Making history

When I read that legendary bass angler Roland Martin will be competing in the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens, I couldn't help but smile. I'm old enough to remember his domination during the first two decades of B.A.S.S.

Martin still has the most impressive resume of any bass pro, including these B.A.S.S. records: 19 tournament victories, 19 second place finishes and 9 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles.

In 1980 and '81, Martin won three consecutive tournaments. These were at Lake Okeechobee, Toledo Bend Reservoir and Lake Eufaula.

I regard this as the most stunning achievement in the history of our sport. Many will disagree with me, but I believe Martin has yet to be surpassed as the greatest bass tournament fisherman ever.

I don't idolize Martin, but I certainly respect his fishing skill and what he's done with it.

Martin retired from bass tournament fishing in 2005 at age 65. He stated that he could no longer compete with the young guns of our sport. I don't believe Martin lost his ability to catch bass. After nearly four decades of competition, I suspect he lost interest and desire.

Martin continued to host his long-running TV show and pursue other interests. I figured his retirement would stick. His show is a good gig. Then again, I wasn't surprised that, at age 70, Martin is giving it another shot.

Why? I think the layoff recharged Martin's batteries. The Bassmaster Opens' win-and-you're-in-the-Classic format is probably another major incentive. When you've won as many tournaments as Martin has, winning one tournament out of three sounds like good odds.

And the only thing missing on Martin's resume is a Classic victory. Maybe he decided to put it on his bucket list.

Can you imagine Martin winning the Classic at age 71? I can. Even if he falls short, he will surely generate loads of interest in the Bassmaster Opens. That's a good thing ... a very good thing.

Since I'm fishing the Bassmaster Southern Opens this year as a nonboater, it's possible that I might draw Martin in a tournament.

Part of me likes the idea of fishing with a true legend. Another part doesn't relish fishing behind Martin no matter what his age.

If Martin's batteries are recharged — and I believe they are — he isn't going to leave many bass for a backseater.


Editor's note: Mark Hicks is one of the country's most widely read and respected bass writers. He has penned countless articles for Bassmaster Magazine, B.A.S.S. Times and other publications.