For the past month, Ish Monroe has been working hard to prepare himself for the marathon tournament run that he faces over the next six months.

His challenge is daunting. Competing on the CITGO Bassmaster Tour as well as another national circuit — along with possibly qualifying for the coveted Elite 50 Tour — means the 30-year-old California pro will be away from home for half of 2005.

“I won’t be home for six months,” said Monroe, the only African-American ever to qualify for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic from the professional ranks. “I’m pretty sure I’ll make the E-50s again. I’ve got a better chance this year to make them than I did last year. With so many events to fish, I’m not going to have any time to come home.”

That’s why Monroe has done more preseason preparation than usual.

“I’m completely ready,” he said. “Everything is sitting in my garage. My boat’s ready to go and so is my tackle. Everything I’ll need is ready to go.

“Basically, I’ve spent a whole month going through every single box of tackle I own. I went through and made sure everything is organized. I’ve got all brand-new hooks and weights and spools of line, rods, reels – everything.

“I also did some homework on the Internet – getting maps, making contacts to find out about water levels and things like that. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some pictures of the lakes and know what they look like before I get there.”

The other part of preparing for this six-month tournament grind involves the physical challenge.

“Basically, you just try to do as much exercise as you can while you’re home,” Monroe said. “Sometimes it’s hard to do because you get lazy, but I’ve been drinking a lot of water and going to the gym as much as I can.

“I think I’ll be physically ready.”

NO PAIN … NO CLASSIC? Speaking of the physical demands of professional bass fishing, it’s the subject of a report on this week’s edition of ESPN2’s BassCenter. The program takes a look at the different approaches taken by today’s young guns versus the more traditional methods of the old guard.

Whereas many of the younger pros take frequent trips to the gym and work with professional trainers to develop a regimen that will help them get into fishing shape, lots of the old pros believe there’s no better way to get ready for competition than by spending lots and lots of time of the water.

BassCenter reports on both sides of the training issue – the Bubbas and the new breed.

Tune in to BassCenter each and every Saturday morning at 7:00 and 11:00 a.m. on ESPN2.

BERKLEY’S GAIN. In the biggest move of the off-season, 2003 Classic champion Michael Iaconelli has signed a deal with Berkley to endorse its fishing line, soft-plastics and hard-plastic lures.

“It was a big move for me, and I’m glad to be with a company like Berkley,” Iaconelli said. “One of the little hidden treasures in my deal is that I will get to design some new, innovative baits for 2006 and 2007.”

SWITCH HITTERS. A majority of the CITGO Bassmaster pros are also avid hunters who spent as much of the fall in the woods as possible.

Ohio pro Joe Thomas enjoyed an outstanding hunting year in 2004. His bow hunting successes included bagging a free-ranging bison in New Mexico, a mountain goat that scored in the top 60 ever taken by bow according to the Pope and Young Club, a black bear in British Columbia and an impressive whitetail deer in Illinois that scored 156 on the Boone and Crocket Club scoring system.

Texas pro Kelly Jordon recently harvested the whitetail of a lifetime (scoring 150 gross points on the Boone and Crockett system) in south Texas.

“The buck’s rack has an inside spread of 21 1/8 inches,” Jordan said. “I’ve always wanted a really wide-racked deer for the wall, and this was it!”

DID YOU KNOW? This will be the 14th year of the Bassmaster CastingKids program, which has involved more than 1.5 million youngsters and awarded more than $2.7 million in cash, scholarships and prizes.

PRO BIRTHDAYS Virginia pro Rick Morris will be 43 on Jan. 11. Texas pro Bud Pruitt turns 39 two days later. Missouri’s Mark Tucker will blow out 44 candles on Jan. 31. A pair of former Classic champions (Ken Cook, 58, and Denny Brauer, 56) will celebrate their birthdays on Feb. 2 and 3, respectively.

IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO… Tour pro Sean Hoernke of Texas would likely have carved out a career in a slightly faster sport. He was a professional motocross competitor before he became a pro angler.

THEY SAID IT. “Smile all the time. Be nice. We don’t realize – each and every one of us, whether you’re a pro angler or any adult – how much influence we have over young people. We need to set a good example for those youngsters.” Three-time BASS Angler of the Year and 1995 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Mark Davis offers advice for his fellow pros.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit