First boat for Louis Monetti to participate in the Chicago Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Show

When Louis Monetti climbs the aquarium at the Chicago Fishing, Travel and Outdoor Show on Thursday, it will be another first.

“I’ve worked a few shows with Bizz Baits, but this will be the first time I’m in the tank doing a workshop,” he said.

He will alternate seminars each day between “Shallow Smallmouth Secrets” and “Mastering Small Baits for Big Bass.” The rest of the time he will be at the Bizz Baits booth where he works.

The first ones keep piling up for Coins.

He and Michael Fugaro won Team of the Year for UNC-Charlotte in the 2022 Strike King Bassmaster College Series.

On October 3, Monetti won the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket, which qualified him for the 2023 Bassmaster Classic in March and earned him paid entries in all nine Bassmaster Opens and the use of a Toyota Tundra and Nitro Boat for a year. On Monday, Monetti will fly from Chicago to Tulsa, Okla., to pick up that boat.

His honors border on the miraculous, considering his boat.

“She deserved a better owner than me,” Monetti said.

The seats and carpets in the Old Range are worn and tattered. For most of the season, Monetti and Fugaro had no schedule up front.

“I definitely take pride in being a shallow water fisherman,” Monetti said.

When fishing deeper, he said, “I’ll usually drop a marker buoy.”

This is a college guy with old school skills.

His 1996 17-foot Ranger R72 was a gift from his mother on his 16th or 17th birthday.

This boded well for Monetti’s college career. In May, he graduated with a degree in marketing.

”About me, [marketing] was inspired by Mike Iaconelli,” Monetti said. “In Fishing on the Edge he talks about how much it helped. I’ve been reading this book since I was 15. He’s always been my hero and super cool. I went on his podcast.”

Iaconelli, a record-setting bass pro, also hails from New Jersey. Monetti grew up on the coast in Brielle. He had to leave the North to go to college.

“Basically, I knew for sure that I wanted to come somewhere where I could fish 12 months out of the year,” Monetti said.

New Jersey doesn’t have a fishing high school, so he can’t build his resume and win a scholarship.

“So I had to pick my school and be a walk-on,” he said.

In Charlotte, which has a great history in college fishing (Shane LeHew, Jake Whittaker and now Monetti), bass fishing is a non-scholarship club sport. But it was an affordable school and a good drive, and Monetti made history.

“I competed in every sport, but my sport sucked,” Monetti said. “But it’s something I can compete in and try to be one of the best to ever do it.”

The show (chicagoland.sportshows.com) takes place Thursday through Sunday at the Schaumburg Convention Center.

Monetti has never been to Chicago. But Bizz Baits founder Brian Souza grew up in Arlington Heights, so Monetti thinks they’ll see the sights of Chicago at night.

Natalie Phelps Finney, Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

New Director of IDNR

Governor JB Pritzker named Natalie Phelps Finney, a former downstate legislator, as director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on Monday. She has been Deputy Director since August 2021.

In memory

Nick Kushnerik died unexpectedly on January 15. Just after graduating from Marist, he and Nick Engel won the 2012 Illinois Student Federation State Fishing Championship on Lake Shelbyville. Kushnerik worked at Johnson Outdoors in Minnesota.

Homeless actors

Divisional weekend without pandering Tom Brady refreshed as a walk through a snowy pine forest.

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