Watch an exclusive interview with bass fishing pro Ish Monroe taped at the 2008 Bassmaster Classic. Glenn May, founder of BassResource.com, asked him some intriguing questions about tournament fishing you'll only see here!
Glenn: Hi, I'm with Ish Monroe at the Bassmaster Classic. Ish, good to have you with us today.
Ish Monroe: Glad to be here.
Glenn: Can you give us a quick overview of how you got started tournament fishing, and how you progressed to where you are today?
Ish: Well, I've been fishing since I was two years old. Growing up, my Dad took me out fishing and so I really loved fishing. About 11 years old, I saw something similar to Ultimate Match fishing on TV, two guys duking it out, and they were actually two young kids, and the younger kid beat the older kid. I think one was 16 and one was 18, and I'm like, "I can do that!", and the young kid one five grand, and to me five grand at 11 years old was the world. I mean, it was like a million dollars now, and so I just started growing a love for fishing that way, working in a tackle store, joined a bass club when I was 12 years old. I started from there fishing tournaments and that was it. It never stopped.
Glenn: So for a new guy who wants to get into competitive bass fishing, what kind of advice would you give him?
Ish: Take baby steps. Don't try to run before you walk, or walk before you crawl. Crawl is basically starting out at the club level, joining a local club, getting familiar with your boat, and competition in the waters, and then stepping up to a regional level, fishing something like the BFL's, of the Federation, things like that, and then working up from there in to the Strens, or the Opens, and then try to tackle on the Elite Series or the FLW Tour.
Glenn: What would you consider was your big break into the tournament fishing circuits?
Ish: BASS coming out West was the big break, because everybody has aspirations of fishing for a living, and the only way you can do it is fishing the bass. The Elite Tour at that time was the top 100's, and so, they came out West, gave us an opportunity to fish the invitationals, and I made it my first year to qualify to fish back east, and so I went.
Glenn: So I noticed you have an awful lot of sponsors, and I know that's part of being a tournament pro. Can you talk a little bit about what the sponsors do for you, and what you do in return?
Ish: Well, basically for me, it's more so what I can do for them, and they help me out to be able to fish for a living. My deal for them is I go out and I promote, and I help them sell their products. I have a lot of end design, and things like that, that my sponsors have on products that they sell. In return, they give me monetary value that allows me to pay my bills and be able to go out with a comfortable set of mind and know that I don't have to cash a check to be able to make a living doing this.
Glenn: Excellent. So let's talk a little bit about on the water. When you're pre-fishing for a tournament, for instance, what exactly are you trying to accomplish, and how do you go about doing that?
Ish: Well, pre-fishing for me is, I'm a big fan of fishing the moment. I do a lot of driving, a lot of looking, my Lowrance 113 with my Navionics chips, whether I'm in the east, west, south, or north, cover everything for me. I can be able to search around and pull up on humps and breaks with my Navionics chip and see the stuff on the bottom with my 113 sonar. Those are the things that I do a lot, not just fishing. Fishing is a small part of practicing. It's going out scoping, and trying to find things, and trying to find the type of structures and techniques you want to fish.
Glenn: So you're not necessarily fishing that structure, you're just checking out to see if it's potential areas?
Ish: Yeah, basically potential areas. I do fish a little bit, trying to find something and find a pattern. If I find them on one type of pattern, say I'm fishing breaks in 30 feet of water, then I can go around and find the rest of those breaks in 30 feet of water real simple, and go back and fish them.
Glenn: Okay, so say during a tournament, you're on a spot, how do you decide when it's time to pick up and go to another spot? Aren't you concerned that another competitor will come in on your spot?
Ish: Especially when you're fishing deep, it really doesn't matter, because most of the guys haven't found that stuff. They haven't spent the time. Navionics has helped out guys a lot, making it easy for them. I tell people, when I first got them, it was almost like cheating. It was like having you map and having a guide in the boat who says, "Oh, yeah, there's a hump sunken down 30 feet that comes up to 12." Well, of course I'm going to go fish it, but it's intuition when you know when to leave a spot, and you're not feeling it. You just let your emotions and your mind take over, and just let it flow. I call it the Jedi deal, and just flowing with everything and the way it moves.
Glenn: Let's talk a little bit about that. Can you tell me, is the mental aspect of it, as you said, like being a Jedi, is that what separates the Elite pros from the weekend warriors? What do you think is the thing that separates you from the rest?
Ish: For me, I think it's my mental mindset. I don't drink any alcohol during the season, and I stay focused, and I don't party, and I go to bed early, and I have one thing on my mind: concentrating on catching fish. You look at guys like Kevin VanDam, he loves to trash talk me, because it fires him up; it keep him going. Ike's all about being emotional all around, and that's the mental game for him. If he's not emotional about it, if he's not running 100 miles per hour through his head, he's not feeling comfortable in fishing, and that's what it's all about. Just feeling comfortable, and going out and going fishing: fishing the moment.
Glenn: Cool. Let me talk a little bit about the tournament rules. They change every year. There' s a little bit of adjustments made all the time. If you had the opportunity to change one rule, what would it be?
Ish: I would make it, instead of a 30-day off limits once they arrange the schedule, a complete off-limits from information and being on the water.
Glenn: And why is that?
Ish: Because there are guys who don't do a lot of promotions, who get the time to go out with guides and stuff before the off-limits actually hits, and getting help. To have a true sport, you should be able to do everything on your own, and I think someday that BASS is actually going to go to that, and so that's why I never get help. I never pre-practice on lakes a month ahead of time. I never even came out for Classic pre-practice before off-limits, even on Hartwell, and I'd never been there before, because I feel like you should be able to do it on your own.
Glenn: Excellent. Excellent. So let me ask you this, what do you consider as your most unusual bass fishing tactic?
Ish: My most unusual bass fishing tactic? I really can't say I have one. Everything works. I don't know. I don't have an unusual bass fishing tactic, I just go fishing and keep it simple. That's why.
Glenn: Just two more questions. You have 30 seconds for a shameless plug moment here. Do you want to say anything to your fans, promote anything you want to? Go.
Ish: That's kind of a tough one, just to shamelessly go out and promote anything. You guys see my sponsors out there and the products that I endorse. I use every single one of these products. I have a lot of influence on how these products are made. You look at Daiwa's 8-foot Steez flipping stick. I had a lot of influence on that because I was the one who wanted and eight-foot flipping stick.
You look at the Lowrance Electronics, the bigger screen, things like that, those are just things that make your fishing easier. Navionics, there's not much more you can say about it. It's plug-and-go. It's simple as can be. Maximum fishing line, the strongest Power Pro grade, you can't break grade.
Reaction Innovations, who doesn't fish a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver. If you're not fishing Sweet Beaver you're not fishing. Hildebrandt Spinnerbaits, Purolator Oil Filters in my truck, I mean, I'm covering it all. Snag Proof, Bass West Magazine, Yamaha Outboards, most reliable engine on the market. Ranger Boats. Ranger's been around and Ranger's Ranger. Nothing else you could say about Ranger.
Glenn: All right.
Ish: And... True Tungsten. Wait until you see the new stuff we have coming out! Ish Monroe's Flipping Tube, or not even the Flipping Tube, the big tube, and the big 12/0 hook and my swim baits, go big or go home!
Glenn: All right. All right. One more question. Jan or Marsha Brady?
Ish: Both. At the same time. You get the best of both worlds.
Glenn: Thank you very much Ish, I do appreciate it.
Ish: No problem.