ESPN2: French Fried Fishing with Ike

Mike Iaconelli digs French fries.

But before you pass the ketchup, please note that Ike prefers his French Fries on the water.

And on the water is exactly where the 2003 CITGO Bassmasters Classic champ will be this Bass Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET when class goes into session for this week's "Bassmaster University" angling education course on ESPN2.

In that show, Professor Ike will give viewers a number of tips on how to modify an on the water heaping helping of French-fry style baits, an angling recipe that can result in some sizzling bass fishing action at various times of the year.

"The general idea of a French fry is that it is a stubby four-inch long worm-looking, do-nothing style of bait," Ike told me earlier this week as he prepared for the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Capitol Clash presented by Busch Beer on the Potomac River.

But the bait is anything but a do-nothing kind of bait, at least according to Ike's various French fry recipes.

First of all, the Runnemede, New Jersey angling pro with five BASS wins in his back pocket, loves to fish the French Fry weightless and Texas-rigged.

"You can fish it over the top of the grass and you can fish it that way a lot from the spawn to the fall," Ike said, noting that such a method could come into play this week at the Potomac River Elite Series tourney.

A second way that the current leader in the 2006 Angler of the Year race loves to modify a French fry on the fly is to insert a nail into the back of the bait, a move that will cause the bait to dart backwards when the retrieve is stopped.

"That's good for fishing a French fry in a little deeper water," Iaconelli said.

"This sort of reverse presentation is great for finicky fish, especially when fished around riprap (near bridges), or around deeper docks since the backwards glide of the bait will dart it back under the cover."

A final way that Ike loves to modify his French fry baits is a tactic best reserved for spawning fish.

"I'll cut it in half down to a two-inch do-nothing looking bait," Iaconelli said.

"This is a great way to sight fish for fish on (and around) the beds. A lot of times, you can trigger an aggressive, guarding type of bite (fishing a French fry bait this way)."

While it is safe bet that the third modification Ike likes to make to his French fry style baits will not come into play at this week's "Capitol Clash," it's almost a certainty that the other two methods will be in his bag of tricks.

After all, one of Mike's most coveted angling career goals - a BASS Angler of the Year title — is within sight as the Elite Series winds down.

With more than $1 million in career earnings, a Classic title, five tournament wins, and upper echelon of the sport visibility and earning power, such a title would appear to all but cap Ike's superb career.

"It's certainly a goal of mine," Ike said. "It's a dream of mine to win Angler of the Year."

"But (even if it doesn't happen), I've got a great family, two beautiful girls, and I'm living a dream."

Even so, he admits that winning the AOY title would be a great way to end a year that began with his first day disqualification at the Classic this past February on Florida's Lake Toho.

"Yeah, it would definitely be nice (to win AOY)," Iaconelli said. "You learn from mistakes and go on - that's what life is all about."

Speaking of going on, that's exactly what Ike plans to do for many years to come regardless of how the Angler of the Year race turns out.

"The nice thing about this sport is that when you hit your mid-30s, you're not wiped out," Iaconelli said, noting that he plans to be competitively fishing for much of his life. "You learn as you age."

So exactly how will Ike fish this week's tournament on the Potomac with the AOY race heating up towards a fantastic finish?

"I'll go out and try to figure out the patterns by letting the fish talk to me," Iaconelli said.

Lest you think Ike will back off and put a "Prevent Defense" style of fishing into play, think again.

"I'm going to fish like I always do, to win the event. I'm not going to change how I do that even with the Angler of the Year (up for grabs)."

And you can put that in the deep fryer and fry it up, Professor Iaconelli French fry style, of course.