(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
Ish Monroe has four Bassmaster wins to his credit, two of which required that he surpass the 100-pound mark to earn the victory. He’s also won two FLW Series tournaments on the California Delta, one of the premier big-fish venues in the country.
If a tournament requires big weight to win, you can bet that Monroe will be in the running. It’s not luck.
He believes that the phrase “swinging for the fences,” is one of the greatest myths in bass fishing – more akin to swinging at any old pitch you get than taking a strategic approach to tournament success. Nevertheless, he’s certain that there’s a science to putting yourself in position to win.
Unless he’s on the Great Lakes, you can be pretty sure there won’t be a spinning rod on his deck, or perhaps even his rod locker. When he's in the hunt for a victory, he’s typically using heavy rods, heavy line and certain kinds of baits in the heaviest cover he can find.
One go-to strategy he employs is what he calls “dropping bombs.” That involves taking a 1- or 1 1/2-unce tungsten weight, a Missile Baits D Bomb, a snelled straight-shank flipping hook and often a punch skirt, too. When others are looking for 30 or 40 bites on a soft stickbait, he’s often content with six or seven of the right bites from the heart of the cover. He said that on most popular tournament venues people “are fishing every day of the week,” so the easy bites get picked off. He’s learned to punch through grass, bushes and trash mats to find the fish that others overlook. “If it’s that hard to make that cast, it’s worth it to make that cast,” he emphasized.
He had some counterintuitive advice about setting the hook: “The harder the strike, the softer the hookset.” With the bigger weights it’s “more a pressure set than a hammer set,” because otherwise you’ll blow the fish’s mouth open and miss it.
Sometimes he’ll do the same thing with a big jig, like the Tommy Biffle signature model from River2Sea, which features a short shank, wide-gap hook. He’s in touch with the original “tule dipper,” Dee Thomas, and heeds his words that sometimes the jig is better than soft plastics when it comes to big bites. It was a lesson that led to Monroe’s Elite Series win on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.
Of course he’s known to love the hollow-bodied frog, too, but said it can be a “trap” bait. The only 4-day Elite Series event that he remembers being won exclusively on the frog was Fred Roumbanis at Lake Murray. It can be dynamite in 1- and 2-day tournaments, but beyond that it’s a crapshoot. Still, when they eat it it’ll be “the best bite you’re ever going to be on.”
While he doesn’t fish many night events anymore, Monroe haunted the Phoenix area night derbies before he went pro and said this is another time that it pays to go big. He likes the Whopper Plopper, a largeRiver2Sea Rover, the Lunker Punker and “the biggest black buzzbait I have.”
“I’m not going to throw a worm or a Carolina Rig,” he stated. Those will get you bites, and even the occasional win, but they don’t reflect the mentality that enables certain anglers to win more often than others.
One final rule he offers is that if you’re 100 percent sure you’re going to fish an area in a tournament, don’t go there in practice. You can graph it, or drive through it, but don’t make a cast.
If you want to learn more of Monroe's winning secrets, including what he calls his “5-foot rule,” be sure to check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.