May 08, 2013
Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
Ishama Monroe - Ish as the popular California angler is known by his fans from coast to coast - loves fishing in the Sunshine State of Florida.
Put simply, the shallow, vegetation-choked waters of the state are tailor made for his frog tossing, D-Bomb pitching style of angling.
For proof, look no further than Monroe's Bassmaster Elite Series Power Pole Slam win on southern Florida's Lake Okeechobee in March 2012.
With first and last day bags of more than 30 pounds on the Big O, Monroe frogged and flipped his way to his fourth B.A.S.S. win and his second career B.A.S.S. "Century Club" membership with a final tally of 20 largemouths weighing a staggering 108.5 pounds.
But that was then, and this is now.
As in this week, the championship round of the Jack Links Major League Fishing 2013 GEICO Challenge Cup Championship Round on Lake Istokpoga, barely an hour up the road from Okeechobee.
As MLF fans know, this championship is a totally different animal from a regular professional tournament, from the real-time leader board, to the weighing of every legal fish, to fishing in a small zone, to dealing with strong winds blowing out of departing Hurricane Sandy.
Still, Monroe should be able to stick with his preferred style of Florida fishing, right?
Maybe, maybe not.
"You change up, make adjustments," said Monroe. "That's what we do as professionals."
True enough, especially in this wind tossed MLF event.
But the guess from this vantage point is that there should be some lessons gained from Monroe's Okeechobee triumph that will apply at Istokpoga, often called a "Little Lake Okeechobee."
In his March 2012 B.A.S.S. win on the Big O, Monroe went wire-to-wire with a Missile D Bomb bait and a River2Sea Trash Bomb bait, two lures that - along with a frog or two - should figure prominently into his arsenal on wind whipped Istokpoga.
During that event, Monroe learned a thing or two about using those baits to find active fish even when the Florida breeze was kicking up pretty good.
In fact, his words from that event sound almost prophetic for this final day.
"Wind changes the color of the water," Monroe told B.A.S.S. reporters earlier in 2012 after his win on Okeechobee.
"There are fish always there in those areas, but when it gets really, really dirty, you’re not going to catch them. If the water gets really, really clean, you’re not going to catch them because they get spookish on you.
"But when you get just a little bit of tint to that water, the fish are in there and they’re biting.”
The guess here is that Monroe will try to use a similar strategy as he tries to win his first career MLF title.
One thing that Monroe will have to exercise - as will every other finalist - is a degree of patience.
Because the track record for this event seems to be that anglers will fish, fish, and fish without any bites and then suddenly come upon a group of active fish that will quickly light up the leader board.
"That's usually (pretty typical) of how it is in Florida," said Monroe. "That's the great part about having Power Poles on the boat. If you get a bite, you put the Power Poles down and fish around and usually get one or two more bites."
That should be especially important given the blustery post-hurricane conditions where Sandy's northeasterly winds will pile-drive their way across the open water of Istokpoga and into Zone 5.
Zone 5: 3.7 miles primary shoreline, 3.1 miles island shoreline, 3,784 acres
That could make for a day of rough and tough fishing where the winning angler bides his time until a winning location and/or pattern eventually develops.
Given that recipe for a GEICO Challenge Cup win as Sandy pulls away from Florida, look for Monroe to search the grass on Istokpoga, to steadily prowl the zone's docks and canals, and to be right in the thick of things during the final day.
After all, Monroe has excelled on both the Bassmaster Elite Series and the FLW Tour with a total of five wins and more than $1.6 million in combined career earnings.
And he has excelled in Major League Fishing competition, earning his second consecutive berth in an MLF championship round.
With that as a backdrop, just how important would it be for Ish to win the Challenge Cup?
Very, very important he says.
"It means everything to win," said Monroe. "Winning is everything. Actually, winning is the only thing (out here).
"There is no second place anymore for me," he added. "After having four or five wins (in my career), that's all I want to do is win from here on out."
Given the fact that Monroe and the other five finalists will have three full periods in the final, versus the previous Sudden Death 20-pound cutline, will that change up his strategy at all?
Especially in light of the cloud cover and blustery conditions leftover from Sandy?
"It does change my approach a little," said Monroe. "But one thing about it, it isn't over until that last minute is done.
"Because this is Florida and any flip can be a 10-pounder."
And such a flip of a D-Bomb bait - and a big Florida largemouth that might take a swipe at it - could be the ticket to the biggest win of Monroe's already stellar professional bass angling career.
Not to mention his second win of the year in the land of Mickey, the Sunshine State of Florida.
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