STOCKTON, Calif. — Aaron Martens fishes ugly.
The 34-year-old California-born angler fought through unfavorable tides and the traffic of float-tubing tournament anglers kicking at his water to take a sizeable lead heading into the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Duel in the Delta presented by Mahindra Tractors.
In casting light line at clumps of grass in beat-down water, Martens said, "I'm fishing stuff that's not appealing." The only hitch in this tournament is that with the tide getting later each day, he's not able to fish much on the outgoing tide, his favorite.
His 19-pound, 2-ounce bag on Saturday pushed his three-day total to 69-13. It would amount to a commanding lead over the other 11 finalists if rookie Derek Remitz hadn't pulled in a 15-13 stringer.
Remitz lacks 3-3 to tie the surging Martens. Their nearest competition, third-place James Niggemeyer, is more than 10 pounds back, at 56-2, ahead of a knot of anglers all with more than 50 pounds.
"I'm fairly keyed in on what I need to do out there," Remitz said. "It's just a matter of finding the right place to do it."
The rest of the field still gunning for the $100,000 first-place check: Jeff Reynolds (4th, 55-0), Brent Chapman (5th, 55-14), James Charlesworth (6th, 52-9), Greg Hackney (7th, 52-5), Kevin VanDam (8th, 51-14), Jared Lintner (9th, 51-13), Stephen Browning (10th, 51-4), Skeet Reese (11th, 51-2) and Chris Lane (12th, 50-15).
At 13th and 10 ounces out of the cut was first-day leader Mark Tyler, who had fished the Delta literally thousands of times. He slipped to fourth after Day Two and out of the cut Saturday after "a series of bad decisions" sank him.
"I let local boats push me out of an area," he said. "It got me off my route. I just couldn't recover."
Just squeaking in was Reese, a Californian who expected to slay the Delta but who didn't break 16 pounds until weighing in 20-15 on Saturday.
"I'm tickled to death," Reese said. "I feel like I redeemed myself a little bit today."
The angler who made the biggest leap was Hackney, who nearly doubled his Day Two bag to score the biggest stringer of the afternoon, 22-4.
"This is the strangest place I've ever been," Hackney said. Having to account for the tides, which present bass fishermen with the unfamiliar challenge of tracking 4 feet of vertical change in their fishery, leads to a lot of time squandered.
"Today I didn't have any wasted motion," Hackney said. "That was the difference."
While cut anglers overwhelmingly predicted Martens would eventually take the title, the remaining dozen were in no mood to concede. "There's a potential for anyone to catch a 35- or 40-pound sack," Lintner said. But he allowed that if Martens catches another 20-pound sack, he would be nearly impossible to catch.
"Aaron's the man out here," Remitz said, adding that his own chances are still solid. "Three pounds is not even one bite out there. But you've got to start catching them before you can think about that."