WETUMPKA, Ala. -- Despite several setbacks, Aaron Martens made a run reminiscent of Smokey and the Bandit - but from Las Vegas to Montgomery, Ala., rather than from Texarkana, Texas to Atlanta.
The other exception was the lack of Coors and a big rig. He made the trip in 31 hours, thanks to a friend but no thanks to a bum transmission.
Between shifts in a sponsor booth at ICAST in Las Vegas, Nev., last week, Martens practiced for the U.S. Open, a tournament on Nevada’s Lake Mead. By opting to fish the tournament, Martens’ schedule became super-tight.
To get from Las Vegas to Montgomery, there is roughly 1,800 miles to cover, and it typically takes close to 32 hours if you drive non-stop. Martens would have to hustle if he wanted a full practice period on Lake Jordan. The plan was to leave immediately after the Open, and make it to Montgomery for practice. However, his setbacks began immediately after hoisting the Open trophy Wednesday evening.
For his win, Martens pocketed nearly $39,000 and a Nitro Z8, but the winner is expected to stay for press meetings and a dinner following the event. Martens obliged. All told, he had his truck packed and ready to head to Alabama by 1:30 a.m. Martens’ friend Tom Frink hitched a ride and helped with driving duties.
“I needed to come home (to Alabama) and Aaron was headed this way so I asked if I could go along,” Frink said. “It was a long, long trip.”
The group was relatively on time until they hit Oklahoma, where they encountered their next speed bump.
“Well, I started smelling burning in Oklahoma and the truck started acting weird, and we found out it was the transmission; it was giving out,” Martens said. “I had it serviced before I left and I guess it was 2 quarts low on fluid so it acted really funny.”
“Funny” is an understatement. Martens was forced to baby his Ford the remainder of the journey, which slowed progress further. All told, the trip took 31 hours, but the late start cost him precious time on Lake Jordan. However, he’s not phased in the least.
“My (GPS) chip didn’t have my spots saved from last year, so I think I’m going to hit a lot of what I fished last year,” he said.
Martens lives a short spell from Jordan, and is somewhat familiar with it. Other pros are expecting him to do well despite his tardiness.
“All he’s got to do is go out there, throw a little worm on a drop shot and he’ll make the cut, easy,” Jeff Kriet said.