By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
For the first time in over two decades, Ish Monroe will not be a tour-level angler in 2023. He’s relinquished his participation in the MLF Bass Pro Tour to try to re-qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series through the Opens, and he’ll also be fishing a lot closer to his California home.
“I just choose to go in a different direction,” he said. “A lot of it is sponsor generated; one thing that a lot of people in this industry forget is sponsors are how we really make our money. I have some that are local and some that are national and what I want to do benefits them all.”
In addition to the nine Opens required for Elite requalification, he will participate in some Wild West Bass Trail pro/ams, the WWBT Apex Tour, the MLF Toyota Series and several team derbies in the West.
“It’s a lot more tournaments and a lot of it is regional, but I’ll still get some national exposure with the Opens,” he said. “It also allows me to be with (Skeeter) dealers to sell boats, partner with local (bait and rod) shops and create video content for products.”
Monroe and REDCREST Champion Bobby Lane are the two anglers who left the BPT of their own accord to try and return to the Elite Series.
Monroe got a third-place finish in Heavy Hitters at Lake Palestine in Texas in April, but that wasn’t a points derby. In regular season tournaments, all seven of his finishes ranged from 39th to 65th and he made the knockout round (Top 40) three times.
He said the main reason he wants to come back to the Elite Series is to compete in BASS’s main event. He has fished the Bassmaster Classic 10 times, with three teen finishes serving as his best results.
“I still want to win a classic – that dream has never left me,” he said. “It’s every fisherman’s dream to do it one day.
“I have a feeling that next year will be as easy as it will ever get for a guy who has fished all over the country to qualify for the Elite Series. Seven of the venues where I’ve had multiple tournaments and the other two are places where I’ve wanted to fish. I drove past Buggs Island (Kerr Reservoir in Virginia) and Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma and wanted to fish them. I like to get away from people and find my own little thing and those are places where you can do that.
“The structure is good for me and I feel good about it,” he concluded. “With the 30-day off-limits the international guys won’t be able to train every day for a month before the tournament starts and it will also take away a lot of guides because those guys have to be there to make a living. And in the gas prices and there are many factors that will keep guys from fishing.”