By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Considering how bad Ish Monroe's two-tour campaign in 2014 turned out, it might've been logical for him to concentrate his efforts on one major circuit this year and find out whether a narrowed focus might produce better results.
Nothing doing. Despite schedules that packed the 14 combined regular-season tournaments into an even tighter timeframe, he never wavered in his determination to again compete on both the Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour. The outcome has been the polar opposite of a year ago, as he's excelled on both trails.
He's already wrapped up a Forrest Wood Cup berth with a 7th-place finish on the FLW points list. At 19th in the Elite Series points with three regular-season derbies and the AOY Championship remaining, he's well inside the 2016 Bassmaster Classic cutoff, as well.
He logged just three Top-50 finishes in 14 events last year. In 11 outings this year, he has just one placement below 45th.
No Time for Nonsense
He said a tighter focus is indeed the primary reason for his turnaround, but it was never the number of events that was the problem. The issue was entirely inside his own head – he allowed too many external forces to distract him.
It was a pretty easy fix, although he may have offended some people in the process.
"One thing I did was I stopped answering my phone during practice when I knew people were calling about dumb stuff," he said. "It mostly comes down to people not taking care of their own business and them knowing that I'm a very organized person.
"Last year when I was fishing both tours, I'd have B.A.S.S. guys calling me at FLW events and FLW guys calling me at B.A.S.S. events. They'd be asking if I had an extra Power-Pole button or if I could swing by the (service) trailer and pick up an extra transducer and just bring it to the next tournament.
"They'd want me to do something when I'm preparing for a tournament that would take them 5 minutes if they called Bass Pro Shops," he continued. "That's not my job. My job is to catch fish and focus on that, and that's what I've done this year."
Inspired by Morgan
From an on-the-water perspective, Monroe said he's benefited this season by adopting the approach taken by FLW stalwart Andy Morgan, a prolific high finisher who was that circuit's Angler of the Year in 2013 and '14.
Monroe will compete in the Forrest Wood Cup during the week between two Elite Series events next month.
"Of all the guys in the fishing game, he's probably the most consistent," Monroe said. "He's in the Top 10 in the points the most often and he cashes more checks than anybody, and that's not by a small margin, but a huge one.
"What I've learned from him is to fish what's in front of me and just keep going – don't run to this and run to that and try to do all that extra stuff. Whether what's in front of you is a rock pile, a dock or a grass bed, just make the necessary bait adjustments and fish it."
He cited an example from his 38th-place finish at Lake Chickamauga last month.
"I'd been on a spot where I'd caught maybe 12 pounds and I was on my way to the dam. Then I noticed a spot right in front of me, so I decided to stop and try that. I caught 20 pounds in there and had the opportunity to catch even more.
"Another thing you see (Morgan) doing on the water is having fun," he added. "When I start thinking about myself and getting in bad moods and getting frustrated with fishing and with the organizations, that's when I don't catch them. Whenever I'm having fun and enjoying what I'm doing, I catch them. If I can do that every single year, I'll end up having a good career."
> Monroe's girlfriend, Hillary Hughes, has traveled with him throughout the current campaign. He said her presence has been a huge benefit. "This year I have help with the little things, and that frees up so much time for (tournament) preparation," he said. "Whether it's doing some of the shopping to helping me spool reels, anything that gives me an extra 5 minutes is big. From the meals being cooked to helping me relax if I come back from the water a little frustrated, it all adds to my confidence."
> He'll compete in the Cup at Arkansas' Lake Ouachita next month during the week between the Elite Series tournaments at the Chesapeake Bay and Lake St. Clair. He has all of the logistics taken care of except for his flight out of Arkansas. "I'll wait until the last minute to book that one," he said. "If I don't have a good Cup, I'll fly out on Saturday and start getting ready for St. Clair on Sunday."