“Best ever” is thrown about for a number of things on Bassmaster LIVE. Best ever opening, best ever catch, etc.
At times it could be considered a bit of hyperbole, but what Aaron Martens did on LIVE Sunday left everyone who saw it astonished. Martens’ big fish catch that sewed up the Huk Performance Fishing Bassmaster Elite at Chesapeake Bay will go down as one of the greatest ever.
And not just on LIVE, but on the Bassmaster TV show and in B.A.S.S. lore. And that’s not hyperbole.
Martens, who struggled all morning with misses, had his frustrations turn to sheer glee when he hawg snatched the event's big bass from a dock. He said he noticed the hook was coming free and quickly reached to grab the fish.
“Yeaaaaaaaah. Waaaaahaha,” he shouted. “Oh my gosh. It came off in my hand in the water. It’s 7 pounds. Woooo. Oh my gosh. Ayeee. They are in here. Oh my gosh. That’s big fish of the tournament. That’s a 6-and-a-half pounder. ”
He went on and on in his typical stream of consciousness banter. When things calmed down, hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona assessed the magnitude of the catch.
“There are certain fish that I grew up that made me addicted to fishing,” Zona said, mentioning several. “I have chills looking at that. That to me is the most incredible thing about bass fishing right there. That was the best thing that I have ever witnessed on LIVE.
“That ranks up there with one of the best fish catches of doing this with you for 11 years, Sanders -- the fish comes off in his hand.”
Sanders, noting it couldn’t have been scripted better, assessed the situation well: “Martens jumped up off the canvas to deliver that blow.”
Asked further about the knockout, Sanders said, “That one’s going to carry extra weight because it absolutely won the tournament. And in the last two hours of the final day? We will never top that. How would you ever top that? We'll be watching that for years to come.”
Two in the well
With Martens’ victory, this season is the first to have two anglers win two regular season Elite events.
“Two guys dividing up four of the events -- talk about history,” Sanders said.
Edwin Evers won on the St. Lawrence earlier this month and won at BASSfest on Kentucky Lake. Martens ran the bird pattern to win at Lake Havasu in May and won Sunday sitting on the dock of the bay.
If you include the two-day All-Star events, Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese had two Elite titles each in 2010. Reese won at Smith Mountain Lake in April that year then on Guntersville in May, while KVD took titles on Kentucky Lake then the All-Star event on the Alabama River. KVD started that year winning the 2010 Classic on Lay Lake.
KVD had doubled up a year earlier, again with titles in the two-day All-Star on the Alabama River after a regular season 2009 title on Smith Mountain Lake.
If you don’t count the two-day events, KVD has some two-fer seasons covered as well, winning two regular season events in both 2008 and 2007. He won on Guntersville and Grand Lake in 2007 and Kissimmee and Kentucky Lake in 2008.
What Evers and Martens have done with their title snatching is really unprecedented, since there are less events now. From 2006-2007, the Elite Series was comprised of 11 regular season events and had three majors. The Elites went to 10 regular season events in 2008 and have fished eight venues since 2009, along with postseason and AOY tournaments.
So, if you qualify it by saying two Elites winning two four-day regular season events, 2015 would be the first and only time.
“The Catch.” The NFL has Dwight Clark’s touchdown catch of Joe Montana’s pass in the 1982 NFC Championship.
The Catch in baseball is Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder grab in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.
Martens’ big fish Sunday has the makings of such a moniker in bass fishing.
The size, along with the timing and what it meant for the “Furious Hawg Snatcher,” which Martens later called himself, was immediately recognized.
Before it got in the livewell, viewers of LIVE poured in comments of “game over.”
It ended the hopes of Bill Lowen, who began the day 5 pounds back but charged to a 10-pound lead at one point. He was denied his first B.A.S.S. win, and Martens showed great humanity. One of his first comments after The Catch was to Lowen.
“I’m sorry Bill. I didn’t mean to mess your tournament up,” Martens said.
Four on the floor
Martens took a 69-point lead over Justin Lucas in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, and he is poised to win his third AOY title.
He has to survive the final regular season event at Lake St. Clair Aug. 27-30 then the Toyota Angler of the Year Championship at Sturgeon Bay Sept. 17-20.
“Do I play it safe at St. Clair? I’m thinking, do I gamble and try to win or play it safe and fish by the ramp?”
Martens, who won his first AOY in 2005, won the 2013 AOY on Lake St. Clair, risking a run to Lake Erie to secure enough points on his 41st birthday. The next day, with fish to win the event, Martens broke down.
A third AOY would end Martens’ tie with other two-time winners Larry Nixon, Jimmy Houston, Gary Klein, Davy Hite and Guido Hibdon. He would join Bill Dance and Mark Davis with three titles. Roland Martin leads with nine and KVD has seven.
That’s a limit
A slow, painful grind was often said about the event. The LIVE show even opened with Swindle giving a lecture on grinding.
“No other sport in the world like this, Son. People grind and grind and grind,” he said. “Game’s played 9 hours a day, no timeouts, no referees. No food, no water, your choice. No sleep. Nothing like it in the world. It’s most definitely a grind. The most dedicated athletes in the world.”
Zona brought it up with Lowen, who told him, “I will grind you to death. I will 12-pound you to death.”
The difficult fish conditions, which saw favorites like Mike Iaconelli, Jacob Powroznik and Edwin Evers put up goose eggs on one day, were to Swindle’s liking.
“I’m in a grinder," he said. "I like it.”
Swindle said he really didn’t have a plan this week, didn’t care to try to figure out the tides and was basically concentrating on “the next object in front of me.”
Zona said he picked a Zoom Mutt crankbait to fish. “I was so clueless coming into this tournament, I just picked a crankbait that had a lot of teeth marks on it.”
- PHOTO OF THE DAY: James Overstreet takes the nod with this crisp, colorful, emotional shot of Lowen. Check out all the awesome Chesapeake Bay photos.
- Russ Lane had that lonely feeling. Between Susquehanna flats and Gunpowder Creek, he didn’t see anybody all week except for Mark Menendez when he idled out of the area. “He said that has never happened in his Bassmaster career,” Zona said.
- Lane’s key was water temperatures in the back of his ditch, several degrees cooler than the main bay waters. “That’s a naughty little gig in Alabama,” Zona said. “Lane is secretive about that.”
- Lowen’s tactic was opposite of prevailing thought. “I’m able to catch them off the laydowns on low tide and milfoil at high tide. That’s opposite of what you’d think. One would think the laydowns would be better at high tide.”
- The anglers who didn’t prepractice were at a distinct disadvantage, Zona said, partly because practice was virtually wiped out by flood tides. “You were so far ahead of the field because it was stable,” Zona said. “Last week’s three-day practice was the last three hours on Wednesday. If you were vacationing in June, you got thumped.”