Locked out … again

Many would think that after six anglers lost their complete catch on Day Two because of barge traffic at the lock between Pools 6 and 7, competitors in the Arkansas River Elite Series event would have learned their lessons.

That subject was presented to Ish Monroe, who along with Mike Iaconelli, Clark Reehm and Greg Hackney, suffered a late penalty because another barge delayed the lock schedule.

Monroe, Reehm and Hackney were 3 minutes late checking in, Ike was 2 minutes late (a pound is lost per minute).

“We fish to win. Period,” was Monroe’s response.

“Yes, there is risk locking through river systems because you never know what kind of commercial traffic a river might have. And when these giant barges enter these locks, it can take hours to get ‘em through. But, you have to be willing to go down in flames in order to win an event at this level. It’s a risk we have to take,” he continued.

Monroe had found several areas in Pool 7 where bass were more than willing to eat his SnagProof Phat Frog. Today, mainly on the strength of this frog bite, Monroe had a limit by 12:45.

“Once I had five fish, I was confident I’d make the cut. So, I immediately called the lock master and found out that there were five Elite guys in the lock, heading south, and there was a giant double barge on the other side waiting to come through.”

Monroe asked if he could lock through before they pushed the barge in and was told that was impossible.

“So, they estimated the barge would be out by 2:45. I knew that would be cutting it super close,” he continued.

Monroe decided to be at the lock by 2:30. While waiting, he found an area that allowed him to cull a couple of fish, again using his frog. This gave him around 12 pounds and an immense amount of confidence going into Day Four, if he made it back to weigh-in before late penalties eliminated his catch.

“We were in the lock at exactly 2:45. It took 10 minutes for them to shut the door, drop the water, and open the doors down river. Then it took a minute to idle through the lock. And then it took 7 minutes to haul back to the launch and check in. That made me exactly 3 minutes late,” he explained.

Monroe’s limit weighed 11-11, which gave him 8-11 after the penalties. His three-day total landed at 29-10, putting him in ninth place and fishing on Day Four. Iaconelli, Reehm and Hackney weren’t so lucky. After the dust settled, the late penalties did not cost these anglers a Top 12 spot. (Reehm would have ended up in  13th place without the penalty, Ike in 35th.) However, they did lose valuable Angler of the Year points heading into the final event of the season.

Now that the field has been cut to 12, Monroe is the only angler fishing the troubled Pool 7.

“Don’t even ask if I’m going to chance locking through,” Monroe smiled, “because you know the answer! And what’s more, I have it all to myself and an awesome spot to start in the morning where my frog will get crushed. Surely there can’t be lock delays three days in a row …”