Ish Monroe has just finished up a string of bass tournaments that would drown the average angler, and there are still a couple to go. Fishing the Bassmaster Elites, FLW and PAA Monroe set himself up to fish as many events as travel time and the calendar would allow. Using two boats, an assistant to keep track of details, and friends to tow the boats and provide a place to sleep Ish not only fished all these events, he cashed several checks along the way. I asked Ish if he enjoyed the ride, “Who wouldn’t, who doesn’t love to fish. It’s a lot of work, I prepare my body in the off season physically to give myself the stamina and energy. Mentally you have to be ready as well, but when you love what you’re doing that’s easy, my office assistant helps allot.”
One of Ish Monroe’s many talents is an ability to catch quality fish from grass covered shores and flats of our lakes and rivers. With his proven record of putting money in the bank fishing the Snag Proof Phat Frog I couldn’t wait to talk with him about fishing grass and how he picks it apart, what I didn’t know and was about to learn is he is also very effective with a punching rod in his hands. Using the frog and a punch bait as an one/two punch that the grass bass don’t have a chance against.
When asked what the perfect conditions were for fishing grass Monroe replied, “Grass, just have grass. I do prefer it to be surfaced and matted versus barely submerged. Once the canopies start forming that’s when it gets really good.” In trying to find a time that Ish might not fish the grass he did said, “If the grass is dying the bass may pull away from it, however, if it’s the only cover around they will still be there.”
Most anglers get very intimidated when looking at the endless amounts of grass covering some of our fisheries. It seems impossible to know where to start. When driving a lake, Ish looks for grass edges with bends and points. Ish commented, “The more of these bends and points you have close together the better the area will be. Fish are all through the grass, but the points and pockets are ambush spots and bass hold there to feed. So the more of these ambush points you have in one stretch the quicker you will get bites and the more fish you will catch.” After finding an area with multiple points or bends along the grass edge, start fishing and looking for the finer things. Ish continued, “You also want to look for holes inside the grass, these indicate something hard is there that the grass can’t grow through. Wood, rocks, hard bottom, all these are key things to find within the grass and will hold a bass.”
I pinned Ish down as to what was the most productive grass and without hesitation he replied “Hydrilla, hydrilla grows them [bass] big!” He went on to say that coontail and milfoil do hold bass as well but he prefers hydrilla and that he will stay away from the green snot grass. When asked if grass can get too thick to fish, Monroe replied, “The thicker the better! Thick grass doesn’t get much fishing pressure. Most anglers will pass it up not willing to work it or not believing there are fish there. Definitely it cannot get to thick.”
Knowing what kind of bait fish is in the grass can be an important part of the equation. According to Monroe it’s a good idea to ‘match the hatch’. Try to find out what they are feeding on. With grass bass this is usually some sort of bluegill or crawdads and if you can find out what color they are you’ll be a step ahead.
I asked Ish what he would recommended when it came to presentations for fishing grass, “I tell everyone to keep it simple, when starting out grass fishing you need just two rods. One with a frog tied on and one with a punch bait tied on.”
Ish explained that when fishing a frog over matted grass, there really isn’t much action to it. You’re just dragging the bait over the matted portions from hole to hole, edge to edge. For him, the action comes when there is an open spot in the grass. When your frog approaches a hole in the grass there are a couple things you can do. “Let it sit right on the edge, make the frog pop into it the hole, pull it up on the edge of the hole so the legs dangle in the hole.” He went on to say that he wants to try and make the frog look natural or tease the bass.
Ish designed the Daiwa Steez XBD 7’4″ Frog Rod. He described it as the perfect combination rod. “It has the length to make long distance casts, yet just short enough to skip a frog up under brush and overhangs. Fantastic back bone for pulling big fish out of the thick stuff yet a soft tip for working a frog in open water.” He said his reel, a Daiwa Zillion 7:3.1, is fantastic, smooth casts, durable and the speed is a must after you hook up with a good fish in the heavy stuff. For line, Ish uses Samurai Braid, 70 pound for grass and 55 for open water.
