DETROIT, Mich. — Only the incomparable Aaron Martens could experience a day like he had Sunday. It was like some Bassmaster version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
First, Martens slept through his alarm clock and woke up about the time the other 11 finalists in the Plano Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair were motoring out of the Metropark takeoff area.
“I’ve never done that before,” he said. “When you wake up and see it’s light outside, you know you’re in deep doodoo.”
Martens didn’t get on the water until about 6:45. Then he used a six-inch swimbait on a half-ounce jighead with a 5/0 hook on 16-pound test line – some heavy tackle he hadn’t fished all week – to catch a five-bass limit of 19-6. So after inadvertently subtracting a half-hour from his competition time, Martens caught his biggest bag of the week.
With that Martens moved up from 11th place Saturday to finish 6th Sunday and clinch the 2015 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. Martens now has a 102-point insurmountable lead over second-place Dean Rojas.
In the process, he spoiled not one, but two celebrations. Sunday marked his daughter Jordan’s 12th birthday. As his boat was being towed toward the weigh-in stage, Martens talked on his cell phone to his family back home in Leeds, Ala. One of Jordan’s birthday wishes was for her daddy to throw his fish back in Lake St. Clair and delay clinching the title until the entire family could be there, as planned, at the AOY Toyota Championship at Lake Michigan’s Sturgeon Bay in three weeks.
“Daddy can’t throw his fish back,” Martens told her. “He worked too hard to catch them.”
Martens took the air out of the AOY Championship balloon too. There will be no drama in crowning the 2015 Angler of the Year. Martens has now officially killed that buzz with probably the most dominating season in Elite Series history.
“Now I feel bad,” Martens said of his clinching performance Sunday. “If I wouldn’t have done that, it officially wouldn’t be over.”
He was smiling when he said it. Martens didn’t feel all that bad.
Every one of the Elite Series veteran competitors will tell you this is the best group of bass tournament fishermen ever assembled on one circuit. And Martens simply dominated it.
Now that the 8-tournament regular season is complete, check out Martens’ performance:
1. Sabine River – 3rd
2. Lake Guntersville – 66th
3. Sacramento River/Calif. Delta – 2nd
4. Lake Havasu – 1st
5. Kentucky Lake – 15th
6. St. Lawrence River – 13th
7. Chesapeake Bay – 1st
8. Lake St. Clair – 6th
That’s eight tournaments, only one finish lower than 15th and two wins. With the sixth-place check Sunday, Martens bumped his winnings for the season to $275,000. He’s got another $100,000 check waiting for him in three weeks in Door County, Wis.
“I’ll pay some taxes this year, won’t I?” said Martens, after he was told how much money he’d earned this season. “Maybe we can get the house we want. We’re living in a 40-year-old house.
“I’ve never had my boat in a garage since I’ve been bass fishing. It’s terrible.”
Aaron’s wife Lesley would probably be quick to point out that the garage, wherever they’ve lived, has always been filled with fishing tackle.
It’s just as well there’s no false suspense in the air at Sturgeon Bay for the AOY Championship. Martens would have been a force there if he were 50 points behind the leader, instead of 102 points ahead of the field. The Martens family, which also includes son Spencer, spent some vacation time on Sturgeon Bay this summer.
“That place is awesome,” Martens said. “Me and my family went out one day and caught 200. Lesley caught a 6-pounder. I went out by myself one day and caught a hundred. I wasn’t really trying to bash ‘em. I was just looking for schools.”
Who knows? Maybe Martens will take the whole family fishing on Sturgeon Bay during the Toyota AOY Championship. Martens has practically done as he’s pleased all season. Why stop now?