The most accomplished Elite Series angler each year is crowned the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. The trophy he receives bears the names of all previous recipients, and the trophy gets its namesake from the man who has won it the most — Roland Martin.
Two of Martin's nine AOY wins predate the trophy, the awards and even the recognition. It wasn't until Ray Scott thought of promoting it as the Angler of the Year did this award materialize.
"The first year, they didn't call it the Angler of the Year; they just had a points system for making the Classic," he said. "So what happened was I had the top points for the year we all went to Las Vegas (for the first Bassmaster Classic). After Ray thought about it for a while, he said we ought to call it something. Then he suggested the Angler of the Year race. After that was settled, they went back and gave me the award for the first one."
But to Martin, being the one of the first Anglers of the Year was worthless.
"Ray was saying, 'Wow, this is something! This race is really great.' Then I said, 'What do you mean? I haven't won anything from it.'
"Ray is a visionary guy, and he thought that through pretty well," Martin said. "Anything he put his mind to he could promote well. He even promoted me a lot, so he got some rewards to go along with the title."
Scott went to Stren and rounded up $500 for the Angler of the Year purse, a far cry from today's $200,000.
Martin was awarded two titles in 1972 — one for that year and one for the previous season — then went on to win seven more AOY honors (1973, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1984 and 1985). His nine AOY titles were his best argument for the ESPN Greatest Angler Debate, but his lack of a Bassmaster Classic win kept him from beating out Rick Clunn. Martin believes that the award carries a lot more prestige today than when he won it.
"I guess you could say we paved the way for what it has become without even knowing it," he said. "Today there are hundreds of thousands of dollars that go with it and all the awards and such, so it is a lot better to win it today."
Along with greater awards come greater challenges. While Martin had to beat out hundreds of anglers for his wins, today's Elite Series is the best of the best. They represent the anglers who have qualified to fish at the highest level.
"As the awards got better and better, the better fishermen started to zero in on it," he said. "A lot of the guys who couldn't compete started getting weeded out, so the competition got stiffer and stiffer as time progressed."
Martin is nothing short of thrilled to have the greatest achievement in professional bass fishing named after him.
"It's a great honor to have it named the Roland Martin Trophy. That's beyond comprehension," he said. "I'm very pleased that each year someone gets a trophy named after me."