BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Bassmaster Elite Series angler Kyle Monti of Okeechobee, Fla., found at least one blessing in the pandemic forcing a break in the Elite Series season.
The third-year pro said he was elated when “Randy,” the client he was supposed to guide on Lake Okeechobee, turned out to be NFL Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
A fishing guide in his off-season, Monti agreed to help another guide with a party of four in Lakeport after a recent tournament was postponed.
Monti said he was stunned when the record-setting wide receiver pulled up with a friend and their daughters.
“I immediately recognized him,” Monti said. “He rolled the window down and I said, ‘Holy crap. That’s Randy Moss!’”
After a morning of using shiners with the other father-daughter, Monti took out both men in the afternoon and tried to accommodate Moss on his quest to learn how to flip for bass on Lake Okeechobee.
“He said, ‘I want you to teach me everything you know. I’m all ears. You’re my coach today.’ I got to coach Randy Moss, essentially,” Monti said. “After initially being starstruck, I realized he was listening to what I said and what I’m good at.”
Moss and his friend landed a lot of three to four-pounders but nothing big, Monti said. His buddy lost one about 6 pounds at the side of the boat, but they didn’t go 15 minutes without a bite. Monti deemed it a successful trip.
There was some NFL talk, but Monti said he was rather coy and picked his spots during their afternoon session.
“It was hard for me not to kind of fan out,” Monti said. “I’m a huge fan of Randy Moss. I’ve always liked him. He grew up in a small town like me.
“It was hard for me to try to maintain my cool. I tried to act like his friend instead of a fan, because I’m sure he gets that all the time. It was pretty interesting.”
After about four hours, Monti said Moss made it a point that his phone hadn’t rung.
Moss has a small circle (of friends) with which he keeps in contact. Besides his former quarterback Tom Brady, with whom he set the single season record with 23 touchdowns in 2007, Moss said he keeps in touch with Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“We talked about coaching, the mentality of coaches,” Monti said. “I picked his brain on Belichick, what makes him so successful. He said everybody, rookies to veterans, is expected to do the same thing. That was the most eye-opening thing about Belichick.”
Moss played 14 seasons in the NFL, retiring after 2012 with 156 touchdowns, second only to Jerry Rice. He played with Minnesota, Oakland, New England, Tennessee and San Francisco, making the Pro Bowl six times.
While on the water, Monti said he asked Moss about the mental aspect of excelling in sports.
Moss was all-everything coming out of high school from Rand, W.Va., a town of approximately 1,600 with few resources.
Monti, who has cashed checks in 17 of his 24 Bassmaster events, but has not qualified for a Classic, was interested in what it takes to climb the ladder.
“I spent the last two or three years studying sports psychology and the mindset,” Monti said. “I think that’s what separates the guys who are consistently winning from the guys who are really good fisherman but there’s just something missing.
“You can control your mindset, and that’s what I was digging into. He just kind of validated what I’ve already seen — you can’t let failure keep you from doing anything,’’ Monti said.
Monti said he realized Moss must be bombarded with requests for autographs, so he never pushed anything, like taking photos. He just wanted to help Moss’ bass fishing game.
“He’s pretty good. He needs some work,” Monti said. “For as much time as he’s gotten into it, he handled the rod and reel pretty good. What he was trying to learn is when, where and why, movements and patterns, everything that everybody reading Bassmaster Magazine wants to know.”
Like most Elites, Monti said he was disappointed to have the COVID-19 pandemic postpone several stops at places he believed he could excel.
“We had this beautiful schedule. Best schedule I’ve seen in B.A.S.S. for a long time, the perfect times at the perfect lakes,’’ Monti said.
“Now we’ll have to go places in the fall,” said Monti, changing his mindset after thinking of his best Bassmaster finishes (both fifths) at the Smith Lake Open and last year’s Elite on Lake Tenkiller.
“You know what, my best tournaments have been in the fall when it’s tough. I just seem to figure out how to catch five bass, so maybe it’s a blessing for me,’’ Monti said.
The break could end up providing a double blessing for Monti.