- James Hall
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MANY, La. -- Ish Monroe has had a horrible start to his season. He has finished 70th, 48th, and 89th in the first three Elite Series events. And Toledo Bend wasn't looking much better as the California native weighed-in only 11-13 on Day One, placing him close to the bottom of the standings.
"My fishing has just been off for some reason and I was really struggling with what in the world was going on," Monroe explained.
His internal battle continued to rage at 3:55 p.m. on Day Two, as he had only three fish in his livewell. Monroe had a 4:30 check-in and had a 20-minute ride to get there. The clock was ticking.
"I was running out of time when I noticed what looked like an old bridge under the surface. So, I flipped my lizard (Berkley 6-inch, watermelon) to the structure and felt the bite. I set the hook and the fish didn't budge," Monroe explained.
Problem was, there was a thousand pounds of concrete between him and what he felt like was a truly huge bass.
"I could feel this big head shake," he said. "I knew it was a big fish. And I knew I was in a lot of trouble because she had me totally hung in the pilings. I was like 'great, another freakin' bad break!'"
But then Monroe's luck changed.
"I knew I had to get out of there or I was going to miss my check-in time. So, I started lifting up as hard as I could on my rod, assuming my line would break. Instead, she came out! She came out of the concrete and just freakin' laid on her side by the boat. And she was huge!" Monroe said, still smiling.
He credits his 20-pound Maxima Fluorocarbon for not losing the fish.
But he wasn't out of the woods just yet. Winds had picked up to 35-plus mph and his 20-minute ride was likely going to take much longer. So he put the behemoth in the livewell and started running back.
"There were 5- and 6-footers out there. It was crazy rough. Unfortunately, I took a huge wave over the bow and it washed about $10,000 worth of gear into Toledo Bend!" grimaced Monroe.
The gear, which Monroe now dubs "the most expensive brushpile in Texas," included 11 Daiwa Steez rod and reel combinations, several of which were irreplaceable Japanese models.
"I couldn't really stop to think about it, though, because I couldn't be late. If I was even one minute late, I'd likely miss the cut!" he continued.
As Monroe rolled in to check-in, he stuck up his thumb as the tournament clock went from one to zero. B.A.S.S. staff returned the thumbs-up, signifying his on-time arrival by no more than a couple of seconds.
"My luck may be changing," Monroe grinned. "And I have to give credit where credit is due. Brandon Palaniuk made me sandwiches this week after I asked him to do so. I figured he is catching bass everywhere he goes, so maybe his food had something to do with it. Now I'm thinking I may be on to something."
Monroe's bass officially weighed-in at 10-15, not only the day's biggest fish, but also the biggest fish of the tournament. His total weight on Day Two was 18-14, vaulting him to 21st place.
As Monroe walked off stage, he was greeted by representatives of the Toledo Bend Lake Association. He will be receiving a fiberglass replica of his giant as part of the Toledo Bend Lunker Program that recognizes all bass over 10 pounds caught from the lake.
"I'm feeling pretty good about tomorrow. If I can catch another big one, I may just make the final day cut," Monroe said, brimming with confidence.
"Although I'll have to borrow some rods and reels to get it done!"
Bassmaster Elite Series TroKar Battle on the Bayou: Ish's 11-pounder, $10k and a lucky sandwich