CECIL COUNTY, Md. – If Aaron Martens, the Day Three leader at the Huk Performance Fishing Bassmaster Elite Series tournament at the Chesapeake Bay, had been a passenger on Noah’s Ark, he likely would’ve been grouped with the rabbits. He’s all sinew and fast-twitch muscle, he runs marathons for fun, and he’s sprinted ahead of the pack all three days this week.
But in Maryland, home of the Terrapins, he’s got a turtle from Indiana looking to pass him.
Bill Lowen, also known as “The Turtle,” currently sits in second place with 43 pounds, 14 ounces. His three quality limits have been more than slow and steady – the last two have been over 15 pounds – but he hasn’t notched one of the big bags that Martens had on days one and three.
One hundred and two tournaments into his Bassmaster career, Lowen is still looking for his first victory. He finished second at the 2008 Tennessee Triumph on Old Hickory Lake and second again at the 2010 Golden State Shootout, but so far the big hardware has evaded his grasp. If he’s going to make the leap this week, he’ll have to find a way to erase the 4-15 head start that the rabbit-like Martens has established.
“If it happens, it does,” Lowen said. “But if you start thinking about it, it usually messes you up.”
He said that he prides himself on “being extremely consistent,” but it wouldn’t hurt his feelings one bit if he could find a way to break out and sack one of the 20- to 25-pound limits that the Upper Chesapeake Bay is known to produce. Lowen has his primary area all to himself. Perhaps more importantly, he’s figured out a way to catch fish during the normally unproductive high tide periods.
“My deal is basically a boat lane with a ditch that’s a little deeper than everything else in there,” he said. “The milfoil is matted out around, it’s full of bait. There’s all sorts of activity in there – catfish, stripers and bass. It’s the cycle of life.”
On a day when even pacesetter Martens struggled for keeper bites most of the day, Lowen caught an estimated 10 keeper bass, including “three 3-pounders in the first 15 minutes.” Martens will lose an extra hour of his precious outgoing tide tomorrow if he makes the same long run he made on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but Lowen expects to catch fish throughout the tidal changes.
“I found them in practice at low tide, but when the tide gets high I can catch them over the top of the grass,” he said.
He’s used three different techniques to piece together his three limits, and although he’s tried and failed to get other lures to work, he’ll continue to keep pushing the issue.
“I thought it was going to be a big swim jig thing,” he said. “But even though I’ve got a little grass thing going, it’s basically wood and mud in there. I’ve always got 15 rods sitting up there” he said, noting that he doesn’t expect to fall out of that tackle-covered comfort zone.
Maybe one of those rods will produce the big bite that he has not yet elicited. A 4- or 5-pounder, added to an already solid sack, would go a long way, especially if Martens falls out of his rhythm or otherwise stumbles. Lowen doesn’t expect that latter possibility to happen, but he’ll be prepared to swoop in – as fast as a turtle can swoop, that is – in case it does.