By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Ish Monroe hopes some encouraging words he received last week in Maine from a fellow Major League Fishing competitor and Bass Fishing Hall of Famer are a portent of better things to come.
"I got a chance to talk with Denny Brauer, who I consider one of my mentors because of his flipping skills and also because he was one of the first guys who talked to me when I came out (on tour)," he said. "He told me some of the best years he had came right after having one of his worst years."
Monroe's 2014 campaign, during which he competed on both the Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour, was dismal all around. He finished in the bottom third of the field on both circuits, thus coming nowhere close to qualifying for either championship event. His best showing on either side was a 33rd when the Elites visited the Delaware River last month.
He's now spending some significant time at his Northern California home, which he didn't see at all between late January and early July, and trying to recuperate from the long, disappointing grind that's just concluded.
"I'm not doing a ton of fishing stuff," he said. "I'm doing a lot of home stuff like cleaning out the garage and taking care of the lawn and a lot of the little things that you don't get to do when you're on the road for so long.
"At the same time, I've already booked hotel rooms for Toho (site of next year's FLW Tour opener) and I'm starting to work on Eufaula and Smith Lake. I spend a half-hour or an hour on things like that every day just to keep on top of things."
Own Head was Worst Enemy
Monroe blames his own mental attitude for most of his struggles this year. He said his mind was cluttered by things that happened outside of competition and that affected his on-the-water decisions.
"I just wasn't as happy being in this industry as I once was," he said. "When everything seemed to be going in a good direction, I fished better. Then when I got mad about some things that were going on, it was almost like I didn't care as much. I didn't have the same thought process.
"This past year just didn't seem fun. It wasn't any one thing, but a combination of things."
A major sticking point for him was the increased number of people calling themselves professional anglers in this age of the Internet and social media – and the wider distribution of already limited sponsorship dollars that stemmed from that.
"You get a lot of what I call Facebook pros coming up to you and telling you they're on the same team as you because they're sponsored by this or that. They're wearing their jersey everywhere they go – even to dinner. I've been at dinner a couple of times and I've wondered if a tournament was going to break out and I was going to need to have my jersey.
"You look at any other sport and you don't have people running around pretending they're something that they're not. You don't see a bunch of people in NASCAR jumpsuits, but people seem to do that with bass fishing. You'll meet somebody and tell them you're a professional angler and they'll start rattling off people they know who are supposedly pro bass fishermen, but you've never heard of any of them.
"If you don't pay your bills through tournaments and sponsorships, you're not a professional angler," he concluded.
Just Two Left
Monroe will fish the Clear Lake Western Rayovac in October and the final MLF event to be filmed this fall. Once those are in the books he'll turn his attention to 2015.
Things were so bad for most of this year that he views making 50-cuts at the Delaware and Cayuga Lake (where he was 49th) as possible sources of positive momentum.
"I'm going to have a lot of time until March and I'm just going to try to enjoy life," he said. "This might be the first year in a long time that I don't get real hard into my prepping until January unless I decide to fish the Rayovac at Okeechobee or something along those lines.
"I am going to fish both tours again, even if there's overlaps (in the schedule). I'm dedicated to fishing tournaments and I feel like doing that helps me and helps the sport."
He's considered following the lead of several other veteran anglers who've enlisted the help of sports psychologists in order to deal with attitude hangups of one type or another, but has opted against it.
"I really don't think I need to because I know what the problem is. I need to do a better job of blocking it out and staying away from social media even more than I already do, and then just going fishing and doing my thing and working real hard for my sponsors.
"Then if somebody says something, I'll be like, 'I don't know and I don't care.'''