Drinking the A-Mart Kool-Aid

When the tournament was over, I figured that I’d been a witness to a story that needed to be widely disseminated, so I wrote a minute-by-minute account of the day that was purchased by a western-based magazine. That led to more assignments, more connections, and eventually to this column with B.A.S.S. It also led to my fascination with Aaron Martens.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about riding with Aaron Martens: Somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of what he says in the boat is not directed at his rider. He’s having an internal dialogue; and if you’re smart, you’ll get the notepad out to record his thought process as he analyzes where to stop, which hook to use and what color worm to thread on it.

He operates largely without a filter so sometimes the listening process is like drinking from a fire hose; but if you learn to separate the signal from the noise, it’s incredibly illuminating. It’s also not something you should try at home, because Aaron Martens is in a league of his own.

That’s what makes Aaron Martens simultaneously inspirational and confounding to me. He’s everything a fishing role model should be – independent, innovative and meticulous – but there’s no way to fully emulate what makes him great. While he’s certainly worked to hone his skills and his instincts, there are certain aspects of his performance that don’t seem repeatable or subject to meaningful analysis.

It’s Ike’s “fishing the moment” taken off on a tangent where AMart fishes through his thought process. You and I likely can’t dissect it enough to make sense of it.

For this same reason, I think that Rick Clunn’s success isn’t a good template to work from. You can certainly try some of the mental exercises that he’s developed, and you can copy his mechanics, but Rick has developed a system designed to work for him. Any universal applicability is almost incidental.

Same with Steve Kennedy – his strategies and instincts are a story for another day, or perhaps a PhD dissertation, but you and I can’t fully implement them. For a fishing fan, that’s maddening. You’ve got three of the best who’ve ever lived, and it’s impossible to fully internalize what makes them great.

Getting back to Aaron, there are other things you should know about him. He’s far more complex than most of us give him credit for. The fishing media, myself included, have often implied that he’s something of an angling “Rain Man,” focused entirely on minutiae of the sport, like the value of 5-pound test fluorocarbon over 6-pound test fluorocarbon, or an Aaron’s Magic worm with red flake versus plain old Aaron’s Magic.

It appears that way, for sure, as he talks to himself in the boat. No doubt the same obsessiveness spilled over when he decided to run a marathon last year. But if you think that blind devotion to narrow tasks is what defines Aaron Martens, and that his relationship with his tackle trumps his relationships with people, you’d be wrong. On multiple occasions, I’ve called him for an interview only to hear him lament that he should’ve focused on fishing that morning but instead decided to roughhouse with his kids. And what other pro angler openly and proudly credits his partnership with his mother for helping to develop his angling prowess?