Home is where the start is for Scott Martin, and he hopes it’s once again sweet.
Martin sees great advantage to be fishing his long-time home waters in the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Lake Okeechobee. Martin, who grew up in Clewiston, Fla., has enjoyed plenty of success on the huge bass mecca. He anticipates more.
“I’m so excited,” Martin said. “I spent all those early years of my career starting (the FLW season) on Okeechobee, so it’s nice to finally be able to start the year off on the Bassmaster Elite tour right here in my backyard.”
As Martin begins his third year on the Elites, the Feb. 16-19 event affords him a great chance for his first B.A.S.S. tournament title. At Okeechobee, the second biggest lake completely in the U.S., Martin won one of his eight FLW titles and posted seven top 10 finishes.
“It’s good to be home,” he said. “I get to sleep in my own bed, have all my family and friends come to watch. It’s awesome, so I’m super excited about this one.”
Martin, 47, was a wee lad when his father, Roland Martin, won his first of two events on Okeechobee in 1980 then soon after set up fishing operations there. Scott lives near his parent’s world renowned marina and resort, where he cut his teeth with dad and numerous others.
“I can pull out of my driveway and look down the street and see the marina,” Martin said. “I’ve been able to learn a lot about fishing in general over the years from a lot of different fishermen. It’s helped me grow into who I’ve become, for sure.”
While Martin expects fishing to be fantastic in the tournament, he noted several factors to temper expectations. In 2012, Ish Monroe totaled 108 pounds, 5 ounces over four days to make Okeechobee one of nine fisheries where B.A.S.S. Century Belts have been awarded. Martin said he’s doubtful the feat can be accomplished this time.
“Unfortunately, Lake Okeechobee has taken a little bit of a beating from a couple hurricanes that hit last year,” Martin said. “We’re going to have a lot of excess water in the lake. What that represents is a lot less fishable habitat, and water clarity is going to be a little harder to deal with. On top of that, there’s a lot of pressure on the lake.”
There will be another tournament ending about the time the Elites begin practice. Martin said he thinks the more popular areas will receive a lot of pressure, and the fish are going to be on the skittish side.
“The fish are biting a little bit better in muddier water than they used to,” Martin said. “The lake will fish a little bit bigger for guys who can find some of those areas away from everybody.”
Okeechobee, also known as Florida’s Inland Sea because of its 730 square miles of water, is more of a feel lake than a spot lake. With 40 years experience there, Martin said he can read the pulse of the fishery pretty well.
“My advantage to Lake Okeechobee is that it’s very unique,” Martin said. “There’s some factors that play a big part, more so on this lake than any other lake than I can think of.”
Martin said he hopes to exploit his knowledge of the Okeechobee nuances. There are no secret spots, brushpiles or ledges, he said. While Florida largemouth are notorious for cold-front lockjaw, Martin said his experience might afford him the edge under most every condition.
“It’s unique the way these fish react to wind and weather, and I might understand that better than most,” Martin said. “Even as far as wind, tide, water clarity, I know when an area might clean up and when it won’t.
“It’s kind of second nature to me how the temperatures and wind are. It’s like an instinct. I can look which way the trees in front of my house are blowing and know exactly what’s fishable and what’s not.”
Even so, Martin did get in some last-minute scouting before the lake went off limits to the Elite field. He rode around the lake for two weeks, checking out things like grass, clarity and bottom.
“I know 10 or 15 places where it’s potentially going to go down,” he said.
It’s about a 50-mile commute from Clewiston to C. Scott Driver Park in Okeechobee for the daily Elite launches and weigh-ins, but Martin said that’s no big deal. In fact, it could be beneficial.
“That’s actually a great little mental thing,” Martin said. “When I won the big FLW here years ago, that drive in the morning, I think, was a big part of my success. It allowed me to detune, get quiet for like 40 minutes driving, and just think about the day, contemplate all the things you have to think about as a fisherman.
“I made some decisions every day while I was driving that I didn’t wake up with. It was actually good. I think it helped me a lot.”
Finding the time to sit back and contemplate isn’t always an easy thing on the Elite Series. Martin will be hosting several anglers at his home that week, and time always seems to disappear quickly on tour.
“You get up in the mornings and it’s a lot of hustle and bustle going on,” Martin said. “There’s rushing here, rushing there. You don’t ever have time to get quiet and just think.
“I’m going to try to do that a lot more this year. I’m going to try to get up 30, 45 minutes before everybody and sit on the couch or sit outside and have a cup of coffee. Just chill, just get quiet and just chill. Let my brain do some working.”
Winning his first B.A.S.S. tournament tops Martin’s goals, but he also would appreciate a hot start in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. In 2021, he was among the last qualifiers to the Bassmaster Classic after slipping late in the season. Last year, he climbed inside the Classic bubble with a seventh-place finish in the final event.
The early 2023 schedule is to Martin’s liking, especially the two events before he fishes his second Classic on the Tennessee River out of Knoxville, Tenn. Martin has the goal to win a championship for the Martin family. Roland owns the record with nine AOY titles – Scott has one FLW AOY – but he never won a Classic.
“I’m excited about the week, and I’m also excited about taking right off and going to Seminole,” said Scott Martin, who took sixth there as recently as 2019. “I’ve done well there over the years. It’s grass fishing. I like it. It fits my style.”
Hopefully, it’s more home style.