When it comes to cancer research, reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli will be opening up his wallet in a major way this season — he hopes.
The New Jersey pro, who participated in the Angling Against Cancer event in Florida earlier this month, recently announced that he will be contributing $2 for every pound he catches during the 2004 tournament season to ESPN's Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research. So during the course of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour and Elite 50 Tour, Iaconelli hopes to be writing lots of big checks, because not only is it for a good cause -- it would mean that he is continuing to do well in big-league tournaments.
His efforts will be called Anglers POUNDing Out Cures.
"The Jimmy V Foundation is such a neat organization," said Iaconelli, referring to the charity started by ESPN and late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano (who died of bone cancer in 1993). "One of the big reasons I went with the Jimmy V Foundation is because they are a group that supports research into every realm of cancer. There are so many different types of cancer out there, and they are funding money to each of them. I'm also asking all of my sponsors to support this program, as it will truly enhance the donation campaign.
"With the growing popularity of bass fishing, I think now is the time to start giving back to the community. We want our sport to elevate to that next level and go new places, so doing these types of things is an important step for us. I bet if you surveyed 99 percent of the anglers out there, they have all been touched in one way or another by this terrible disease."
On a personal level, Iaconelli's family has battled cancer.
"About three years ago my uncle was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which is cancer of the blood," he said. "Obviously, it was a shock when you hear something like that. He went through the treatment, battled it out, and right now he's in remission and is doing well. When you have someone that close to you get afflicted with something like that, it's a real reality check. So, it's a no-brainer for me to do something that was cancer based.
"My uncle is one of the most important people in my life. He was the one that got me involved in fishing and really shaped me into the person that I am today. My uncle has really been a father figure to me. My dad died when I was 2 years old, so I really didn't have a dad, but I had an uncle and he is super close to me. Right now he's probably my biggest fan in the world."
When he won a Bassmaster Tour event on Lake Seminole in 2002, Iaconelli dedicated the victory to his uncle, saying, "… one of the biggest motivators for me recently has been my uncle. We found out recently that he has cancer, and he really gave me the motivation not to give up, not to quit. This one's for him."
All monies will be totaled after the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer in Charlotte and a check presentation is planned for next year's Angling Against Cancer benefit dinner and tournament in Kissimmee, Fla.
In addition, individuals can contribute to the Anglers POUNDing Out Cures campaign by visiting mikeiaconelli.com, bassmaster.com, jimmyv.org, anglerschallenge.org or calling the V Foundation at (800) 4JIMMYV. Contributors will be entered into a raffle and randomly selected to be Iaconelli's fishing partner in next year's cancer benefit tournament on Lake Tohopekaliga.
CLASSIC BOUND. With only this week's CITGO Bassmaster Western Open season finale and the inaugural Open Championship remaining, nine pros are breathing easier because they have already earned precious Classic invitations. Here's the lineup so far: Art Ferguson, Michigan; Kevin Wirth, Kentucky; Chuck Economou, Florida; Edwin Evers, Oklahoma; Tim Carroll, Oklahoma; Steve Sennikoff, Texas; Tim Horton, Alabama; David Walker, Kentucky; and Denny Brauer, Missouri. The top three pros out of the West and the Open Championship winner will round out the earlier qualifying field.
AID FOR THE TROOPS. Bass Pro Shops is joining forces with the United Service Organizations (USO) to debut the Operation Bass Pro Shops/USO Care Package program. The alliance will enable individuals to support America's men and women in uniform who are deployed overseas through personal messages and care packages filled with much-needed items. Because of heightened security, supporters can no longer send letters and packages addressed "Deliver to Any Service Member." The USO program is approved and endorsed by the U.S. Department of Defense to deliver packages to aid in the morale and comfort for men and women of the Armed Forces. Instead, anyone wanting to help support our troops can stop by any Bass Pro Shops retail location, pick-up a $1 or $5 donation card, and take it to the nearest cashier. The cards can also be signed with personal greetings to the troops. Donations may also be made by calling 1-800-BASSPRO or on the Bass Pro Shops web site at basspro.com.
"All of us at Bass Pro Shops are extremely excited to be an official partner with the USO on such a meaningful program and patriotic endeavor as Operation Bass Pro Shops/USO Care Package," Bass Pro Shops President Jim Hagale said. "If we can, in some small way, offer a sense of comfort and home to our heroes, then we've provided a great service of which we are all proud."
DID YOU KNOW? Four anglers have won the coveted Classic more than once: Rick Clunn (four), George Cochran (two), Bobby Murray (two) and Hank Parker (two). PRO BIRTHDAYS. North Carolina's Guy Eaker becomes 63 on Nov. 23, while Randy Blaukat turns 42 a day later. Jim Bitter (61) and Terry Baksay (43) share Nov. 28 as their birthday, while Edwin Evers will celebrate his 29th birthday on Nov. 30.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO… Indiana pro Koby Krieger, a past BASS winner, would be involved in the family business manufacturing boat trailers. "That's what I did before fishing full time," he said, "and I'd probably be measuring boats and selling boat trailers."
THEY SAID IT. "This is what you dream about. … Two years ago I was like 100,000 other fishermen out there that dream about this. I was working and fishing every weekend and making sacrifices with the family and so forth.. (I was) practicing every single day in the yard — casting, flipping, pitching into a little bucket, trying to become more diversified. And here I am the winner of a BASS tournament." Missouri pro Shane Voyles on winning the recent CITGO Southern Open on Lake Eufaula.