Congrats to Jack M for giving the correct answer to the trivia contest this week! Read below for the answer.
The May 1994 North Carolina Bassmaster Top 100 on Lake Norman marked the lone win in Mike Bingham’s B.A.S.S. career. It didn’t come easily to the Jackson, Mississippi pro, either. He’d been financing his fishing career by working as a mussel diver on Kentucky Lake, and had sold his boat earlier in the year when he’d determined that professional angling was a dead end. With a sudden change of heart, he got a boat at the last minute for Norman. According to Bassmaster, he’d planned to camp for the tournament but ended up rooming with a charitable Shaw Grigsby.
The tournament proved to be tough for the entire field. Even Bingham, the winner, only had 17 bass weighing 37-04 when the fourth day of competition ended. That tied him with his roommate Grigsby, who’d caught 20 bass to tally the same amount. In what Tim Tucker described as “the first championship overtime in the 27-year history of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society,” the pair were given one more hour to fish to try to break the deadlock. At the end of that hour, Bingham came in with a single 2-pound, 1-ounce bass, while Grigsby had an empty livewell. As a result, the Mississippian took home $46,000 in cash and merchandise.
Unfortunately for Bingham, the success was fleeting. He fished 23 professional level B.A.S.S. tournaments after his victory (as well as some more recent Weekend Series events), the last one coming in May of 1999. Over that course of time, he only cracked the top ten once more. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was at Norman five months later, when he finished 4th.
While Bingham’s quest for stardom might not have been jump started by his victory, another modern superstar got a critical boost at the tournament Bingham won.
Here’s the answer.
Mike Iaconelli was the top amateur in the Top 100 that Bingham won. Just a month away from his 22nd birthday, Ike caught 16 keeper fish over the course of four days that cumulatively weighed 24-01, fishing behind Cliff Craft, Carl Maxfield, Guido Hibdon and Chet Douthit.
While his 5-11 margin of victory doesn’t seem huge, in a tournament where it took less than 9 pounds to get a check, it was all but insurmountable. In fact, it would have put him in a tie for 25th on the pro side with David Wharton. Only five other amateurs weighed a double-digit number of bass, and none of them had more than 11.
Most importantly for Ike, his $19,000 prize package consisted of a new Ranger 374 boat and 150 HP Evinrude motor. Up until then, he’d been fishing out of a 12-foot jon boat.
After winning the boat, Ike realized that he had no way to get it home. Fortunately, as he related in his book Fishing on the Edge, his family had faith that he’d leave the stage victorious: “I learned they were so confident in me that while I was out fishing that last day my uncle Don ran down to Pep Boys, spent a few hundred bucks, and had a Class 3 hitch installed on his van to tow the Ranger (that I hadn’t won yet) back home. If I hadn’t had a great day, he might as well have burned his money, since Don had no use for a hitch.”
With the boat in his possession, Iaconelli took a year to get acclimated, and then took “the next step up the ladder from club fishing to the Federation level…and the Red Man circuit.” Shortly thereafter, he was fishing the Opens, and by the end of the decade he’d won both the Federation National Championship and a Top 150 tournament at Lake Champlain.