Aaron Martens, the two-time Angler of the Year, is fishing with a heavy heart in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. He learned last night his father Jerry Martens died at around 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday.
Jerry, who was 75 years old when he died, had been fighting peripheral neuropathy, a nerve disease, for about seven years. The disease can cause people to gradually lose muscle control. Lesley Martens, Aaron’s wife, said Jerry went from a cane, to a wheelchair, to ultimately not being able to move at all. “His neurologist said this was the worst case he’d ever seen,” said Lesley.
Aaron got interested in fishing from his mother Carol, but he gained a love of the outdoors from his father. Jerry, who lived in West Hills, Calif., was passionate about backpacking, and did it all over the world. “He would take the boys backpacking and make them catch fish for dinner,” said Lesley. “They were very close.”
Aaron won’t head home until the Classic is over. “His dad would have wanted him to fish the Classic,” said Lesley.
Lesley tells us Jerry was very proud of Aaron’s fishing career, attending the Pittsburgh Classic and the most recent Guntersville Classic. Carol was able to attend all of Aaron's Classic appearances except this one (Hartwell is Aaron's 16th Classic). "Jerry wasn't able to come to more because he was a self-employed pool man," said Carol.
“Aaron felt his dad was the strongest man he knew,” said Lesley. “Jerry was always happy, he didn’t let his illness ruin everything. He’d smile and tell jokes all the way until the end.”
At Friday's weigh-in Aaron spoke about his dad. "He never complained once. I talked to him a couple days ago and he was joking around. He was a good man."
Plans for the funeral have not been determined yet. Carol Martens wanted to hold off until the Classic was finished and the whole family could get together.
Carol had this to share:
"Jerry lived from 1939-2015. About seven years ago, when we went on a Shasta houseboat trip with Aaron and family, Jerry lost his last two siblings around that time, and he began having feelings of numbness soon after that. He had a nervous system disorder that began with his extermities. There was no known cause and no cure. Because of our faith and optimism Jerry enjoyed life even though he became paralyzed the past few years. He was looking forward to the Classic and the Elite tournaments. It was our best form of entertainment! Yesterday was a normal morning and then just before our RN came Jerry declined and one hour later he was in heaven. We were married for over 54 years."