Adventures and Misadventures in the First Person


Michele Fanfani

We’ll tell this story in the first person. It’s because what happened in the MLF Toyota Series on Lake Chickamuaga was incredible, and it’s best to have Jacopo explain it in his own words…..

“I had already been on this lake in 2019 when I fished a Bassmaster Open. I didn’t have a great tournament, finishing 75th out of 200 competitors. It wasn’t a bad finish – just not great.

I showed up again with confidence in the fact that in the past few years of profesisonal fishing I have improved in my approach to American tournaments.

The general behavior of the fish at this time of the year is not however easy to decipher. The bass population is divided between pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn. The cards on the table are also mixed in another way, as the weather delivered cold fronts with abundant rain that certainly affected the fish.


I began day one of practice in search of areas that held bass in all three phases, so as to find different, but not entirely disiimilar patterns. I ran the lake, which is large, and in the end I identified a spot with an interesting, shallow grass line positioned near deeper water. I take a few casts, land two keepers and leave in search of other spots. As I continued fishing shallow water, I found myself catching small keepers, mostly short males, with the larger females nowhere to be found….

With this information in hand, I decide to move to a different area of water on the second day of practice, an area where I might find patterns that were more suited to my style. And as if to cancel my worries about catching only smaller bass, here comes an important catch: a female that weighed more than three and one-half pounds that gives me hope.

And then something happens that immediately shatters that feeling…

As I depart for the launch, my motor seizes up while the boat is on full plane. I can’t understand what might have happened, but the outboard won’t restart. Being fairly close to the ramp, I decide to return with my trolling motor. Thanks to the amazing efficiency of my Reylon batteries, I cover the eight miles that separate me from the launch. If you’ve ever tried it, you know it’s not easy loading the boat on the trailer without a motor! You’ve got to get in the lake……With some effort I manage to trailer my Phoenix.

Unfortunately, Mercury service is not available in the Phoenix Series, so I try to trouble shoot using the Phoenix service. The service technicians are of the opinion that it isn’t an issue with the boat, but it’s something that happens when I trim the motor.

The next day, I have no choice but to get in the water again. I fish close to the ramp, and even without catching much, I think the area has potential if fished in the right way. And then when I move to another area, the outboard seizes up again. Fortunately, I am close to the ramp, so I take another bath and loa dthe boat on my trailer. Since the motor seems to quit when I trim it, I wonder if I can fish and get around safely if I simply leave it alone.

I get into the water again for the fourth and final day of practice, thinking that maybe if I adjust some wires on the trim I might avoid blowing out fuses, as has happened repeatedly. And it works for a while and I am able to fish for a few hours, even if without much of a result. But six or seven miles from the ramp, I stall again. Maybe it is a more serious problem with something that interacts with the trim, but I have to fish some in order to understand what to do during the tournament!

I use the remaining practice time to catch a sad limit, but at least it’s a limit. It’s clear that, for what little I personally saw, the better fish were in the grass on that first day instead of in deeper water. As I return to the ramp, my electrical battery finally gives out, about one mile away from my destination. Thank the Lord, a passing boat that saw I was in trouble towed me back to the ramp, where of course I took another bath, and where, with the help of my co-angler, I load the boat.

And so, if the best fish are in the grass, I have to be able to use my outboard to reach the spot; therefore, my motor has to work without issues. And so on my day of rest between practice and competition, I decide to drive the 600 mile round trip in order to bring my boat to Freedom Marine Center of Guntersville in the hope we can resolve the issue.

However, despite working on it all day, the problem isn’t entirely fixed by the end of the day. Maybe the motor will work, but we aren’t entirely sure because the electronics in the new propoulsion systems are so complex. I return to Dayton on Lake Chickamauga without any certainty but also resolved to hang in there. I need this tournament to earn points and qualify again for the November championship on Table Rock!


When I put the boat in the water the next morning ahead of Day 1, I can hear the motor isn’t running well…. It’s a bad sign, but I decide to risk it, and I run to the grass line under a driving rain. Luckily, I arrive intact. I strategically position the boat in order to hold the best casting range, and I anchor down in shallow water.

It turns out to be the right choice. In a short time, I land a two and a half pounder while fishing a soft swimbait. Being still, however, I have to rotate my techniques and baits. Using a drop shot rig, I land two more keepers. My co-angler lands a fish on a lipless crankbait, so I imitate him. I land a beautiful four pounder. 

I continue fishing and alternating my presentations. I lose a fish that felt like a good one on the drop shot, and then I catch my fifth fish to fill my limit. It is 9 a.m. and I have a limit of around 10 pounds. I have to cull, so I decide to risk turning on the motor.

