It was an event that wasn't supposed to take place on the Delta, but when the water levels at Lake Shasta were deemed too low, tournament organizers worked fast to move the $1 million Walmart FLW Series National Guard Western Division bass tournament at the last minute.
Russo's Marina on Bethel Island served as the launch location for the national tournament. Back in Antioch, Wal-Mart hosted the final weigh-in as well as a free Family Fun Zone, featuring a trout pond, a Ranger boat simulator and assorted fishing-themed games in the parking lot.
For Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif., the move proved lucrative, as the 10-year pro claimed the first FLW Series victory of his career, netting him a $125,000 paycheck. This is a great accomplishment, Monroe said. I have won a lot of tournaments in my career and never an FLW event and I couldn't be happier.
But it wasn't an easy victory. Monroe and the nearly 400 top bass pros in the angler and co-angler divisions battled cold waters and gusty winds, forcing many to change their strategies in mid stream.
Monroe started the tournament flipping a Snagproof top water frog in heavy cover, but when his bait wasn't enticing the fish and he switched to a Reaction Innovation Sweet Beaver using a 1-1.5 ounce weight, the result was a four-day 20-fish limit that tipped the scales at 70 pounds, 6 ounces.
Guys were telling me they were having a hard time getting bites and stuff, Monroe said. But that first day I probably had 50 bites and probably had 35 to 40 keepers. The second day got even better. I probably had 60 bites and caught at least 50 keepers. Yesterday I only had about 25 bites and today I only had about 25 bites. But I was playing a numbers game catch as many as you can and weight the five biggest you can and hopefully it pans out for the win.
Heading into the final day of fishing, Oakley pro Bobby Barrack was sitting in fourth place with 14 fish weighing 45-11. Looking to slide into Monroe's position at the front of the pack, Barrack, who finished second in this event last year, fell short, bringing five bass to the scales weighing 10-2 on the final day. His total catch of 55-13 landed him in seventh place overall. His $11,800 paycheck improved his 2008 FLW earnings to more than $100,000.
You've got to catch a limit in these things, Barrack said. The competition is so good out here. Us local guys used to have a few little secrets and a few areas that you could rely on, but when FLW comes to town there is not a stone unturned in this river. You've got to catch a limit and I didn't.
In the co-angler division, Justin Lucas of Folsom brought a three-day total of 14 bass weighing 35-8 to win the $25,000 prize.
I didn't think that I would win this tournament, said Lucas, who has won four FLW Series National Guard Western Division tournaments as a co-angler in two years. I came into this tournament thinking about the points race and just hoping for a Top 10. I always fish hard, and this week it paid off and worked out in my favor.
Coverage of the tournament will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers as part of the FLW Outdoors television program on Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. Eastern time.