BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Aaron Martens may not be good at starting things, but he’s exceptional when it comes to finishing them off.
That was a theme that he reiterated time and again throughout his valedictory speech commemorating his 2013 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title at Wednesday night’s Bassmaster “Night of Champions.” Indeed, he noted that he didn’t even start bass fishing until he was “14 or 15 years old,” but as the mounting hardware shows, for a late bloomer he’s a quick study.
He doesn’t believe that public speaking is his forte, either. “You guys are all wondering what I’m going to say,” he stated to a crowd of his peers and other members of the industry. “So am I.” Despite that initial doubt, he quickly gained momentum, and heeding his wife’s advice to keep it “short and sweet” he composed on the fly a surprisingly tight address in which he thanked his biological family, his B.A.S.S. “family,” his sponsors and even – by popular request – his oft-mentioned cat.
In the speech, he noted that despite a horrendous start to the 2013 Elite Series season – he finished 85th at the Sabine River – all eight tournaments are counted equally and when it was all over he stood alone at the top of the standings list. In both his Elite campaign and his speech he did not have a script, but rather an outline to guide his efforts, allowing him to deviate as circumstances dictated. He’d had an opportunity to discuss the title upon earning it in Detroit late last summer, but he was running on two hours of sleep at the time and felt that he’d left certain things unsaid. With tonight’s at-times-humorous, at-times-serious words to the assembled crowd, he felt that he closed that open loop. He did it by following the outline but allowing his unique personality to shine through.
While Martens now has two Angler of the Year titles to his credit – an honor that Master of Ceremonies Dave Mercer called “the most coveted award in fishing” – he still lacks a Classic trophy, despite having finished in the runner-up spot a painful four times. He addressed this gap in his otherwise-stellar resume head-on during his presentation, but previously noted that he doesn’t even know where he’ll start the tournament on Friday.
“I might go someplace that I haven’t been to since (pre-practice) in December,” he said, once again emphasizing the finish line over the starting blocks.
It would be unfair to compare Martens’ story to that of the tortoise and the hare. After all, not only is he an avid and speedy runner, but he’s also accomplished more at a relatively young age than most pros could accomplish in two careers. Still, he sees himself as a beginning student of the sport.
“In most jobs, when you’re 41 years old most people are starting to think about retiring,” he said. “I’m just getting started.”
Then, echoing the well-traveled social media speech advising college graduates to wear sunscreen, he finished with a piece of advice for his fellow competitors:”Remember your core exercises.” When the rest of the field is cramping up, Martens fully expects to be getting his second wind.