Building a game plan

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Aaron Martens believes there’s a misperception about his bass fishing style. While widely recognized for his finesse tactics with light line in clear water, Martens enjoys the heavy-lifting too.

“I do a lot of shallow water power fishing,” said Martens, as he did just that in a backwater area of the Alabama River this week. “A lot of people don’t realize it. Drop-shotting is fun, but it can be a pain in the ass, too.”

Martens was in the midst of assembling a game plan for the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship of Toyota Trucks All-Star Week. Wednesday marked the second and final day of practice on the Alabama River.

The final eight competitors got another break from the weather. Cloud cover kept temperatures in the upper 80s and lower 90s for the second straight day. There were some scattered thundershowers in the afternoon, which marked portions of Tuesday’s practice as well.

Martens finished third in the two-day Ramada All-Star Semi-Finals at Lake Jordan last weekend.

He will face No. 6 seed Edwin Evers in one of four first-round matches Friday on the Alabama River. The other pairings are No. 1 seed Casey Ashley vs. No. 8 seed Skeet Reese, No. 2 seed Ott DeFoe vs. No. 7 seed Mike Iaconelli, and No. 4 seed Terry Scroggins vs. No. 5 seed Gerald Swindle.

In this match fishing format, the winner of Ashley/Reese will face the winner of Martens/Evers on Saturday while Defoe/Iaconelli winner will face the winner of Scroggins/Swindle.

That will produce a one-on-one championship final Sunday, with the winner receiving $100,000.

Martens thinks it will take a game plan that includes both shallow and deep patterns to win this event.

“From what I’m seeing so far, it’s 50-50,” said the Leeds, Ala., pro who won the U.S. Open on Lake Mead last Wednesday before driving the 1,700 miles to Wetumpka, Ala., and getting in a half-day of practice at Lake Jordan last Friday. “There’s good fishing offshore and there’s good fishing in the backs of the creeks.”

As Martens spoke from his boat Wednesday on the Alabama River, he was looking at his sonar screen, which had fish-indicating arches all over it.

“There’s probably a 13- or 14-pound limit right here,” Martens said. “They just won’t bite. You should see them on this graph. It’s sickening. I must have counted 60 fish on there, and they are mostly bass, I think.”

That’s the problem with the offshore bite. The bass are stacked up in certain areas, but those fish haven’t been eager to feed, for the most part.

“I’m getting there,” said Martens, when asked if he had formed his game plan yet. “I’m not comfortable yet. It’s still hard to get a good, quality fish.”

Martens doesn’t believe anyone will have a difficult time catching a five-bass limit, especially Friday, before the weekend boat traffic increases. It’s finding a limit of three-pounders that has been tough.

Kevin VanDam won last year’s tournament, which was held under similar weather conditions, but a different format. The two-day event was decided by accumulative weight, like most others are. VanDam weighed-in 15-7 on the first day – the best bag of the event – but had only 10-9 the second day. His total of 26-0 topped Edwin Evers’ by two pounds exactly.

Most of the pros here believe a 13-pound average, like VanDam had, would be enough to advance you through the first two rounds this year and into the championship. But there’s that unknown factor because of the format.

“There’s no telling,” Mike Iaconelli said. “You could come in with 15 pounds and a great big smile on your face. Someone else will come in with 15-1, and you’re going home.”

Iaconelli’s comment was more an example of the unknown rather than criticism of the format.

“It’s exciting,” Iaconelli said. “I’ve never fished a format like this.”

Martens was in third place with 12-2 after Day One last year, but weighed only 7-10 the second day after heavy boat traffic muddied the water he was fishing. He’s developed a game plan to deal with that this year, but still expects the weights to dwindle as the weekend arrives.

There’s also the factor that very little current is expected to be generated from the dams on either end of this 80-mile stretch of the Alabama River.

“It’s going to be similar to last year,” Martens said. “It’s going to get tough on the weekend with the lack of current and the amount of boats on the water.”

The action begins Friday with a 7:30 a.m. CT takeoff at Montgomery’s Riverfront Park. The weigh-in will be held at 5 p.m. in downtown Montgomery at the train shed near the Chamber of Commerce building.


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