A chance meeting with Aaron Martens at a boat ramp on Douglas Lake in 2001 sent David Mullins on a course towards the Bassmaster Elite Series.
“I have always fished, and I got into competing when I was about 16 years old,” the Elite Series rookie recalled. That is when his dad would let Mullins take out their Bass Tracker aluminum boat and fish local derbies at Douglas and Cherokee lakes in Tennessee.
When he was 18, Mullins joined an independent bass club and started fishing the club’s team events. “I didn’t fish with a partner all year, and I ended up winning the points (standings) by myself,” he said.
The high school senior fished a lot at night on Douglas Lake then and while returning from an all-night trip around daybreak Mullins saw Aaron Martins backing his boat down the ramp. “I didn’t know who he was then, and I ended up talking to him,” said Mullins.
When Mullins found out Martens was prefishing for a Megabucks event the teenager asked if he could fish with Martens the next morning. “So we went out and caught the heck out of them,” Mullins recalled. “Ever since then we have been friends.”
When he was about 20, Mullins started competing in daytime tournaments and learned how to catch bass off deep structure during daylight hours while fishing with Charlie Rasch. After college, Mullins launched a career as a school teacher and continued to fish local circuits and derbies with an 18-foot bass boat powered by a 150-hp engine. Mullins also competed in Bass Fishing League (BFL) tournaments from 2002 to 2013 and won a BFL event at Lake Cherokee in 2012.
The Tennessee angler moved up to a bigger rig in 2011 when he and his partner Brent Hoskins won the Tom’s Marine Team Trail Classic and the grand prize of a Ranger Z119. “When I won that bigger boat, I was able to travel and fish bigger lakes,” Mullins said.
When a 2012 Elite Series event was slated for Douglas Lake, Martens invited Mullins to prefish with him again. So Mullins went with the Elite Series pro and caught several fish while showing Martens around the lake. “He looked at me about halfway through the day and said he had fished against a lot of guys, and if I ever wanted to fish for a living he knew without a doubt that I could do it,” Mullins said.
Encouraged by Martens’ claim, Mullins considered fishing the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens since he had always aspired to become a pro angler. “It made me so mad watching 'The Bassmasters' TV show because I would get so frustrated knowing that I could do that, too,” Mullins said.
When he found out a 2013 Southern Open was scheduled on Douglas Lake, Mullins signed up for the Opens as a boater and became Martens’ travelling partner for the season. After a 49th-place finish in the 2013 opener at Lake Tohopekaliga, Mullins relied on his experience on his home lake to finish second at the Southern Open #2 on Douglas Lake. Finishing 26th at Logan Martin in the finale, Mullins settled into fifth place in the Southern Opens point standings and earned an invitation to the Elites.
Now the 32-year-old Mullins is Martens' travelling partner on the Bassmaster Elite Series.