Come February, Ish Monroe will sit out a Bassmaster Classic for the first time since 2004. He said there were a couple of reasons for his dismal performance this year on the Bassmaster Elite Series, but the biggest issue was inside his own head.
"It was pretty much all attitude," the 35-year-old Californian said.
"Me and John Crews sat down and talked about it several times, and when we were at ICAST I finally figured out that the problem was my attitude toward BASS. I realized I had a bad attitude toward all the changes this year – fewer events, fewer (anglers) and some of the things that go on behind the scenes that the public doesn't know about. I definitely let it affect me."
His year of discontent took root a couple of weeks before the Elite season even started. He was disqualified on day 2 of the Toledo Bend Central Open after a heated dispute with tournament officials over a proof-of-insurance issue. He put forth an apology the following day and admitted he'd acted in a "non-professional manner."
He then went on to post a 79th-place showing in the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year (AOY) race with just two tournament finishes inside the Top 40. One of those (a 38th) came in the season finale at Oneida, after he'd undergone the self-induced attitude adjustment.
Be Like Ike
Many BassFans know that Monroe, Crews and Mike Iaconelli room together on the road and share practice information. This year, the former two languished in the bottom half of the field at tournament after tournament while Ike rolled along to an 11th-place finish in the points and a berth in the inaugural Elite Series postseason.
"Pretty much after Smith Mountain (the fourth stop in the abbreviated eight-event season, at which he finished 93rd), I was completely bummed," Monroe said. "It was already April and I knew it wasn't going to be a good season, and sight-fishing is one of my best deals, but I didn't even come close to cashing a check in that tournament.
"(Crews and I) started talking about (the way things were going) at Guntersville and that led into ICAST. We were doing the same stuff we'd always been doing and we should've been fishing good, and the only thing we could come up with was attitude."
They had to look no further than their roommate for confirmation of the power of positive thinking.
"Ike had a great attitude going into the season. He was getting ready to get married this fall and he had everything rolling. Me and John needed to get there despite the frustrations we had with the tour and the PAA stuff (Crews is the president of the Professional Anglers Association) that was going on with him.
"It was hard to focus, but we needed to go fishing, have fun and get back to where we were."
Not coincidentally, Crews went on to post his best finish of the year at Oneida (13th) to bump himself up to 74th in the points.
"That was definitely a part of it," Crews said. "The two of us are normally very positive, glass-half-full type guys, and for us not to be 100% optimistic, something wasn't right.
"I really feel that we'll get back to the level we were at before, cashing checks at most of the events and making a Top 12 every now and again. We're not expecting Iaconelli-type numbers unless we really get rolling, which is possible, but I'd say we're realistic and optimistic."
A Busy 2010
Anglers not fishing the Classic will have the opportunity next year to return to near-full-time status on both major circuits. There's only one direct conflict in the Elite Series and FLW Tour schedules, and that will occur in mid-April when the Elites are at Smith Mountain and the FLW Tour is at Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee.
Monroe plans to fish at least 20 tournaments, including 13 at the tour level, in 2010.
Monroe plans to fish the entire Elite Series and every FLW Tour event except Chickamauga (he'll have to sacrifice the entry fee for that one, since FLW Outdoors now requires anglers to pay up for the full season). He'll also throw in for the entire Eastern FLW Series and a couple of Western FLW Series events.
"That's 19 tournaments, and hopefully I'll make the (Forrest Wood Cup) and that would make it an even 20," he said. "I'll be able to get in my groove of just fishing and put everything else aside and totally concentrate.
"I believe both (the Elite Series and FLW Tour) are great circuits, and I have the motto that I want to be rich. The more tournaments I fish, the more opportunities I have to win money, and the more times I'll be there for my sponsors, so I can ask for more money. And when it's all said and done, you've got to take care of your sponsors."
He plans to have two boats, both of which will be stored in Alabama. He'll use his standard Cocoons-wrapped rig for the Elite Series and hopes to work out a deal with an FLW sponsor for the skin on the other.
He's contracted with an Alabamian to drive one boat or the other to each tournament venue, and he'll fly back and forth from the West Coast.
"The best year I had was in 2006, when I fished both tours, made both championships, won two events (the Amistad Elite Series and the Busch Shootout) and made $400,000. At that point in time I was very focused, and I think next year's schedule will bring me back to that kind of focus.
"You can expect to see me back cashing checks, finishing in the Top 30 (in the points) and making Classics."
> Monroe said he'll also try to mix in a PAA event or two next year.
> His best finish in an Elite Series event his year was a 35th at Wheeler.