Yamaha pro Ish Monroe, who fishes both the Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour, often doesn’t have time for pre-tournament practice, so he relies on his four confidence baits.

“At every lake I fish, I tie on a topwater frog, a squarebill crankbait, a spinnerbait,and a flipping rod with a plastic creature bait. Then I look for the places where I can use them.

“These are my favorite lures, and I would rather fish them than anything else. I have enough confidence in them so that when I find the conditions where I can use these lures I know the bass will be there. I also know through experience that on any body of water I will find the right cover and water depth where at least one of these lures will work.

> Day 4: 5, 8-05 (20, 40-00) If this week taught Monroe anything, it’ll serve as a reference point for future tournaments in which he’s struggling to catch keepers. While he never did uncover any kicker-quality fish, his consistency earned him his best finish since winning at Lake Okeechobee a year ago.

“Consistency and catch limits every day,” he said. “That’s what I’m going think about every time when I’m struggling and I’ll think about one of the hardest places I’ve ever fished a tournament.

“I never got a big bite all week, but there was a load of fish where I was at. There’s something to be said in a tournament when you can find a load of fish and never see a single boat in your area. It was amazing. I kept waiting and waiting to see someone and I never did.”

He went through 25 fish today and had better success fishing a frog under the cloudy skies than had he earlier in the event.

“I have not had a start to a season like this in a long time and the last time I did, I easily cakewalked into the Classic,” he said. “I really want to be at the Guntersville Classic. The business has changed and it’s all about winning tournaments and making Classics. The promotion side of it is one thing, but it’s back to winning tournaments and winning Classics. If you go a couple years without a win, the sponsors start to doubt you. If you go a couple of years without making the Classic, the sponsors start the doubt you.” Read More

Monroe is running out of time to find out whether anything larger than 2-pounders live in the area he’s fished for 3 days, but he’s not willing to give up on it yet.

“I just can’t get a big one,” he said after coming in an ounce shy of 10 pounds. “It’s the same deal. I actually had more bites today. I don’t think there are big ones that live there. Something’s telling me there is, but something’s telling me that there’s not. It’s hard to leave a good opportunity to catch 10 pounds again.

“There is still a ton of fish in there because I missed a bunch. I’ve watched them come up on a frog and I don’t catch them, but I know they’re still there. I’m going to change up and throw something a little different tomorrow just to see what happens.”

Coming off an 85th-place finish at the Lewis Smith Lake FLW Tour last week, he’s thrilled to have a chance to fish on the final day tomorrow with a shot at the win. He’s already started working through the what-if scenarios in his mind.

“If I catch 10 pounds again, I’ll probably be in the Top 5 tomorrow and a Top-5 finish in an Elite Series event is good,” he said. “If I catch 10 pounds again and Rojas struggles or something happens, anything can happen in this game. Say I do get a big bite and he struggles. There are a lot of things, being this close, who knows. I’m just fishing and having fun.”

> Day 2: 5, 10-09 (10, 21-12) Ish Monroe is thinking the odds have to eventually fall in his favor when it comes to catching a big fish this week. Every competitor above him in the standings has tangled with at least one fish in the 4-pound range and he’s hoping his time is coming.

“Keepers are not a problem for me,” he said. “It’s catching that big one. I bounced around a lot today trying to find one.”

He had plenty of time to do so after boxing a limit before 9 this morning. He had 12 keepers in all and about the same number of dinks. He’s kept his presentations simple and in line with typical river fishing, covering all portions of the water column with a frog, spinnerbait and a Missile Baits Missile Craw, which he’s been flipping.

“It’s one of those deals where if you have anything else tied on I think you’re wasting your time,” he added.

He’s surprised that he’s been by himself both days and thinks another 10-pound bag will earn him a Top-12 cut.

“I haven’t seen a boat the whole tournament except for when I come out of the area I’m fishing,” he said. “That’s an awesome thing. I really expected to see another boat or two in this area. The area that I’m fishing is so small you can’t have two boats in there. You’d have to follow somebody and if they got to a point where they had to turn around, one of you would have to back out. There’s about a half-mile stretch where you can’t turn around.” Full story

> Day 2: 5, 14-01 (10, 26-01) - Ish Monroe came in 2 pounds heavier than on day 1 and slid inside the cut line.

"I fished a lot of the same areas, but I slowed down my jerkbait presentation a little bit and went with a bigger River2Sea Trophy Minnow," he said. "I wanted a lot more (weight), but I had a few big bites that I didn't execute on at all. Tomorrow I'll go with the same program and try to catch a 20-pound bag."

He caught six keepers and his bag was topped by a 4 1/2-pounder.