The Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Hoosier Division starts its season with back-to-back tournaments on Indiana’s Lake Monroe June 27 and 28, and it’s looking like big bags will be on tap.
Both competition days will be standalone tournaments with a new winner crowned each day. Even with two days of fishing pressure, Monroe should have no problem holding up and showing out.
Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Hoosier Division
The June 28 event is presented by Fish-Intel.com.
How the fishery sets up
The largest lake fully within Indiana’s borders, Lake Monroe is a nearly 11,000-acre reservoir created by the damming of Salt Creek in the early 1960s. It’s a long, somewhat narrow lake with a shallow, riverine upper end and a deeper (up to 60 feet) lower end. Much of the upper end – basically anything east of the 446 causeway – is filled with idle zones that can make getting to and from takeoff in time a bit of a task.
The eastern (upper) half of the lake is filled with creeks, cuts and backwaters that often get a lot of play in the hottest months of the summer, while the lower half of Monroe features plenty of docks, small offshore ledges and, in certain years, a healthy dose of grass.
While many Indiana lakes don’t get enough credit for the quality of fish they hold, Monroe regularly churns out 6- and 7-pound bass and winning bags in excess of 16 pounds, and a 20-pound stringer isn’t out of the question on any given day.
What to expect
Stu Moyer won the Phoenix Bass Fishing League event on Monroe in 2018 – his second of the sort on the fishery and one of his five top-10 finishes there. In fact, Moyer has been fishing Monroe most of his adult life, and while he’s since moved to Aurora, Ky., and won’t be fishing the Hoosier Division openers, Moyer says Monroe is fishing lights out right now.
“It’ a good lake, and it spreads out nicely,” says Moyer. “It’s going to be a slugfest this year. The weights have been way up on the local tournaments. People have been catching them like crazy.”
Moyer partially attributes the stellar fishing this year to high-water periods since 2018 that have protected Monroe’s largemouth population and allowed for a couple great spawns. On the other hand, Monroe does have issues with maintaining its vegetation due to high-water periods, as the lake’s primary purpose is flood control.
“They raise and lower the lake level so much because of flood control that you can have a good stand of grass after a couple years, and then it kills all the grass for that year,” he says.
If Monroe is sporting an arsenal of good grass, though, it can really produce this time of year. If not, fish in the lower end of the lake tend to relate more to docks, rocky points and stump-filled ledges.
“When the summer gets here, I’m throwing on a 10-inch worm, and I’m fishing the edge of the grass or boat docks or the ledges,” Moyer says. “The tops of the ledges are going to be in 6 feet of water, and the bottom will be in 12 or 15 feet.
“There’s stumps all over those ledges. The guys who get to the good stumps on the ledges are going to catch the fish first.”
At the upper end of the lake, there’s plenty of room for anglers to spread out into cuts and creeks, and topwaters generally get the call in the summer months in those shallow, skinny waters. Moyer says the only two question marks about fishing that end of the lake are how much time it takes to get through the idle zones and how well it can hold up to two days of weekend boat traffic that can stir up the shallow water.
Baits and techniques
“In June, it’s a topwater bite,” Moyer explains. “It’s going to be a really good popper bite at the end of June. There’s also going to be a good buzzbait bite up in the creeks.
“First thing in the morning until probably 10 o’clock, I’d be throwing topwater. On Monroe, those fish will gang up after the spawn. You can get on a spot on the river channel where the fish have pulled out of the creeks and you can catch some really big bags of fish.”
Being postspawn, Moyer says there will also be a good fry-guarder bite that he likes to exploit with a spinnerbait. And on the lower end, it’s all about Carolina rigs on the ledges and flipping soft plastics under docks and along grass lines.
As for winning weight, Moyer won with 15 pounds, 14 ounces with just four fish in 2018, the last time FLW held a Phoenix Bass Fishing League event on the fishery. Since then, high water seems to have given the largemouth population a bit of a boom, and Moyer expects a bigger stringer to take home the hardware in late June.
“I would say somebody’s going to get on good fish and probably come up with a bag that’s going to weigh 18 or 19 pounds,” Moyer says. “The last couple years the water’s been up on Monroe. The spawns have been tremendous, and the fish have had a lot of protection because of the conditions on the lake. The fish are just going crazy growing on Monroe.”