Shifting my focus

Hillary Martin and her fishing teammate Rafe Sexton.

I’d say the thrill of qualifying for next year’s Bassmaster Classic is finally starting to sink in, but one of the best things about achieving that goal is that it has allowed me to shift more of my focus and attention to my daughter Hillary’s tournament fishing. She started competing in Florida B.A.S.S. Nation High School events this year, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Over the past two years, I’ve had to commit an intense level of focus to qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series and then qualifying for the Classic. With all that accomplished, I feel like I can really enjoy watching my daughter’s tournament career develop and devote my full attention to supporting her.

What’s interesting is that Hilary really doesn’t want a lot of direction; she enjoys learning and making decisions on her own. While I’m serving as boat captain for her and her partner, I may offer some general suggestions, but they run the trolling motor, they make all the decisions on where to fish and how to fish it.

This reminds me a lot of myself when I was first starting out. Some may think because your dad’s Roland Martin he took you around and showed you everything, but that really wasn’t the case. Because of his tournament schedule and TV show filming, he was gone a lot. So I learned how to fish mostly on my own.

That’s why it’s so rewarding to see Hilary’s drive to study the sport and learn on her own. 

I think she’ll develop her personal style and determine her “strength” as she goes along, but for now, I can tell you she’s really good with a frog. She has some special mojo with a frog, and she catches a lot of key fish on that bait.

What Hilary’s best known for right now is her hook sets. She has great awareness, so she’s never surprised by a fish and she knows how to gather just the right amount of slack for an efficient hook set.

Probably the thing that’s most promising is that Hilary really seems to have that drive to figure things out and come up with a strategy. It’s not only the catching that’s fun; it’s figuring them out that’s fun. When you have that passion — which she has — that’s when you can become a good tournament angler.

Seeing Hilary really commit to the preparation and work required to do well in fishing tournaments means a lot to me. Obviously, this has been a big part of my life and my dad’s, but it actually goes back one more generation.

My mother’s father, my grandfather, and my mother used to travel around and fish bass tournaments together. My mom was a very successful angler; that’s how she met my father — at a tournament. 

My mother has that same drive that Hilary has — to get out and see the world and fish. Hilary has traveled to several tournaments with me, including some of the Elite events, and now I’m traveling with her to some of her tournaments.

It’s really cool to see one of my kids take an interest in something that started a generation before my dad and then continued with me following in his footsteps. Up until a few years ago, I wasn’t sure this was going to happen.

My boys love to fish, but they never really got involved in tournaments. That wasn’t a drive of theirs. But three or four years ago, I started noticing things lining up for Hilary. I saw the same look, that passion, preparation and hunger. All the things I experienced as a kid and the things I saw in my dad, I saw that in her. 

To see my daughter enjoy the sport with that same deep passion, it’s awesome. I feel really blessed that she’s following in my footsteps. 

At this point, I don’t know where she’s going to go with it. Maybe she’ll set the goal of fishing the Bassmaster Opens and qualifying for the Elites. 

I’ll let Hilary figure out where she wants to take this, but whatever she decides, I’ll be there to cheer her on.