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Jack Link’s Major League Fishing star Ish Monroe is no stranger to angling success, having won numerous bass tournaments and garnering Top 10 finishes all over the U.S. during his impressive career.
But it wasn't until March 2012 that the angler known by the moniker of "Yo Ish!" finally conquered the legendary bass fishing state of Florida.
That's when Monroe got the best of the Sunshine State and triumphed in impressive fashion at the Bassmaster Elite Series' Power Pole Slam on Lake Okeechobee.
Using one of his mainstay lure choices, a Missile D Bomb, Monroe went wire-to-wire and topped the B.A.S.S. "Century Club" mark for the second time in his career. The four-day tally of 108.5 pounds was good enough for the Okeechobee title and $102,000 top prize.
With that in mind, Monroe's recent success in the Sunshine State - not to mention his penchant for catching giant bass - has to make him one of the favorites to take home the 2013 Geico Challenge Cup trophy at the conclusion of the Jack Link's Major League Fishing competition on Florida's giant bass factory, Lake Istokpoga.
Given the fact that few of the MLF pros, including Monroe, have ever fished on Istokpoga, is there anything from past experience that can be pulled forward into this event?
The Hughson, Calif., pro thinks so.
"Yeah, I've been down to Kissimmee in the fall and fished there so I'll try to pattern (fish) like I did there," said Monroe, a four-time B.A.S.S. winner and one-time FLW series winner with $1.6 million in combined career earnings.
"I'll possibly start out trying to catch schooling fish and if I don't see any schooling fish then I'll go fish the canals throwing my frog because that seemed to work pretty good (at Kissimmee).
"And if that doesn't work, then you can't go wrong flipping in Florida."
Is there anything that he will change heading into Istokpoga, thanks to limited knowledge of the lake and no previous fishing or practice time?
Zone 6: 8.4 miles primary shoreline, 0.9 miles island shoreline, 5,836 acres
"No, you have to fish your confidence," said Monroe. "I've got tied on my Biggie series (squarebill) crankbait, which I have huge confidence in, especially down here in Florida. I've also got my Ish's Phat Frog and Missile Bait's D Bomb (tied on).
Monroe has a LOT of confidence in that last lure selection.
"I've been dropping Bombs on them when I'm down here (in the past), (and) it helped me win the (Bassmaster Elite Series) Okeechobee tournament," he said. "So you can't really go wrong there, I've just got to hammer it (all) out."
With a north wind blowing after a recent cool front - and in part to a nearby tropical system named Sandy - will that affect the fishing at this MLF event here in south-central Florida?
"Yeah, the north wind will cool things down," said Monroe. "And these Florida fish can definitely get a little finicky (with a north wind blowing).
"But it's fishing and everybody is fishing under the same conditions so you've just (got to go) out there and go fishing and hope for the best."
With two previous MLF events now under his belt at Amistad and Chautauqua, will Monroe adjust his strategy at all heading into the event?
Not really he says.
"You really can't pattern big fish," said Monroe. "If you try and pattern big fish, you're going to spend a lot of time not catching them (numbers wise) and you need to catch them in this event."
Meaning that even at this 28,000-acre lake known for producing trophy-size double-digit fish, it's more about quantity than it is about quality.
"It's all about catching fish and catching as many as you possibly can and figuring out the right bait," agreed Monroe.
He believes that the key to the former is to figure out the latter quickly.
"At the last event (Chautauqua), I figured out what bait they wanted in the first two rounds and it was game on," said Monroe, who made the Championship Round in New York.
If Monroe can leverage his recent success in the Sunshine State, his knowledge of shallow water fishing techniques, his big-fish know-how, and his successful MLF tournament strategy, then look out.
Because it could soon be "Yo Ish!" time again, this time on one of fishing's biggest event and television stages.
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