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Keeping Pace with Ike

Anglers tied atop standings after first day of Bassmaster Classic

Mike Iaconelli displays his biggest fish with flare. (Darren Jacobson photo) Mike Iaconelli displays his biggest fish with flare. (Darren Jacobson photo)

By: Deb Johnson,

TULSA, Okla. — Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., and 2003 Bassmaster Classic champ Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., tied for the first-day lead at the 2013 edition of the world championship of bass fishing on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

They both brought 21 pounds, 8 ounces to the scales at Tulsa’s BOK Center on Friday, the first of three days of competition for the $500,000 top prize of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

Pace pulled off his big weight in the last few hours of competition by adding a 6-pound, 8-ounce bass. That big one and another fish came after a nerve-wracking lull of almost two hours without a bite.

“I don’t know if I just wasn’t around them, or they weren’t in the right frame of mind to bite. But then I caught two pretty good fish in the last couple of hours,” he said.

If Pace can keep his momentum and win, it would be his first Classic victory. For Iaconelli, his 21 1/2 pounds of Friday showed him a door to a possible second Classic crown.

“It’s the kind of start you have to have to win the Classic,” he said.

Iaconelli — and other Classic competitors — weren’t much bothered by a passing cold front and the sub-freezing temperatures of Friday.

“A lot of time after a very, very cold night like we had, the fishing gets better,” he said.

In third after the first round was a Classic rookie, Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C. He brought in 20-15, trailing the leaders by 9 ounces.

In fourth place with 19-12 was four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich. Just 2 ounces in back of VanDam was Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., who had 19-10. Local favorite Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., was sixth with 18-12.

The Carhartt Big Bass of the day was a 7-pound, 40 ounce largemouth by Mark Pierce of Clarksville, Tenn. The biggest bass brought to the scales over three days of Classic competition could be worth a $2,500 bonus from Carhartt.

After Saturday, the field will be cut to the top 25 anglers. They’ll return Sunday to Grand Lake for the final day of competition. The 2013 Classic champ will be crowned at the BOK Center on Sunday.

Classic competitors will launch their boats Saturday and Sunday at Wolf Creek Park in Grand, Okla. The anglers will leave the docks at 7 a.m. CT. For fans, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods at the Tulsa Convention Center will be open Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. CT, and Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. CT.

The doors to the BOK Center will open at 3 p.m. for the weigh-ins Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free to Bassmaster Classic events.

Classic coverage on ESPN2 will begin with a Day 1 show at 9-10 a.m. ET March 2. Classic coverage of the final two days will air March 3 on ESPN2 from 6 a.m. to noon.

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