Kyle Monti of Okeechobee, Fla., was “upset with the world” when he fished his first Bassmaster Open. His father, John, at age 39, had recently been shot and killed. Monti believed the way to get past his sorrow and move ahead was to fish harder.
Monti’s inaugural Bassmaster Open was the southern division’s first event of 2015 at Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga. He fell well short of earning a check there. During the next Southern Open on the Alabama River, Monti failed to catch a single bass.
“I was fishing angry,” Monti said. “I realized I had an issue and started doing research on sports psychology.”
Monti’s road to mental toughness began by reading the book How Champions Think by sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella. He also did internet searches on how to achieve a positive mental attitude. An especially helpful source for Monti was a four-part video on youtube.com titled “G-Man Gerald Swindle Comedy Hour Fishing Seminar.”
The Swindle videos are filled with humor, which is what the Alabama Elite Series pro is known for. However, Swindle uses humor in the videos to emphasize the importance of a positive mental attitude (PMA) when tournament fishing.
“I’ve watched those videos at least 100 times,” Monti said.
Monti also found a Swindle video on PMA from The Bass University. In that video Swindle tells how the untimely death of his brother from cancer put him in a dark place. The loss caused negativity in all aspects of Swindle’s life, including his tournament fishing. It was something Swindle had to overcome to gain a positive mental attitude. Monti knew he faced the same challenge.
Overcoming negativity is hard and it doesn’t happen overnight. One of Swindle’s points in the videos is that it takes 21 positive thoughts to offset one negative thought. Monti was encouraged that his mindset was on the right track when he finished 30th at the final Southern Open of 2015 at Lake Seminole.
Although Monti is only 25 years old, he has reason to be upset about doing poorly in the Bassmaster Opens. He claims he could cast a baitcasting reel before he knew how to tie his shoes.
Monti’s family lived in Belle Glade on the southern end of Lake Okeechobee. His initial fishing ventures were casting from the bank of the canal that flows from Okeechobee through the sugarcane fields that were farmed by his father. Although his father and grandfather, Ray Alston, often took Monti fishing, neither of them participated in bass tournaments.
Monti’s zeal for tournament fishing was instilled in him from watching Bassmaster television shows on Saturday mornings. When his elementary school teachers asked their students what they wanted to be, “fireman” or “policeman” were common responses from other boys. But starting at the tender age of five, Monti’s answer was always that he wanted to be a professional bass fisherman. He was as serious about this quest then as he is now.
At age 11 Monti began fishing Junior B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments with the Big O Teen Anglers club. He competed in these events until he was 18 and finished second in the Florida state championship three times.
At age 14 Monti also began fishing team tournaments. His mother, Tonya Stamm, would drive him to and from these events.
“She always encouraged me to do what I love,” Monti said.
About this time is when Monti met Steve Broughton, an older tournament angler who was a major influence in his life. Broughton took Monti fishing and taught him how to practice and prepare for tournaments.
When Monti attended Indian River State College in Okeechobee, Fla., he started an FLW bass fishing team. He made the championship the first year and had an opportunity to compete against Dustin Connell and Matt and Jordan Lee who are now Elite Series pros.
In 2014 Monti fished the FLW Tour as a co-angler to “see what it was all about.” He finished in the top 10 three times. Encouraged by his success, he fished the Bassmaster Southern Opens as a pro in 2015.
In 2016 Monti fished the FLW Tour but was unable to sign on for the Bassmaster Southern Opens due to a lack of funds. He earns his living as a fishing guide on Lake Okeechobee, which he hopes will keep him on the water and fine-tuned for tournament fishing.
During 2016, Monti concentrated on his PMA. That proved difficult because Murphy’s Law threw many curves his way while fishing the FLW Tour, including breaking down. Monti finished the year by making the top 10 in three BLF tournaments. He was convinced that his improved PMA was what made the difference and that he was ready to tackle the 2017 Southern Opens.
Was he ever. Monti claimed a check in all three 2017 Southern Open tournaments. His best performance was at the last event on Alabama’s Smith Lake where he finished fifth. He climbed to second place in the Southern Open’s final AOY standings and earned an invitation to join the Elite Series.
Never doubt the power of a positive mental attitude.
Monti currently lives in Okeechobee, Fla., with his wife Haley and 2-year-old son Jett. His current sponsors include Farm Bureau Insurance, Phoenix Boats, Mercury Marine, Power-Pole, Lowrance Electronics, Denali Rods and Bob’s Machine Shop.