Ish Monroe headed into the Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) Championship in good position to make it back to the Bassmaster Classic. Actually, since the ending of the first day of competition for the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series season, Monroe had been in the Classic as far as ranking in the Angler of the Year point's race. Heading into the AOY Championship, you needed to be in the Top 39 and Ish was.
When the AOY Championship ended, Monroe was one point out and in 40th. Out of the Bassmaster Classic. Yet, all was not lost. The upcoming Bassmaster Northern Open could have an impact on Ish if the angler who won didn't fish all of the Northern events. You see, the Opens have a win and you are in the Classic policy, as long as you fish all three events in a division.
Ish Monroe (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)
Well, it just so happened that Bryan Schmitt, the winner of the last Northern Open event on New York's Lake Champlain didn't fish all of them. So, to fill that slot, Bassmaster rules dictate you need to go down the list of AOY points leaders to the next angler who hasn't already qualified. Yep, it was Monroe.
Still, it was an odd way to get into the biggest tournament in pro bass fishing. Monroe will take it, but is he happy how it all came about?
"Honestly, I feel like I didn't qualify," said Monroe. "I know I fished well all year and put myself in position to be in the Classic, but getting in this way just doesn't feel right.
"I'm not a big fan of the double qualifications, etc. I think we need to qualify just the Top 35 anglers from the Elites and however many they get from the Opens. If the Open angler wins an event and didn't fish all three in a division, the guaranteed money that angler would've received for qualifying for the Classic should be paid out to the rest of the Classic field.
"But, I'll happily take the opportunity to win the Classic again. So, I am very excited."
The Bassmaster Classic is still the big show in Monroe's opinion.
"The Bassmaster Classic is far superior in every way to the AOY Championship," said Monroe. "By a long shot. The size of the event and the importance are unmatched.
"Now, the AOY title is certainly as important, but it's just not the championship tournament at this time.
"Plus, I go for wins every time out. So, for me, the Classic fits my style better. Anglers who are just trying to cash a check don't win, but specialists or those who go for the win may not win the AOY, but they'll win events. The Bassmaster Classic just happens to be a single event. The single biggest event in all of professional bass fishing."