Daily Limit: Martin hopes to roll after Open beatdown

Going ninja mode, Scott Martin threw down some exclamation points, reminding everyone of his pedigree.

In the season-opening St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Okeechobee presented by SEVIIN, the 48-year-old claimed his first B.A.S.S. title. It came in record-setting fashion, befitting Martin’s much-heralded arrival to the Elites in 2021.

With a Forrest Wood Cup among his eight FLW wins, an AOY and $3 million in earnings, Martin was anticipated to set the Elites on fire. While he’s been good, he’s not replicated that greatness.

“For whatever reason, I haven’t had a chance on the Elites,” he said. “I’ve had a couple close ones. The Elites are extremely hard.”

Martin, who’s posted three Top 10s in his three Elite seasons, narrowly qualified for Classics his first two years before missing by four points as first man out in 2023.

Fishing on his home lake Feb. 1-3, Martin trounced the field. With 33 pounds, 2 ounces on Day 1, Martin set the Opens’ one-day weight mark, and his 90-6 total topped the Opens record and the Bassmaster all-time three-day mark of 83-5 set on California’s Clear Lake in 2000.

“I’m glad I wasn’t paying attention to it, or I wouldn’t have got it,” Martin quipped.

Most importantly, Martin qualified for the 2025 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey. Winning a Classic is his goal to finish some family business. The win might just make him that much more dangerous during the Elite season, which begins with the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend, Feb. 22-25.

Scott Martin needed help showing his record-setting bag on Day 1 at Okeechobee.

“My confidence is pretty darn high right now,” he said. “We’re going to treat the season like we did that tournament, just take it one fish at a time. I’m not going to try to get ahead of myself.”

Martin got ahead of everyone early at Okeechobee, leading by almost 6 pounds after Day 1 then extending it to 7-13. His winning margin was 21-10, which ranks second on pro-level events in the five-fish era.

“This is definitely the hardest field the Opens have ever had,” he said. “It’s never been this stiff.

“You have the best of the best young guys, veterans and locals. On top of that, you’re fishing against 200-something boats, which makes it more complicated.”

Martin found the juice in his final minutes of practice, shaking off numbers of good fish in a 50-yard stretch of Harney Pond.

“I dropped an exclamation mark on my screen. I’ve never done that before,” said Martin, who on Day 1 found it open in a verified flotilla of competitors despite launching as boat No. 162. “As everyone is spaced out pretty evenly, I’m looking at my screen. Nobody is sitting on my place. It was like the Lord was protecting the spot.”

So Martin stealthily maneuvered through boats – there were reportedly more than 50 in the region – to his waypoint.

“I went ninja mode,” he said. “I didn’t not wrap my boat on purpose, it just worked out. I didn’t wear my tournament jersey on the water. Trolled through, got in position, Power-Poled down. I caught 33 pounds the next 50 yards.”

The splashes of his big fish, which included a 9-12, had heads turning, but the buff covering his face had everyone nearby wondering, “Who is that guy?”

“I wasn’t dilly dallying around. I’d get my hands on them and just stick them in the livewell,” Martin said. “I could tell people were trying to figure out who it was.”

Rinse and repeat on Day 2 when Martin fished among a different group about 500 yards away. He bounced between the two areas on Championship Saturday.

“It worked out, the little game plan I had,” he said. “The key to it was patience, key to it was confidence. I felt like I had a job to do.”

After a slow start on the final day, it appeared Martin would reset the one-day weight. On BassTrakk, he entered a 9-0 and 9-8 and was over 34 pounds.

The Bassmaster LIVE crew that included Greg Hackney big-eyed with him, mentioning there was a chance he could top the Century Mark with one more lunker. He ended with 31-7.

“I was thinking about that afterward,” Martin said. “Those two big fish on Day 3, their frames were the size of a 9 1/2-pounder, but their bellies were hollow. They had dropped that pound, pound and a half of eggs.”

His biggest weighed 8-12, but that downsizing couldn’t take away any shine. Martin’s father, Roland, the nine-time AOY champ, twice won on Okeechobee, hoisting a trophy 33 years earlier in the same locale that fueled his son’s fire.

“To be able to win at home was special for so many reasons. This one was extra special because it’s where the dream started in 1991,” Martin said. “For it to come full circle, standing in that same parking lot, holding that trophy over my head with my dad looking at me, was epic.”

Getting off the Bassmaster schneid could be a great portend for Martin’s 2024. After Toledo Bend, the big circuit fishes the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork, where Century Club belts have been caught in the past four visits.

“I’m looking forward to the start of the season. Hopefully, I’m going to catch a couple big ones in Texas,” he said. “I think both of those events are over 100 pounds for sure. I’ve been fighting some big ones lately, so at least I know how to get my hands on a 9-pounder.

“I have to perform well. I want to try to put myself in position. I wanna be smart. I want to make money. I think I can push the envelope a few times.”

Martin will have a quick turnaround from Fork. The second Open in Division I is the following week at Santee Cooper Lakes. If he makes the Classic via the Elite AOY points, Martin will double qualify in October by fishing the Lake Hartwell Open.

“It’s a great schedule. Santee Cooper is going to be a lot of fun,” Martin said. “That’s definitely going to be the most fun tournament I’ve ever fished in my life.

“I’m going to try to win. How awesome would that be? I don’t have the pressure of points or the Classic. I can show up and just go do whatever I want to do.”

Sure, winning does that.