Editor's note: 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of B.A.S.S. As part of our celebration we’re publishing stories, videos and photos about the history of the sport, including the one below.
NAPLES, Fla. – He calls them the “Roland Rules,” and Roland Martin believes these five were instituted by B.A.S.S. solely because of him.
The first rule puts a limit on practice, Martin said. Wanting to do well on the new circuit, Martin went all-out preparing for his first events, and that included really getting to know the lake. After his first of 19 victories, which stands second all-time, emcee Ray Scott asked Martin how he solved the fishery.
“You’d get your trophy and check at the award banquet, and you’d talk about how you won the tournament,” Martin said. “So Ray got me up on stage and asked me what was the key to my success. I told him I practiced, and I practiced, and I practiced.”
The same scenario came up after Martin’s second victory, with Scott again asking how it went down. Again, Martin told him how he ran roughshod over the field and wiped everyone out.
He said this is what he told Scott:
“Well Ray, it’s like I told you last time, I had all this time to practice, and when you practice for a whole month, that’s an easy deal … you get this thing figured out.”
That got Scott to thinking, Martin said.
“He says, ‘Hmm. We have to change a few rules here,’” said Martin, noting there is now an off-limits period before events.
Martin said the second rule came about when someone in his boat related a story of what he saw.
“At the time, whatever the limit was, we had to cull so there was only so many in the livewell,” Martin said. “I’d catch them in a big school situation, and I’d have them flopping all over the boat.
“In a school of fish, it’s better if you don’t let them go. I’d take a spoon and have the whole boat covered in bass. I’d finally get the ones I wanted in the livewell, but I’d have 10 or 15 bass in the boat. Then I’d throw them all back. It was a bad deal. So he made it a rule that you couldn’t keep more than the limit.”
In the early days of B.A.S.S., the limit was 15 fish, and it decreased to 10 then seven and finally settled on the current number of five. Anglers are penalized if they make a cast with more than five fish in the livewell.
Similarly was Roland Rule No. 3, which prohibits culling a dead fish, which Martin did once. This came about around the time Scott was instituting catch-and-release practices.
“As the time, it wasn’t illegal,” Martin said. “When they first started the cull rule, they didn’t say anything about them being alive or dead.”
Rule No. 4 prohibiting the use of jet boats came after Martin took one up the Connecticut River and got past the rapids. “So now you can’t use a jet boat,” he said.
The final rule came from an event on Lake Okeechobee, and it banned the use of raised platforms.
“I put a saltwater platform on the front of the boat, got me real high so I could look around and I could see these spawning beds everywhere,” he said. “I could pick off these bass, and I won the tournament.”
Martin isn’t the only angler who can claim a rule written for them. The $500,000 earnings cap in pro fishing is known as the Brent Ehrler Rule after the veteran FLW angler came over to B.A.S.S. Even as he was being awarded the Rookie of the Year trophy, Ehrler said it should have instead gone to true rookie Jordan Lee.
While Martin could see why rules were imposed after some of his actions, he can’t wrap his head around the recent no information rule. He gets the spirit of fairness and that no one should be getting fishing locations from anybody, but he thinks the extremeness of the rule takes away one of the more pleasurable aspects of the sport.
“I always said the fun of bass fishing is for me to sit down with a guy like Will Fowler and talk about the great rattletrap fishing on Lake Guntersville,” he said. “Maybe there’s a tournament next week, but it’s really neat to talk about it. I can’t even talk to him about it now. Come a tournament, I can’t call Will and talk about an old-time tournament that we did 20 years ago. Because that’s information we can’t be talking about.
“They made this information rule so strict they’ve taken a little fun out of bass fishing. I think it’s bogus because I can’t talk to anybody about anything. This is no fun anymore because I’ve got to sit there with my mouth shut.”