By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Just before the 2014 FLW Tour season began, Tom Monsoor jokingly asked tournament director Bill Taylor if he could have a free pass into this year's Forrest Wood Cup as a sympathy gesture due to all of the heart issues he's endured since last Thanksgiving. Taylor chuckled, and then declined.
A little more than 4 months later, Monsoor is on the verge of earning his sixth career berth in the circuit's championship event. He's 34th in the Angler of the Year race (which puts him a few spots inside the cutoff when the inevitable double-qualifiers are factored in) with only the Kentucky Lake derby remaining.
His Kentucky Lake finishes over the years have been a mixed bag. The good ones have been really good, though – he's ended up among the Top 5 on two occasions.
"I'm so excited about it," said the 65-year-old from Wisconsin whose enthusiasm for the sport knows no bounds. "I'm pumped, believe me.
"Making the championship is what this whole thing is all about."
On Jan. 28, his birthday, Monsoor had his third heart attack within the span of a little more than 2 months. A week later, he logged a 100th-place showing in the season opener at Lake Okeechobee.
That attack, and the one that preceded it around Christmastime, occurred after he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery in late November following his first such episode.
"I was packing for Okeechobee when I had the last one," he said. "That was a Tuesday, and I told the doctor I was leaving for Florida on Thursday. He said, 'You might as well go, since that's what you're going to do anyway, but you can't drive.'''
Richie Eaves, a Tour co-angler from Illinois who travels with Monsoor, handled all of the highway driving on that trip. When it was time for him to operate the boat, Monsoor took it easy.
"I didn't run real far because I was leery of having another one in practice. I didn't want to go over a bunch of big waves because I wasn't sure how my heart would handle it.
"The whole thing is pretty scary – my heart was actually out of my body (during the operation). Isn't that unbelievable? It's insane!"
It was explained to him that the last two attacks were caused by the collapse of veins that had been bypassed via the surgery.
"There's one big one in there and if that one collapses, you just die."
He thinks he's in better physical condition than he was last fall when the whole ordeal began. He does regular cardiovascular workouts as part of his rehabilitation and has dropped a 20-plus-year smoking habit. That last part has been difficult.
"If I don't think about it, it's not too bad," he said. "But sometimes I start to think that we're all going to die eventually anyway, so we might as well enjoy thing the things we like.
"I want to keep doing the things I really love, though – fishing and collecting antique lures."
Monsoor's collection of vintage baits contains a couple thousand pieces, many of which he's obtained via eBay auctions. The newest is a popper-type lure that mimics a fish eating a smaller fish.
Monsoor, an avid collector of antique lures, recently missed out on a chance to purchase a coveted Heddon Black Sucker Minnow.
"There was a real bidding war for that one," he said. "It's the only one I've ever seen and I've got it. It's really cool."
He recently missed a chance to acquire a much-coveted Heddon Black Sucker Minnow – a musky enticer that dates back nearly a century and normally changes hands for a price in the $5,000 range. He'd set his alarm clock for 3:30 a.m. Central time to coincide with the closing minutes of the auction, but it didn't go off until a half-hour later.
"I've been waiting to find a really nice one and that would've been the pinnacle of my collection. Now I'll have to wait who knows how long.
"That was an old alarm clock and it's in the garbage now. I went out and got a new one."
Fishing Fortunes Improved
From a fishing perspective, Monsoor got things straightened out after Okeechobee. He was 21st at Hartwell and 14th at Sam Rayburn before a 119th at Beaver – another place that's been boom-or-bust for him throughout his career.
He moved up 13 places in the standings with a 40th in the most recent event at Pickwick. Now he'll try to hold onto that ground in the finale – if not gain some more.
"I didn't (pre-practice) for that one because if you go too early, things have changed too much by the time you get back, plus with these two events being so close together (on the calendar), it wasn't feasible. Fishing the Rayovac at Kentucky might not have been a bad idea, but I was really focusing on Pickwick and I was worried about maybe missing a day of practice.
"I'll just go down there and find some fish (during official practice). That's what we do."
He hopes that fellow Tour veteran Clark Wendlandt, the three-time AOY who suffered a heart attack last month during practice for the Douglas Lake Bassmaster Southern Open, can rejoin him on the water soon.
"I just want to tell him to get his butt back out here. He's a heck of a fisherman and a heck of a good guy."