Ish Monroe has been fishing practically his entire life. As the Hughsonite grew up, joined the workforce and enrolled in college he would still turn to his favorite passtime to relax. The simple act of throwing a line in the water from his boat was enough to make him happy.
When Monroe became disillusioned with his career and education pathway it was fishing that set him free.
“I was going to school full time and working. One day I got fed up with it, had some money saved up and started fishing,” he said. “That’s about the time that Bassmaster came out west in 1997. Everything felt right and fell into place.”
A year after turning to fishing Monroe became a professional angler, beginning a new leg of his life’s journey. Now, 14 years later, Monroe is one of the top anglers in California and is competing in his eighth Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, La. today.
The Bassmaster Classic is the super bowl event in the angling world. Around 50 anglers are chosen each year to compete for a half a million dollars and a chance to elevate their brand. Monroe’s best finish came in 2005 when he placed fifteenth. This year he’s shooting for the top spot, but it won’t be easy.
“The Red River is a very tricky place,” Monroe said of the waters where he’ll compete. “The fish are in shallower water. In the Delta they’re about three to five feet, in Louisiana they’re about six inches under the water. It’s just like a baseball player making the transition from wooden bats to aluminum bats.”
In addition to the fishing variables Monroe will have to contend with the unpredictable southern weather as well as the field of anglers hungry for success. The Bassmaster Classic is a three-day event consisting of two heats each day to determine who will get the chance to compete for the crown. After the second day of competition the top 25 anglers advance to the third day where their skills are put to the test. When the event is over those skills often include more than casting a line and reeling in fish.
“It’s really hard to be a professional angler,” Monroe said. “I have an AA in marketing and business. Being a good fisherman is one thing but being marketable and being able to sell yourself is the biggest key.”
So far Monroe has used his speaking ability and business contacts to attract a host of sponsors which include Cocoon’s Eyewear, Yamaha Outboards, and Ranger Boats among others. With a good performance today Monroe’s sponsors and opportunities are sure to grow.
“You can make another half a million to a million dollars in endorsements on top of the prize money if you’re a smart businessman,” Monroe said. “You just have to stay mentally focused.”
The Bassmaster Classic will be televised on ESPN this weekend.