With a huge variety of frog colors on the market today anglers often find themselves with handfuls of options. Ish said that when it comes to fishing matted grass not to get too caught up on color. “I like to keep it simple, I will have a white one and a black one tied on. This way as the sun moves in and out of the clouds I can mix it up.” When fishing thick matted grass, Ish also talked about fishing a color he could see the best, “When I see the frog disappear, I know that bass has it in his mouth and it’s time to set the hook!”
As far as conditions for frog fishing go, Ish said he will through a frog anytime the water is above 56 degrees and in any weather conditions except wind saying the wind will hurt a frog bite. Monroe elaborated that, “I’ve had people tell me that they catch bass on frogs in colder water but it’s slow and there are much better ways to catch them when it’s below that.”
Monroe’s best advice for someone just starting to fish a frog, “Pause before you set the hook and don’t set on a straight line.”
When asked what he does after a missed strike Ish said he will usually throw right back in with the frog, maybe try a different color, and if that doesn’t produce he will pick up one of the four punch rods he has on deck and try to entice a strike.
Ish Monroe seemed to get as excited about punching matted vegetation as he does about frog fishing. If not excited he definitely takes it seriously. With four rods on deck all set up with a variety of options ranging in different weights 1 , 1.25, 1.5, and 2 ounces Ish will experiment with the different weights to find the size that the fish react to the best. “Punching matted grass is a reaction bite”, Ish went on to say “Many people don’t understand that. I rotate between the different sizes to find what falls through the grass well yet draws the strikes. Just because a 1 ounce can get through doesn’t mean they won’t hit a 1.5 better.” Once Ish gets his bait through the mat he will hop it 1 or 2 times and then he moves to the next punch, which is a three foot radius. Monroe feels that most grass bass have about a three, sometimes you can stretch it to five, foot strike zone under the grass canopies.
Monroe uses an 8 foot Daiwa Steez Flipping rod, Daiwa Zillion 7:3.1 reel, and said 70 pound Samurai braid is a must. His punching bait set up is a River2Seas tungsten weight, Paycheck Punch Stop, a Paycheck Straight Shank 5/0 hook, rigged with either a Berkley Chigger Craw or one of the new Havoc baits. He did say that he has been catching quite a few fish on the Bobby Lane Craw Pappy. When asked about punching jigs Ish replied, “Jigs have really lost their place for me since the punch skirt. The Paycheck punch skirt gives you the bigger profile of a jig when you need it and you don’t have to fight the weed guard that jigs have. Of my four set ups usually two will have a Paycheck Punch skirt.”
If Ish is given his choice of grass to punch he said definitely hydrilla but if there is hyacinths in the area he won’t pass those up either.
Many anglers have a hard time learning how to punch vegetation, the heavy weight is a different feel, strikes are different, hooking fish and getting them out of such a tangled mess is a challenge in its self. When asked what helped him the most in the beginning with this presentation is replied, “Tungsten, straight shank hooks, braided line, and the Snell knot. These are a must and will improve your ability to put fish in the boat.”
Monroe’s has two colors he likes to use regularly when punching grass, black and blue along with sprayed grass, but did reiterate that it’s best to pay attention to the forage and try and match what the bass are eating.
In trying to find a depth of grass that Ish liked to fish he pointed out there is no real depth zone that fits every situation. Noting that in the California Delta you’ll find bass in 4-8 feet of water and he’s caught bass punching hydrilla in as deep as 20 feet of water on Toledo Bend in Louisiana. Just like the old saying goes, “If there is grass, there’s bass”. Ish said that you have to just get after it and find out where they are.
To recap some things I found particularly interesting in talking with Ish. Grass period, if you have it you can catch bass in it. If your water temperature is above 56 get after them with a frog. Punching is a reaction bite. When looking at the large expanses of vegetation don’t get intimidated simple start looking for the key areas he mentioned in the beginning, points, bends, hole and find a spot that has several close together, then start covering water.
I’d like to thank Ish Monroe for taking some time and speaking with me. Ish is a very popular angler, several times while we were talking you could hear that tell tale cut out of call waiting. Ish refused to take the calls instead said he’d get back with them and let’s talk fishing. To learn more about Ish Monroe visit his website IshMonroe.com
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