California Elite Ish Monroe fished his first B.A.S.S. event in 1997, the California Western Invitational. Since that introduction, he has competed in 220 B.A.S.S. tournaments. He's earned nine Bassmaster Classic invitations and 28 Top 10 finishes including four wins over the years. Monroe recently shared a list of his five favorite B.A.S.S. tournaments from his time on the tour.
I’ve fished a ton of tournaments since growing up in California. My five favorite B.A.S.S. events are the ones where something extraordinary happened, something that set the fishing apart from all the others.
Photo: Seigo Saito
1 / 6
The Elite on Amistad, March 2006
This one is first on my list, and not because I won it. The idea behind the Bassmaster Elite Series is (was) to see what could the best anglers do…on the best bass waters…at the best time of the year. We answered that. The winning weight was 104 pounds, 8 ounces.
The other thing that I’ll always remember is that I saw, and might have had a chance at catching her had I played my cards right, a new world record largemouth. I saw her on a bed in practice. I didn’t fish for her because I thought it would be cool to catch her during the tournament. When I went back on the first day she was gone.
And yes, I know she was that big. I’ve lived in California all my life. I’ve seen many giant bass. She was the new world record.
2 / 6
The Elite on Okeechobee, March 2012
This one rates second place because of the total weight it took for me to win. At 108 pounds, 5 ounces we showed the bass fishing world that it can be done, and that Okeechobee is still in the running for overall big bass honors.
It’s the only tournament that I can remember where I culled 5-pound bass, one after the other. I can still remember having 34 pounds, 5 ounces in my livewell by noon on the first day. Where else in the world can an angler do something like that?
Photo: Gary Tramontina
3 / 6
The Elite on Falcon, March 2013
This one isn’t on my list because of my performance. It wasn’t all that great. It’s on my list because of something I saw during the tournament, something that to this day I can play back in my mind like an old movie.
I worked my way through a bunch of trees into an open area. It was maybe an acre in size. There were two dark, almost black shadows in the water, one on the left side and one on the right side. One was a school of bass and the other was a school of tilapia. They were actually moving towards each other, and when they came together it looked like Beirut, Lebanon.
I threw a giant swimbait — a 14-inch Lunker Plunker — in the fracas. For about two hours I caught a 5-pound bass on every cast. No fish was bigger. No fish was smaller. And when I say every cast, that’s exactly what I mean. It was an unbelievable experience.
Photo: Gary Tramontina
4 / 6
The Northern Open on Oneida, September 2011
I did win this tournament, but that’s not why I remember it. The thing that sticks in my mind is the frog bite.
The bass were schooled up in heavy grass. There were only two ways to get to them — flip or topwater. They wanted the topwater presentation, and they seemed to like a frog the best. I caught dozens and dozens of bass that day. Even though I was in a tournament setting I took some time to experiment and learn some new things about fishing a frog.
The rule is you don’t experiment or practice during a tournament. You go with what you know. This was the tournament that proved the rule.
Photo: James Overstreet
5 / 6
The Elite on the Sacramento River, April 2015
This tournament is on my favorites list for purely sentimental reasons. The truth is that I didn’t execute well and should have fished better. Nevertheless, it’s one of my all-time favorites.
Basically, it was in my backyard. I got to fish in front of my friends, some of them stretching back 20 years or more, and I got to sleep in my own bed. The weather was good, and I didn’t experience any problems or hassles. The whole thing was relaxing. That’s a rarity in this business.
I know that some fans think this is an occupation where you fish for a living and that all is wonderful. They confuse it with their recreational fishing or with their club tournaments. That’s a bad move. Fishing for fun is fun.
It’s a different ballgame when you have to catch them in order to eat, and then deal with sponsors and with the media. It’s long hours and pressure from every direction. And none of what I just said takes into account the time away from your family and the problems associated with constant travel.
An experience like I had on the Sacramento River and the California Delta only comes along every so often. Despite my failure to execute it’ll always be one I remember with a smile.