Without fail, it fails. We are 25 miles from the launch. What will I do now?

I have a decent limit that could allow me to advance. I could fish for a few more hours, abandon the boat to my co-angler and have a fellow competitor bring me to the weigh-in…but then how will I get my boat back to the ramp?

I could also call the service provided by the organization, which is precisely for moments like these, and have them bring me to the weigh in with my fish, estimating it takes about three hours of navigation time.

I choose the second option, and make an appointment for noon so that I can fish this area for a bit. I land a small bass, and then hook another that gets into the grass and stays pinned there.

The tow back to the ramp is long but we arrive at the weigh-in site (which is not near the launch), and we have a little time left to fish.

This area has docks in shallow water, so I switch to a Neko rig. It’s a favorite of mine, and after a short time I land a beautiful female three pounder that brings my limit to 11 lbs, 6 ounces. It’s a great surprise to see that I am in 46th place!

I didn’t expect much, but the lake proved to really be tough for everyone to fish.

(I have to thank Ken here, who had the goodwill to tow me from the weigh-in to the ramp, a distance of around 4 miles. After some troubles finding the truck and trailer, I took my usual bath and felt….lucky.)

I take off on Day 2 with only one certainty I can’t go very far. This time I don’t even try to use the outboard, and I stay close to the ramp.

I had determined in practice that the area might contain some interesting fish if I fished for them the right way. I still believe it and I fish the Neko rig with conviction.

I am still at zero after two hours. Desperation! All I need is a small limit in order to stay in the top 100 and advanc eto the championship.

And yet, I have the feeling there are quality fish around. So I move closer to shore and soon enough I see some decent fish near spawning beds. Fishing there near a dock, I land my first keeper on the Neko rig at two and one-quarter pounds.

This is better. The weather worsens, but it seems to move the fish. I change approach and fish for reaction bites. Still near the same dock, I cast a jerk bait and land a fish that weighs around four and one-half pounds. Here we go! With a fish like that, I should advance to the championship.

But I am determined, and because I can’t venture far, I have to alternate presentations in order to fish the fish that are present thoroughly. I return to the Neko rig and fill a limit of 12 pounds, ten ounces. 32nd place!

It was an unexpected result, but most of all it was the result of my drive to close out a tournament that placed enough obstacles in front of me to shake the determination of the most seasoned pro.

There is a Latin phrase that applies here: Per aspera ad astra. It means you have to endure the worst to reach the stars.

Gallelli’s Gear

Soft Swimmbait

13 FISHING ENVY casting rod, length 7’6” , 3/8 – 1 ¼ oz. Medium Heavy with extra-fast action.

CONCEPT C2 casting reel with 7:5:1 ratio, loaded with with Sufix Fluorocarbon 14 lb test.

Hook: BKK Titan Diver Plus rigged with a 5” swimbait.

Neko Rig

13 FISHING ENVY BLACK III spinning rod, length 6’10”, 1/8 – 3/8oz. with Fast action.

Reel loaded with Sufix X8 braid 15 lb. test and a Fluorocarbon Sufix Advance 10 lb. leader.

Hook: BKK Predator W.G. #1 tipped with a 5” worm and inserted 1/32 oz weight.


13 FISHING ENVY 2 casting rod, length 7’4”, 1/4 – ¾ oz. with Moderate-fast action.

CONCEPT C2 casting reel with 7,5:1 ratio, loaded with Fluorocarbon Sufix Advance 14 lb. test

Drop Shot Rig

13 FISHING ENVY spinning rod, length 6’10”, 1/8 – 3/8 oz. with Extra-fast action.

Spinning reel loaded with Sufix X8 braid 15 lb. test and Fluorocarbon Sufix Advance leader, 10 lb. test.

Weight: 3/16oz. tungsten.

Hook: BKK Siren 1 model tipped with a 4” worm.

Jerk Bait

13 FISHING ENVY casting rod, length 6’8”, ¼ – 5/8 oz. fast action

CONCEPT C2 baitcaster with 6,8:1 ratio, loade diwth Fluorocarbon Sufix Advance 12 lb. test.

(Traduzioni: Henry Veggian)

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Michele Fanfani
Michele, 60 years old, Florentine like Jacopo, followed him during all phases of his sporting career in Italy and accompanied him to America at the start of his professional career. He achived several successes fishing along with Jacopo but above all he conceived and created the Italian magazine “Bassfishing” and the publication “The Secrets of Bassfishing”. He currently follows Jacopo along his career and is the creator and administrator of the “Curva Gallelli” Fans Club.