DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — Roland Martin speaks with the same level of animated enthusiasm when recapping a tournament day as when he began dominating B.A.S.S. events some 40 years ago.
The pep is there and so is the drive to compete. The only difference is the pressure is off to perform. For the first time in his stellar career, Roland Martin is competing for fun.
That makes it fair to say that he’ll feel no pressure tomorrow when competing in the top 12 on the final day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open.
“I’m out here to have fun; this is a high enough level for me now,” said Martin, 71, who fished his first tournament in 1970, just two years after B.A.S.S. was officially formed.
That is an understatement for a man who defined and dominated the sport of professional bass fishing for decades. Martin retired from full-time tournament fishing in 2006. Even today, his B.A.S.S. resume is worthy of comparing to the likes of Kevin VanDam.
Martin has 19 B.A.S.S. titles compared with VanDam’s 20 career wins. At the top level, Martin has made 25 appearances in the Bassmaster Classic in contrast to the 21 entries of VanDam.
Martin is credited for the concept of pattern fishing and many other refinements to the sport. The techniques and tackle he is credited for designing is mind-boggling. And so is his thirst to learn even more about a sport he helped refine.
“Not that much has changed from a practical standpoint since I retired,” said the nine-time Angler of the Year. “But there are a lot of things I want to learn about, the new cutting-edge stuff.
“I want to learn more about the dynamics of fishing with swimbaits,” he continued. “I have a few areas that I want to learn more about and master, like the new designs that have refined crankbait fishing in the past several years.”
Beyond the refresher course program, his brain remains open to learn more about a fish that has defined his very name.
“I’m always trying to figure out the bass,” he added. “When I finish a tournament now I don’t think about how somebody beat me. I think about how the bass beat me, where I could have done better.”
The fun factor might be at the forefront, but the burning desire to master the sport remains.
“I dream about perfection. I feel like if I were the perfect angler that I would go out and not miss a fish,” he said.
He wrapped up his post-weigh-in interview in typical Roland Martin fashion.
“I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow. I’m going to go out there and Carolina rig a worm in 30 feet of water. There’s something I figured out the fish are doing and I didn’t have time to try it today.”
The interview ended with well-wishing fans seeking autographs and pictures. It was vintage Roland Martin.