By Todd Ceisner
About 3 1/2 years ago, Tom Monsoor wasn’t sure he’d be able to return to the rigors of tour-level competition. In November 2013, Monsoor had quadruple-bypass surgery and then suffered a series of heart attacks over the following months, one of which occurred on his birthday (Jan. 28, 2014) while he and his travel partner packed up for the FLW Tour season opener at Lake Okeechobee.
“I actually sat in my house having a heart attack telling my buddy as we packed the truck I knew I was having a heart attack,” Monsoor recalled. “I wasn’t going to the hospital because I knew if I did, they wouldn’t let me go fishing.”
Within an hour Monsoor was taken to a hospital in La Crosse, Wis., where he underwent tests and was kept two days for observation. After doctors concluded his condition was stable, he was allowed to travel to Florida (click here to read about his comeback). Despite his health issues, he cashed checks in four events and qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup that year.
Monsoor is a fighter who treasures every chance he has to be on the water. His infectious smile and joyful attitude about the sport of fishing and the competition of tournaments are refreshing, which makes his first career FLW Tour win last week at the Potomac River a popular one among BassFans.
“It’s unreal,” he said. “I’ve worked hard my whole life through commercial fishing. When I used to get in a bass tournament and it was 100 degrees and I’m in shorts, it was like heaven. I was used to wearing black, insulated waders and hoodies and being hot and dirty and working my tail off. Bass fishing was a dream.”
And now his dream of winning a top-level tournament has come true. His experience on river systems and around bass that relate to grass came in handy as he used a 1/4-oz. swimjig to catch all of the fish he weighed in.
“I just love fishing,” he added. “To me, if I don’t get to fish all 4 days, I’m bummed. It’s not because of the money. It’s because I love to fish.”
Monsoor’s best finish in four previous FLW Tour events at the Potomac was 47th two years ago. He said he checked some areas where’d he caught them before during practice, but nothing grabbed his attention.
“We caught some fish, but nothing great,” he said. “I found one little spot that turned into my starting spot. I made two casts and my buddy made one. He broke one off and I caught two.”
Darrell Robertson was in the area as well that day and was also getting bites with regularity.
“It was just a shallow spot near where some tributaries were running in,” Monsoor said.
He located one other spot that turned into his big-fish area. Both locales were dotted with milfoil. He also caught a few fish off docks and toyed with implementing that into his pattern, but wound up focusing on grass.
“I’d run around and fish the weeds and then hit a dock and bang, I’d get bit,” he said. “The last dock in the back of a bay, I’d catch fish. My big-fish spot had six docks by it and I’d be thinking about it and then I’d get another bite (in the grass).”
> Day 1: 5, 19-06
> Day 2: 5, 16-14
> Day 3: 5, 15-05
> Day 4: 5, 15-02
> Total = 20, 66-11
Day 1 at the Potomac was a banner day for not only Monsoor, who caught 19-06 to put himself in 2nd, but for many in the field. More than half the field caught at least 14 pounds, setting a blistering pace thanks to a bounty of 3-pounders scattered around the river.
After posting four triple-digit finishes and two others in the 60s, Monsoor was just thankful something went his way for a change this season. That he was able to effectively fish two of the spots he wanted to despite having boat number 149 gave him even more hope.
He said his pattern was tide-dependent, but everything he weighed came on his swimjig.
“If you knew where the fish were, that’s what mattered,” he said. “They didn’t care as much about the tide as people did.”
With his being in the first flight on day 2, he had to adjust his timing in relation to the tide cycle as he wouldn’t be able to catch the better stages of the outgoing tide in the afternoon. He went back to the two areas that produced for him Thursday and boxed a limit by 8 a.m.
The first spot was a small community hole and served as his numbers area while the other area produced four upgrades and helped him get to 16-14 and take the lead at the halfway point. By noon, he had pulled back and started to search for plan B areas for the weekend.
His numbers area produced another limit for him Saturday morning, but the stretch of grass near takeoff gave him pause as it failed to churn out the upgrades he’d grown accustomed to catching there.
He spent the final six hours of his day there and caught just four keepers, two of which he weighed in. As a result, his confidence started to waver as other anglers were surging up the leaderboard behind him. His 15-05 kept him in the lead, but only by 2 ounces over Brandon McMillan. Chad Warren was 12 ounces back entering the final day.
“I’m not confident I can win,” he said Saturday night. “I’m going to try, but it ain’t going to happen.”
Despite his defeated mindset, Monsoor remained loyal to the two spots that had carried him through the event on Sunday. He’d scoured them pretty well and knew what to look for and how to fish both areas at the optimal times of the day.
“By day 4, I had it figured out,” he said.
He coaxed a limit off his stretch of main river grass in the morning, but opted to get out of the wind, which was gaining steam out of the south. He headed back to Quantico Creek on the Virginia side of the river.
Over the course of the tournament, he’d dialed in the sweet spots and their locations made what amounted to a horseshoe on his GPS map.
“I worked in that area and didn’t get bit until I got closer to the horseshoe,” he noted.
He added three keepers there, which was just enough to push his weight to 15-02 and hold off Warren by 5 ounces.
“It was a struggle,” he said. “It was windier than heck. It was not a nice fishing day. My first spot was getting blown in on bad and I struggled for a small limit there.”
While he mixed in a Yamamato Swimming Senko and a standard Senko, nothing produced bigger fish quite like the swimjig.
Winning Pattern Notes
When Monsoor settled down in his areas, he methodically picked them over, making cast after cast with his swimjig.
“I worked my area over,” he said. “I’d move 30 feet and put my Power-Poles down and cast through the whole area. Then, I’d move and do it all over.
“Normally, I look for things to throw at, but on Sunday I was covering water. I didn’t miss an area. I didn’t’ care what was there. I fished it all. If a fish was there, I was putting a jig in front of them. I had to be persistent and cast and cast and cast.”
Winning Gear Notes
> Swimjig gear: 7’ medium-heavy Team Lew's Custom Lite Magnum Bass casting rod, Team Lew's Custom Pro Speed Spool SLP Series casting reel (6.8:1 ratio), 16-pound Sugoi fluorocarbon line, 1/4-oz. homemade swimjig (black/blue), Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Flappin’ Hog (black/blue).
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – “Persistence and luck. I’m lucky they didn’t catch more. I’m usually not lucky when it comes to fishing. I have to work my tail off.”
> Performance edge – “The Winn grips on my rod and reels. They’re unreal. Your hands don’t slip off off them. All day every day I had to wipe black slime off my bait so my hands were constantly wet and it never affected my grip.”
Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here.