Tom Monsoor’s legacy is complete.
Even before this week’s Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament presented by OPTIMA Batteries, Monsoor’s name was synonymous with two things: a swim jig and the Mississippi River. He’d pioneered the technique on his home waters; waters he’s made his living from all his life, either from tournaments or commercial fishing.
Yet, at 71 years old, Monsoor figured he still had one last thing to do to cement his name in the lore of the famous river – win a major tournament on it.
Today, that finally happened, and he took down the best angler in the world to do it. His 12-pound, 10-ounce bag gave him 54-10 for the tournament, stopping Jacob Wheeler’s bid to win back-to-back Super Tournaments. For the win, Monsoor pocketed $125,000.
“I can’t believe it,” says Monsoor. “Nothing is as cool as winning at home. I’ll remember this forever. This is my legacy right here.”
Along with resetting his own record for the oldest to win a Pro Circuit event – he previously held the record at 68 years old for his win on the Potomac River in 2017 – it was also some redemption from the last Pro Circuit event on his home waters when he finished 105th. Yet, that setback taught him the lesson he needed for this week.
[In 2017], I was on biggest and best fish I’d ever been on,” says Monsoor. “Then the water came up and they were gone. And I didn’t just go fishing. This time I said, ‘I didn’t care what happens. I’m just going to go fishing.’”
That game plan came into play earlier than he thought it would. He originally started the tournament in Pool 7, where he’d marked multiple schools of largemouth in Lake Onalaska. Except, once again, the water on the river had begun to rise and the fish were gone.
Instead of being stubborn, Monsoor simply locked back down to Pool 8, hunkered down in the Black River and “just went fishing.”
For him, that meant focusing on two things: Gravel bars and drops with weeds. No surprise, a white Humdinger Tom Monsoor Swim Jig with a 3.5-inch Yamamoto Swim Senko trailer did a significant amount of damage for him this week, especially the first two days. Yet, he also caught some of his bigger fish on a football jig with a Yamamoto Cowboy trailer and small homemade jig with a Yamamoto Fat Baby Craw trailer. All were thrown on Lew's rods and reels.
Two particular drops had been setting up Monsoor well each morning, with him catching nearly 50 fish off them on day three. Unfortunately, they fizzled on day four, and at 1 p.m. he only had four “little babies.” Plus, he’d lost one an hour earlier at the boat he really thought would cost him.
Admittedly nearly throwing in the towel, Monsoor switched gears and hit a shallow spot, which produced his largest fish of the day, a near 4-pound smallmouth, that got him back on track.
“When I caught that one I thought, well, at least I got one nice one,” says Monsoor. “I damn near gave up, but that one motivated me. Then I was pumped.”
An hour later, Monsoor made the winning decision to hit a key drop that produced a trio of big bites on day three.
“It’s a deep break with weeds,” says Monsoor of his closing spot. “You can’t see the weeds. So it’s tricky, because if you cast too far it’s shot because your jig is in the weeds. You have to hit the edge mentally and let it fall straight down or else they won’t bite it.
“I thought, ‘I gotta go there.’ I went back and first cast it was on. I couldn’t believe it.”
The decision gave him the two solid keepers he needed to hold off a hard-charging Wheeler. Less than half Monsoor’s age, Wheeler made a strong run at his seventh victory in two years. Yet, at least for one tournament, the old river rat was able to beat out the young gun, and he has no plans of hanging them up any time soon.
“I hope [I can keep fishing at this level for awhile],” says Monsoor. “I’m still going strong. I’m sore at night, but I might’ve been sore when I was young, too. I don’t remember.
“All I know is now I can be proud at home. This is forever.”
Top 10 pros
1. Tom Monsoor – La Crosse, Wis. – 54-10 (20) – $125,000
2. Jacob Wheeler – Harrison, Tenn. – 52-14 (20) – $35,000
3. David Walker – Sevierville, Tenn. – 52-5 (20) – $30,000
4. Zack Birge – Blanchard, Okla. – 50-15 (20) – $25,000
5. Tyler Stewart – West Monroe, La. – 50-7 (20) – $22,000
6. Cody Meyer – Auburn, Calif. – 48-12 (19) – $21,000
7. Bailey Boutries – Daphne, Ala. – 48-11 (20) – $19,000
8. Clark Reehm – Elm Grove, La. – 48-9 (20) – $18,000
9. Kyle Hall – Granbury, Texas – 48-7 (20) – $17,000
10. Scott Wiley – Bay Minette, Ala. – 42-6 (15) – $16,000