and Ike did his job.”
No. 3 Jonathon VanDam vs. No. 6 Ish Monroe
Monroe didn’t have quite the luck Wednesday that he had Tuesday afternoon. But then, he didn’t really need it.
Monroe caught five bass Tuesday that weighed 12 pounds, 15 ounces, while VanDam of Michigan caught just two that weighed 3-8.
So, when Monroe caught a decent fish on topwater just 10 minutes into the morning session Wednesday — and then followed with a 2-13 and a 2-5 during the next 30 minutes — the competition was all but over.
VanDam fared slightly better Wednesday after switching from a jerkbait to a spinnerbait. He landed a 1-4 less than 10 minutes into the session and followed quickly with a 1-5 and a 1-2.
But JVD’s Wednesday total of 6-14 added to his Tuesday mark of 3-8 gave him a two-day score of 10-6. That was more than 11 pounds back of Monroe’s two-day mark of 22-9.
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Last week, 39 anglers qualified for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods through the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship.
But eight more barely missed their shot at a Classic berth — and they’re getting one more chance this week with all of the action carried on Bassmaster LIVE.
The Classic Bracket at Pokegama Lake features the first eight anglers to miss Classic qualification battling it out in a head-to-head, match-style format. Every fish caught during the catch-weigh-release event will be carried live on Bassmaster.com — and when the dust settles on Friday, the final angler standing will receive an automatic berth into the Classic, which will be held on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell next March.
Competition began Monday with two three-hour sessions, with four anglers competing in the morning, followed by the remaining four anglers competing in the afternoon. All eight anglers will advance to Wednesday’s second round, with only the four match winners moving onto Thursday’s semifinals.