The Big Bass Brother

By Ivan McDowell
Updated: December 15, 2007

ALABAMA — Brothers in the NHL? Check. Willie O’Ree took care of that.

Brothers on the PGA Tour? Check. While, Tiger didn’t set it off, he certainly has taken the sport to another level.

Brothers in auto racing? Check. Willy T. Ribbs and Bill Lester drove their way onto the circuit.

Brothers in Pro Fishing? Umm, let me see.

I must admit that when I first became aware of Ish Monroe I had no idea who he was or what he did. All I knew is that it was sports related, because that’s what I do. Angling is what Monroe does. And he is one of the best.

The San Francisco native is the first African-American to win a major bass tournament. In fact, Monroe is the only black angler on the 108-member professional tour.

Monroe, 33, has been fishing professionally for about nine years and got start thanks to the biggest influence in his life, his father, Greg Simpson.

“My father bought me my first fishing magazines and helped me get my first boat when I was a younger,” said Monroe, who has been called the “Future of the Sport” by various publications.

Monroe is so accomplished that he has won $600,000 on the bass circuit in the past seven years. The fact that he is a black man in a predominantly white sport is not lost on Monroe, but he says he’s not perceived by his contemporaries as anything other than the competition.

“Most guys in this business look at me as just a fisherman, although competitive, it’s fishing.”

Colorblindness in the world of fishing notwithstanding, Monroe is still a black man in American and is susceptible to many of the prejudices that have continued to plague this country for over a century.

“I have been pulled over several times for DWB”, or driving while black,” lamented Monroe. “They want to know what a guy that looks like me is doing with such a fancy boat.”

Monroe and his extravagant vessel have done pretty well so far in his career. Reaching the point where he can attract sponsors such as Ranger Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Cocoon’s Eyewear and Purolator. Sponsorships are where Ish makes the majority of his income.

“I have to make a minimum of $120,000 a year to cover expenses and that’s not including living expenses,” commented Ish.

“Very few guys in this business are capable of surviving alone on their winnings. You have to have sponsorships.”

Monroe’s largest earning potential chance on the water comes during the Bassmaster Elite Series. The series pits more than 100 of the world’s top professional Bass anglers competing in an 11-event series stretching from March to September.

Nearly $7.5 million dollars in total prize money is awarded over the course of the year and the top prize for each Elite event is $100,000. The top 50 places in the field are paid with 50th place receiving $10,000.

Monroe, who is single and without children, spends approximately 250-280 days a year away from family and friends, a voyage that can often be taxing, even on a single guy.

“Man, the travel schedule is tough, but I love it,” exclaimed Monroe, who also owns a degree in marketing. “I decided that whatever it took to be professional fisherman that’s what I was going to do.”