The first question I hear from most people since I picked up my first career victory with B.A.S.S. in Sacramento earlier this month is, “How does it feel?”
That’s an easy one to answer. It is the most overwhelming and amazing feeling I have ever experienced. I had imagined that final day in my head for 17 years (since I have wanted to be a professional fisherman), but even in my imagination it wasn't that perfect.
But then the next question people ask – almost before I’m done answering the first – is, “How did you run out of gas on Day 3?”
(Watch the video here.)
That one requires a more detailed explanation.
Day 3 was the one day of the tournament when I decided not to start the morning with a long run to the far West. I went East instead, and I put a lot less miles on my boat that day.
When I got where I was going on the East side, I never really did much running. I stayed on the trolling motor, and if I ran anywhere, it was just a half-mile or a mile a couple of different times.
Despite doing less running, I didn’t catch my first bass until around 10:30. So I knew I was going to have to really push it as late as I could to get as much fishing time as possible.
I ended up only catching six keepers that day, and one of them – a 3-pound bed fish – came during the last five or 10 minutes. It helped me upgrade by about 1.5 pounds, but I needed every possible second to do it.
I had gone over the return trip in my head, figuring in all of the 5 mph zones, and I knew I was going to be alright, but it would be close. So when I got to Three-Mile Slough at 2 p.m., an hour before check-in time, I had a 50-minute run ahead of me and important decision to make.
I still had time to buy gas, but it would have made me the very last man coming up the river – and that’s a bad thing.
I had complete faith in my Phoenix/Yamaha SHO combo to get me back to the launch site. But I was worried about all the Delta’s X-factors.
From logs and snags that will smash a lower unit to boat traffic that can really slow you down, there are plenty of things that can go wrong. If something had happened with no one coming upriver behind me, the tournament would have been lost.
I decided to stretch my remaining gas as far as it would go while relying on another angler with West Coast roots who was also cutting it close. That angler, of course, was Ish Monroe.
Ish got to the 5 mph zone the same time as I did. I’m pretty positive we were the last couple of guys coming up – and that makes sense, because we were local guys and we knew exactly how much time we needed to make it back.
I explained the situation to Ish, and he knew how much weight I had. We both thought I would make it, but he told he’d be behind me all the way, ready to pick me up, if my gas didn’t hold out.
I was right, it was super close. I made it to within 4 miles of the launch site before I ran out of gas. Before I could get the boat to the bank, Ish was pulling up. He stayed right behind me the whole way. I think it is important to note that the river is narrow enough up there that there's no way he could miss me.
What happened next was well-documented by the GoPro footage that has been so popular on Bassmaster.com.
I loaded my fish into Ish’s live well, and my marshal I jumped into Ish’s boat to finish the run upriver. We arrived with two minutes to spare, and I went on to have the most amazing weekend I’ve ever had as a professional bass fisherman.
I truly believe most any angler on the Elite Series would have done the same thing for me, and I know I would do the same for any of them. But the fact that it was Ish was really special to me.
I’ve been an Ish Monroe fan for a long time. He signed a hat for me when I was about 14 years old, and I’ve got an Ish Monroe signed jersey in my garage.
I’m sure everyone is familiar by now with the incident involving Ish and Keith Poche back in January. That was a bad deal, for sure.
Ish doesn’t need me to defend him.
But if you’re going to judge him based on one incident, it shouldn’t be what happened at Toho in January. It should be him following me back up the Sacramento River and picking me up, because that's who Ish really is.
I’ve got a big blue trophy on my mantle at home and a story I’ll be telling as long as I live.
I'm thankful and happy to be able to include my man, Ish, in that story.