Aaron Martens is walking into Sturgeon Bay with the AOY in hand, but he won’t do anything silly, just put his head down and fish.
“I don’t know if AOY is over, but it’s getting better every day,” Martens said.
Only a catastrophe could take the title from Martens, who only needs to catch one fish at Sturgeon Bay. Not that Martens would do anything silly on one of his favorite fisheries. He'll just do what he likes.
“I like fishing,” he said. “I like fishing even more now.”
It is all over but the shouting. Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer tried to get Martens to do some shouting Saturday, but, unlike his fish, the one-track minded Martens wouldn’t bite. Mercer was on his boat in the middle of St. Clair as he caught 19 pounds, 4 ounces and made the Top 12 cut at 11th.
After Mercer jumped in the lake Friday, and Davy Hite backflipped in Saturday, Martens was asked if he’d give it a go.
“Will I get disqualified?” Martens asked.
“Yes, you will,” Mercer joked.
At the weigh-in, Martens was also noncommittal on Mercer’s attempts to get him to finish off the AOY at Sturgeon Bay with a Snoopy pole. Martens instead turned the talk toward … yes, fishing this season.
“It’s been a phenomenal year,” he said. “I’ve been blessed. I hope it keeps going.”
Martens talked about putting in the time on the water, in the boat and at the ramp. He’s been sleeping only four hours during tournament weeks.
“I work by butt off in practice, do dinner and get lunch ready,” he said. “It’s midnight before I go to bed.”
Tournament director Trip Weldon vouched for him, saying he made a run to the Baltimore ramp late one evening and Martens’ was there working. Martens has had that focus during competition all season.
“That’s key in this tournament is not to waste time. Time is so crucial, seconds count,” he said. “That really seems to be key for me. Making decisions, making the right ones.”
Bassmaster LIVE host Mark Zona said Martens is not the same angler he was just three years ago. Nothing can rattle him now and he is a complete angler, much like the guys with three AOYs he looks to join -- Mark Davis and Bill Dance. Kevin VanDam has seven titles and Roland Martin is the all-time leader with nine.
Two in the well
Dave Smith had a special gift for his Day 3 Marshal, Jeremy Cook, who was appreciative enough of the nice momento, an actual metal badge with Marshal inscribed, that he sent in this photo.
Smith probably had a bunch made. He owns MTM Recognition in Oklahoma City, where he has a hand in making every NCAA trophy, Super Bowl and World Series rings as well as the Elite trophies and the AOY trophies.
Big Dave, who busted big smallmouth all week, was seeking his best finish ever as an Elite. He has two top 10 finishes in his 201-event career, both long ago, and had hopes of bettering his 12th in the 2008 Clarks Hill Elite.
Smith finished 9 ounces out of the Top 12 in 14th. Trip Weldon lauded his efforts on the Bassmaster stage Saturday in what might be his last event. Weldon thanked him for years of serving B.A.S.S., as well as being one of the most pleasant men he’s ever been around.
“He’s a monster in the business, a great friend of B.A.S.S.,” Weldon said. “I hope he does well.”
On Hooked Up with Mercer, Kevin VanDam broke down his subpar tournament and gave his top three picks to win Sunday.
Jonathon VanDam had to be the mix, he said, and not just because that’s his nephew.
“Brandon has been solid, the quality of the fish is there,” KVD said. “Whoever has a little backup – Johnny has a backup – I think he can pull it off.”
He added that Chad Pipkens can be dangerous since he knows Lake Erie so well. Since 20-plus bags have been weighed every day, VanDam said to expect another to win it.
“Any of those guys can do it, but if I had to pick three guys, Jonathon, Pipkens and Brandon,” he said.
KVD wished he could be picking himself, but after practice was blown out, he just didn’t find the quality fish on one of his favorite fisheries.
“No place produces like Lake St. Clair,” he said. “It’s a vast area, and it’s like finding a needle in a hayfield out there. The playing field is so large, you’ve got to pick out an area and just go with it.”
In the end, he said he “didn’t move enough, and I moved a lot.”
Four on the floor
Steve Bowman went to the mouth of Lake Huron to check on the progress on the Day 3 leaders. While Brandon Palaniuk caught some quality fish there and maintained the event lead, Bowman reported all experienced a slower day, as had been anticipated, and left for greener pastures.
“John Murray is the only one left,” said Bowman, who photographed big fish catches by James Elam, Alton Jones, Casey Scanlon and Palaniuk on the first two days.
Murray had three fish and was vying for critical AOY points. With his 19-11 bag, Murray finished 31st on St. Clair, but more importantly climbed to 42nd in AOY, giving him a shot to qualify for the Classic.
“It’s a little more dramatic than watching Alton Jones catch nothing,” Bowman said of staying on Murray.
That’s a limit
Steve Bowman received some good-natured ribbing from the LIVE crew when he called in his report. They said he changed since his induction into the Arkansas Outdoors Hall of Fame last week.
“You’re mailing it in,” Zona joked. “You’re Johnny Manziel out on the water. Tommy sanders went through the same thing.”
Zona said he was trying to get Bowman out of the imaginary funk, and Sanders played along that he suffered one too after his induction.
“Somebody came up, slapped me and said, ‘Wake up.’” Sanders said.
“I think it was me,” Zona replied.
Bowman was truly humbled by the honor, never thinking he’d reach such a milestone in his life. Then when suggested he needed to follow anglers on Lake Erie Sunday, he goofed right back at Zona by nixing the idea.
“Hall of famers do not do the Miracle Mile,” he said.
- Photo of the Day goes to James Overstreet and this shot of Palaniuk nabbing one of his best fish Saturday. Even looks like he’s mocking the smallmouth’s lips. See the entire selection of photo galleries here.
- Brett Hite went on an incredible run Saturday, and Ronnie Moore was there to report on him catching 10 fish in 15 casts. Moore joked from the camera boat, “Man, it’s been two casts since you caught one.” Hite replied. “I know, right! I don't know what's wrong ... wait, I got one.”
- Zona noted that the bass on Lake Huron move more like saltwater fish. “They’re there one second, and then they are gone. Not one of them leaves, they all roll … Way bigger tendency to be ghost and nomads and suspend. They just get out and roam way more.”
- Martens equated the fighting northern smallmouth to saltwater fish, calling them little baby tuna. “I’ve caught a lot of saltwater fish. It’s amazing it takes you 10 minutes to land one. A smallmouth is a lot like a tuna. ”
- Alton Jones had a slow day but did catch a fish on LIVE that he said secured him a Classic spot. “I don’t know how to fish for points. I only know how to go out and catch everything I can catch.”