BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Four times a Bassmaster Classic bridesmaid means only that the odds are with Aaron Martens to finally be the bride.
That’s how Martens regards his legendary four near misses to be the world champion. It’s a positive spin on what could be heavy baggage heading into the Feb. 21-23 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville and in Birmingham, Ala., Martens’ home base.
“I feel very fortunate to have come that close four times. It makes me feel like I can win. When you’re that close in a short period of time, the odds are with you; it’s going to happen,” said Martens, who is looking for his first Classic crown.
Martens has more than the odds going for him this time around. He has momentum after wrapping up his 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series season by adding another Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title to his first AOY title from 2005.
He has a solid track record in Classic competitions. He’s competed in 14 Classics since 1999, missing only in 2003 after an uncharacteristic off year. In nine of the 14, he scored a Top 12 finish. In only three of those 14 did he fail to advance to the third-day finals.
In his Bassmaster career, he’s won six times (and placed second a dozen times). One of those wins was in the Bassmaster Elite Series on Lake Guntersville in May 2009.
And now the world championship is coming to a lake he’s not only won on, but competed on eight times since 2002. Not to mention that the Classic is where he lives. His home in Leeds, Ala. — just east of Birmingham — is 78 miles from Lake Guntersville.
Martens has been doing his Classic homework. One priority has been keeping himself in top physical condition.
“I’ve been training so I can try to spank everybody. If I can get into phenomenally good shape, maybe it will help that much,” he said.
Martens is a runner — a marathoner. For him a 10-mile run is a warm-up. Unless he’s laid up in bed sick, he’s out running every day.
In the same dedicated way, he cares for his tackle, boat, clothing and any other gear and tools he relies on.
“I work on it all the time. I put in eight hours a day in the offseason, sometimes more,” he said. “I’m getting ready for the Classic and for the whole season. I start over every year and go through everything to make sure it’s perfect.”
Martens’ Classic homework also included about six days on Lake Guntersville over a two-week period. Other commitments kept his Classic pre-fishing time relatively short for someone who lives nearby. But he said six days was enough to bring him up-to-date on the big fishery and enough time to know there are many things about Guntersville he doesn’t know.
Overall, he liked what he saw.
“The lake’s healthy and the grass was tremendous, even in December,” he said. “With the grass as thick as it is, the bass are averaging pretty good size. For all the fishing pressure Guntersville gets, the fishing still holds up. That’s what’s so amazing about Guntersville.
“And I like Guntersville’s layout — long, with a lot of creeks on it, and good main-river stuff.”
He compared the lake now to how it was in 2009, when he won the Elite event.
“In ’09, you could catch 20 or 30 5-pounders a day. I don’t see that now,” he said. “But you can catch four or five of the big ones a day.”
He said his Guntersville goal is to bring in at least 25 pounds a day.
“I don’t know if I’ll do it, but if I can, my chances (of winning) are good,” he said.
If conditions are perfect, he said, he expects to see some 30-pound bags.
“I’m pretty sure the record will fall,” he said, referring to the Classic weight record for five fish over three days set at 69 pounds, 10 ounces in 2011 by Kevin VanDam on the Louisiana Delta.
Martens, of course, hopes to be the one who busts the record — to be the bride this time.
“Once fishing starts, it’s all business for me. I might give someone a smile, but I’m going to be serious the entire time. You have to keep your focus sharp on the task ahead of you.”