2009 Elite Series - Southern Challenge Lake Guntersville - Guntersville, AL, May 7 - 10, 2009

Martens leads Day Two at Lake Guntersville

Aaron Martens

 LAKE GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Setting a torrid pace on ultra-active Lake Guntersville, Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., relied on stealth for a two-day total of 58 pounds, 14 ounces, at the Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge, enough to lead Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., by more than 1 pound.

 Plagued by local boat traffic, Martens was forced to play defense at his most productive spots Friday. So concerned was Martens that he resorted to hiding in his best spots when other boats pulled into the areas. He would pop back into the honey hole only when he felt all traffic had moved away. He fished for only six hours of his competition day, meaning the other four were spent sitting, literally, on his best spots.

 But Martens has made a name for himself because of his ability to adapt. His West Coast roots and his exposure to fishing since practically infancy have given Martens a deserved reputation as one of the most versatile pros on the Elite Series. On Friday he used all of his guile.

 "It's stressful out there," said Martens, the 2005 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. "If I played my cards right and had all of my spots to myself, who knows what I could have caught. But it's always going to be a grind. These weights are just amazing and at some point they have to drop off."

 Forced to find new areas, Martens cobbled together 29 pounds, 12 ounces, Friday. He has found a bevy of productive spots on Guntersville but was afraid that he might have trouble locating more. With possible nasty weather Saturday, Martens and the other 49 competitors who advanced to Day Three should see less local boat traffic. Martens, relieved at the thought, planned to hit his best spot first thing Saturday morning.

 "If I have my best area to myself it should be a 5-pounder on nearly every cast," he said. "The First, second, third, fourth cast. It's just an amazing spot."

 While he declined to discuss specifics, Martens has used two distinctly different patterns. One was similar to what many in the field were doing but the other pattern was unique and he felt it would be key in his continued success.

 McClelland held steady in second with 57-7. Sticking with what was successful Thursday, the 41-year-old threw a variety of baits, including spinnerbaits, to defined areas.

 After a horrid first two days of practice, McClelland became dialed in after making some wholesale adjustments. He is executing a 1-2 punch, keying on the shad spawn in the early morning to build a modest limit and then pecking and hunting for larger fish by working with the current later in the day.

 Like most in the field, McClelland is confident in boating 20 to 22 pounds each day but is relying on kicker fish to take his weight to another level. Thursday, he landed an 8-pound behemoth, and Friday he boated a 6-14.

 Within his areas, McClelland is barely moving, trying to entice the tightly positioned bass with ultra-precise casts.

 "'I'm a little concerned because the bigger fish are getting harder to catch as we get deeper in the tournament," he said. "But it's definitely a matter of timing. And I just need to hit it at the right time."

 Slipping from the lead into third was Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, with 55 pounds, 15 ounces overall. In fourth was Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, with 55 pounds, 2 ounces. Moving up from seventh to fifth was Mike Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J., with 54 pounds, 10 ounces.

 In what is shaping up to be a climactic Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, the top three anglers heading into the event finished safely within the cutline Friday. Four-time AOY Kevin VanDam (18th) will look to hold off Skeet Reese (15th) and Alton Jones (7th) to maintain his lead.

 Meanwhile, Kevin Langill of Terrell, N.C., had his Friday catch disqualified for violation of Rule C6.

 With just three regular-season events remaining after Guntersville, anglers are jockeying for position to qualify for the inaugural Bassmaster Elite Series postseason. The details of that two-tournament event, Sept. 12-13 on Alabama's Lake Jordan out of Wetumpka and Sept. 17-18 on the Alabama River from Montgomery, were announced Wednesday. Only the top 12 anglers in the regular-season AOY standings will qualify.

 Guntersville has been the site of more than 20 previous BASS events, including the 1976 Bassmaster Classic, won by Elite Series pro Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo. The last time the Elite Series visited the popular fishery, in 2007, VanDam outlasted the field to claim the trophy. His winning weight of 66 pounds, 3 ounces, was more than 7 pounds the better over St. Louis' Mark Tucker, who finished second with 59-1.