Iaconelli’s Blueback Herring Blueprint

By Luke Stoner – Dynamic Sponsorships

Team Toyota pro Mike Iaconelli has fished all three Elite Series tournaments held on South Carolina’s Lake Murray, and after day twos’ weigh-in concluded, he’s still yet to miss a paycheck on this fishery. The veteran Iaconelli tied for second place here in 2011, 11th place in 2023, and backed those performances up with another strong tournament on Murray this week, heading into semifinal Sunday in 29th place.

Iaconelli believes there are several reasons he gels with this 50,000-acre reservoir on the Saluda River, perhaps most pointedly is his experience catching bass that feed on herring. But Ike’s experience is drawn from bass that chase alewife herring on fisheries like Lake Champlain, not the blueback herring present in Lake Murray.

“Alewife and blueback herring are like distant cousins but the way they spawn, and how bass set up to feed on them is almost exactly the same,” Iaconelli explained. “When the bass spawn ends, the herring spawn starts, regardless of species.

“Herring are dispersion spawners. They seek out places like flat shoals, a hard spot on a point, and gravel banks or red clay bottom here in South Carolina. Any kind of hard substrate is key when targeting a herring spawn. Low-light time periods are critical for both species as well.”

The longtime Yamaha Outboards pro got an early education on alewife herring and how they affect bass fishing a place called Fairview Lake in the Pocono Mountains. As Iaconelli explained, there are a lot of parallels with bass focused on either species of herring. So even though Iaconelli doesn’t have a plethora of experience on lakes with bluebacks to draw from, he’s comfortable leaning on his familiarity with alewives.

There are also similarities in terms of bait selection. Iaconelli laid out some of the nuances he’s learned when targeting bass feeding on herring.

“Herring, alewives and bluebacks, they move different than other baitfish,” Iaconelli offered. “They move differently than threadfin or gizzard shad, different than bluegills or golden shiners. Herring are their own animal when it comes to movement. The best way I can describe it is, it’s a straight-line movement.”

Not all bass fishermen are straight-shooters but according to Iaconelli all herring are straight-swimmers. You see this reflected in Iaconelli’s bait selection for herring chasers, but he even tailors his retrieve and cadence to mimic a herring’s straight swimming tendency.

This week on Lake Murray, and most anytime he visits a fishery with herring as a predominate forage base, Iaconelli employs a pencil-popper style topwater, a soft plastic jerkbait, and a shallow-diving crankbait.

“A Berkley Cane Walker, a PowerBait Jerk Shad, and Berkley Frittside 5 squarebill have been my key lures on Murray,” Iaconelli said. “Those are staples for herring lakes, but more than just the lures I change up my retrieve on these fisheries.

“I pull my Jerk Shad on herring lakes instead of twitching it. Instead of walking a topwater like normal, I spend most of my retrieve straight reeling or sprinting my topwater and throw in a few back-and-forth walks every so often. Then a Frittside naturally has very straight forward movement, which is key.”

Pure pattern fishing has been one of Iaconelli’s biggest strengths throughout his 27-years as a professional angler. There are few better at figuring out and then replicating a pattern than Iaconelli, and perhaps no one better at articulating his thoughts and process to fishing fans. That same passion that started 700 miles away in the Pocono Mountains is alive and well at Lake Murray this week.