Fish What You Feel like Ish Monroe

Power Pole

by Dan O’Sullivan

Ish Monroe at Beaver Lake - FLW Outdoors Brett Carlson

Ish Monroe at Beaver Lake – FLW Outdoors Brett Carlson

There are many lakes around the country that face extreme amounts of fishing pressure.  Bass in lakes that are the size of a small state can become less hospitable with the amount of pressure that they get when a big tournament is in town.

We’re not just talking big as in the terms of a Bassmaster Elite Series or FLW Tour event coming to town; but also big as in sheer numbers of boats on the water.

For instance, the week prior to the FLW Tour hitting Grand Lake this past week, there was reportedly a 400 boat tournament that happened on the lake.  A Nichols Marine tournament there routinely draws over 250 boats and they host four events a year.  During the peak season, Guntersville; or any other TVA lake for that matter, can look like a parking lot with bass boats lined up fishing ledges.  California’s Clear Lake will have tournaments scheduled for at least 90-percent of the weekends each year.

Fishing pressure can have a serious effect on the bite, and Hughson, Calif. pro Ish Monroe has developed a method for dealing with that pressure.  “My new motto is ‘if you feel it, fish it,'” said Monroe.  “When we get these bigger events on these lakes, a lot of guys will find the same patterns, and you sometimes have to adjust.”

For Monroe, that means keeping an open mind.

Do the Work
It would be easy to think that a guy who is keeping an open mind is the type that shows up at the ramp on the first morning of a tournament and just kind of flips a coin and decides where to fish then.  However, Monroe said that is the farthest from the truth .

“You really have to know the pattern you’re going to fish before you can adjust to anything,” said the three-time B.A.S.S. winner.  “Take this past week’s event on Grand Lake.  The prevailing pattern was Flipping willow bushes, and as big a lake as Grand is, there are only so many obvious bushes for a 150 boat field to pick from.  In other words, they all get hit pretty hard.”

Ish Monroe Bassmaster Classic Stage - photo by Christina O'Sullivan

Ish Monroe Bassmaster Classic Stage – photo by Christina O’Sullivan

So, after two days of playing the willow bush merry-go-round in bumper boats fashion, Monroe made an adjustment.  He fished what he felt.  In this case, he put his trolling motor down and covered water.

Refined Junk Fishing
Monroe is an angler who normally has no more than four of his trademark Daiwa Steez rods on his deck.  When he’s in his element, you’ll usually find him with a frog rod a crankbait or spinnerbait and a couple of Flippin’ rods on the deck of his Ranger; and not much else.  While that approach has its place for him, when the pressure gets high on a lake, he adds a few items.

This past week for instance, Monroe said he had his Snag Proof Poppin’ Phattie, three or four different Flippin rigs, his Droppin’ Bombs rig with a one-ounce River2Sea Trash Bomb, a Paycheck Punch hook and Punch Skirt tipped with a Missile Baits D Bomb, a couple of sizes of River2Sea Junk Grenade jig with soft plastic trailers, and a streamlined creature bait rig with a D Bomb on a lighter 3/8-ounce River2Sea Tungsten Worm Weight.  he had a buzzbait tied on one rod, his signature River2Sea Biggie crankbaits and Bling Spinnerbaits in a couple different colors each completed the arsenal.

That’s a lot to see on Monroe’s boat usually, but there was a plan.

Fish Between
While the majority of the field was targeting pockets with bushes in them; as Monroe was doing himself, the fish start to become gun shy.  “I started to feel like I couldn’t get the same bites I had been getting,” he said.  “That made me feel like I needed to be ready to make some adjustments and look for fish on other stuff.”

His indication was that after weighing 19 pounds, 4 ounces and finishing day one in 10th place, Monroe’s quality slipped on day two  slightly, and he fell to 15th in the standings when he caught 15 pounds, 3 ounces.  The next morning, when the first hour on his primary targets did not produce, he went to plan B.

“I pulled out all of those extra rods, and just went down the banks looking for the not so obvious targets that tend to get overlooked,” he said.  “I’d find smaller bushes, grass patches and laydown logs on banks that I had run by in practice and the first two days.  It helped me focus, listen to my intuition and catch another solid limit.”

Ish Monroe at Grand Lake - FLW Outdoors Kyle Wood

Ish Monroe at Grand Lake – FLW Outdoors Kyle Wood

He caught fish on the buzzbait around sparse cover, his Bling spinnerbait off of logs, his Biggie Squarebill crankbaits off rocky points, his frogs around brush and grass and even Flipped a few fish.  The final result; he weighed 15 pounds, 10 ounces and moved up two places to 13th.

“If I hadn’t thought about having a fallback plan, I’d have struggled on that third day and would have probably slipped in the standings.

Consider your Possibilities
Monroe said that he suggests that anglers look at their fishing strengths and figure out the types of techniques that can fit into their pressure recovery program, then look at their areas and formulate a backup plan for making decisions.

“This is not the kind of thing that you want to be trying new techniques when you need to be concentrating on fishing by feel,” he said.  “Pay attention to the environment, to what the fish are telling you and fish all of the obvious stuff in between what your primary program was, and you can salvage a day, or find that amazing pattern within a pattern.

“You have to do your homework beforehand and know what you are going to do to start with,” he said.  “But, it doesn’t hurt to prepare yourself the fish what you feel at any point during an event; it can be a big difference between finishing high, or just having a good, fun day on the water.”