"B.A.S.S. is where I started, and it's where I'll end."
Last week, in a thorough, heartfelt letter to bass fishing fans, Mike Iaconelli chose to open up about his decision to return to B.A.S.S. for what will be his final ride as a professional angler.
The only angler to have ever won the Bassmaster Classic, Bassmaster Angler of the Year and the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Iaconelli, or "Ike," had become a household name in the B.A.S.S circuit before making his move to Major League Fishing following the 2018 season.
He spent two years with MLF and then opted out of the 2021 season leaving his future plans vulnerable to endless speculation until Nov. 9, 2021, when he announced his return to the circuit where he made his name.
Iaconelli says his choice to leave MLF was one of the toughest career decisions he's ever had to make, stressing that it didn't come down to any issues with MLF, but rather prioritizing his family.
"In the end, though, Becky and I decided to come home," he said. "It was a matter of controlling our own destiny."
The decorated angler goes on to explain his reasoning for leaving B.A.S.S. in the first place, recalling his desire to have more control over his career. However, he highlights the obstacles the COVID-19 pandemic placed in front of all professional sports, and how B.A.S.S. was able to impressively maneuver uncharted waters by rescheduling and relocating tournaments.
Early in the pandemic, Iaconelli and his wife chose to use their surplus of time to double down on their personal businesses, while also making the most of time they weren't used to having with their children.
Realizing how much they enjoyed their adjusted lifestyle, they found themselves at a crossroads that demanded a decision, so they started talking to everyone in their camp, and even released a poll for Ike's fans to offer their opinions.
"Of course, the fans wanted me to return to B.A.S.S. by an overwhelming margin," he said. "Like, at least 80 percent."
He then decided to fish the qualifying tournaments for both B.A.S.S. and MLF to give himself options, but also to earn his way back to whichever circuit he would join.
"I didn't want any handouts or legacy stuff," he said. "I left of my own will. I wanted to return because I had earned it, not because somebody gave it to me because of things I did in the past. My career is not about what I did yesterday. It's about what I did today and what I'm going to do tomorrow."
After qualifying for both, Iaconelli decided his professional fishing career wasn't over and that he still had a lot left in the tank.
All that was left to decide was which circuit to join.
"I thought it through and realized that I needed to come home," he said. "I like the B.A.S.S. format, the five big fish across the stage, the live fans and especially all the kids. And I honestly think I have another blue trophy in me and maybe a few Classic appearances. I might even pull off a win in one of them, or maybe win a Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
"How long that'll be is up in the air. It could be two or three years, or it might be five or six years. Heck, it could even be nine or 10 years. I don't know. What I do know is that I want to go out on top, with respect and dignity. I'll not fish past when I'm competitive. I don't guarantee very many things, but that I can guarantee."
Iaconelli will make his return to the Bassmaster Elite Series Feb. 10, 2022, on St. Johns River in Palatka, Florida.
NEXT: 2 MINUTES OF RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS WITH MIKE IACONELLI