Aaron Martens is known as an innovator in the bass fishing world. New baits and finesse techniques have made him one of the headliners on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
But Martens went, in his words, "old school" to win the 2012 Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship at Lake Decatur Sunday.
Martens relied primarily on Bagley's Balsa B square-bill crankbaits for his winning weight of 13 pounds, 8 ounces on the final day. Martens edged co-finalist Edwin Evers by 1 pound, 4 ounces. And he needed almost every ounce of it. Martens' total was the heaviest bag weighed all week in the event that began with 12 All-Stars for two days on Lake Shelbyville and continued with a Final 4 match-fishing contest on muddy Lake Decatur over the weekend.
"Most of my fish came pretty shallow," Martens said. "They were bank-related. I just tried to say on the right stuff and make as many casts and cover as much water as I could.
"But you couldn't fish real fast. It was like medium speed, in two feet of water or shallower. That's why I like that Bagley's crankbait. It displaces a lot of water, and that was important because the water was so dirty."
Martens used two color patterns - a blue-back, chartreuse-belly bait listed as "parrot" by Bagley's, and a black-back, white-sides, orange-belly pattern named "Tennessee shad." Martens wasn't certain whether he used the B-1, which is 2 inches long, or the B-2, which is 2.5 inches long.
Martens game-changing bass came on the parrot color. He walked the barely-hooked fish around the boat with his rod bent double. The Leeds, Ala., angler said the bass was "barely skin-hooked" on one treble hook barb when he was able to get his hands on it and lift it in the boat.
Unlike Evers, who made a long, difficult run up the Sangamon River headwaters of Lake Decatur, Martens stayed within a three-minute run of the Nelson Park Marina take-off site. He went both north and south of there, and usually had observers watching him from the bank as well as from boats on the water all day long.
When Martens wasn't cranking the riprap banks, he was flipping wood cover along those same banks with a 3/8ths-ounce black-and-blue Rattleback Jig with a sapphire NetBaits Paca Chunk trailer.
"I caught two keepers on the jig and weighed one of them," Martens said.
The win was especially satisfying for Martens, who has some painful memories of second-place finishes in the Bassmaster Classic, where he was the runnerup in 2011, 2005, 2004 and 2002. As for those first three, it's often been said that Martens is less than 10 total pounds from being a three-time Classic champion. That's how close he's been.
But Martens stood in the winner's circle Sunday.