So good was his day, Monroe was able to cull a 6-plus-pounder, trading it in for what turned out to be his largest, a 7-11.
He said he caught every fish by flipping a creature bait called the D Bomb - made by Missile Baits, a company owned by one of his fellow Bassmaster Elite Series pros, John Crews. Monroe rigged it for a large profile, "and those big ones just seemed to hit it," he said.
All his fish came from an area he knew about from previous Okeechobee tournaments. He expected it to produce, but it exceeded his expectations Thursday.
"I thought it would be good for 20 pounds, which I've caught there before. But I never caught what I did today," he said.
Trailing Monroe was Hite, 1999 Bassmaster Classic champ and two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year from Ninety Six, S.C. Hite's sack of 25-9 was the result of a midday recovery from a slow start.
"At 10 o'clock, I had a limit that weighed probably 9 pounds, and I kept fishing really hard," he said. He changed areas, and his day turned around.
"When I did get some quality bites, I put every single one of them in the boat, including that 7-pounder," Hite said.
That was the 7-4 that anchored his bag. He almost lost it when it got hung up in some reeds, but he went to it, scooped it out and boated it without trouble.
"That almost never happens that way," he said.
Nate Wellman of Newaygo, Mich., was third with 22-3. In fourth place was 2012 Bassmaster Classic champ Chris Lane of Guntersville, Ala., with 21-15. In fifth place was Lane's brother, Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., just 12 ounces behind with 21-3.