My career as a professional fisherman has taken me all over the country and to several different countries; and while I’ve enjoyed experiencing some of the world’s greatest bass fisheries, Lake Okeechobee will always hold a special place in my heart.
Let me give you a brief background: My family moved to Florida from Oklahoma when I was four years old. My dad was doing a lot of filming for his TV show (Fishing with Roland Martin), but it was hard to get much done during the winters. Moving to the southwest corner of Lake Okeechobee, my parents bought a small property called Clewiston Marina, which my mom has built it into one of the country’s premier bass fishing destinations.
I love the state of Oklahoma, but I’m a Floridian through and true. Growing up on the shores of Lake Okeechobee, I’ve been able to experience one of the greatest fisheries in the world. From dipping shiners and getting crickets, hanging around all the guides — that was all very influential. Not only was I around my mom and dad as they traveled the country and fished the Bassmaster trail and the Bass’N Gals circuit, growing up around the Lake Okeechobee fishing culture shaped me into who I am today.
I guided on the lake from the age of 16 to about 26 and, even though, I have my preferences — I like to catch them flipping and throwing swimbaits — I can tell you it’s always changing. Some of the places we fish around the country, you often find yourself going back to familiar areas because it’s always good; but here on Lake Okeechobee it’s always different because the water levels, the vegetation, the water clarity and the weather vary.
It’s an ever-changing fishery, so it has always kept me engaged in how to find fish. It’s not like I pull up to a brush pile and always catch fish, or I pull up to this ledge when the current’s on and I always catch fish. It’s not like that on this lake, so you pretty much have to go find fish every single day. Years and years of doing that has made me a better tournament angler.
Obviously, my dad’s career and accomplishments have been inspiring, but when I started school, I wasn’t able to travel with him as much. I actually fished a lot with my friends. I’m glad I did that because it allowed me to become my own angler.
A lot of people think I grew up fishing with my dad, like 200 days a year, and he took me under his wing and showed me how to do this and how to do that. I’ve learned a lot from my dad over the years, but that’s not what I learned from him. I grew up learning how to fish on my own, which, in hindsight, was a good move.
I didn’t want to be known solely as Roland’s kid; I didn’t want to be known as someone riding someone’s coat tails. I went out and got my own sponsors with companies that I wanted to work with — take Evinrude, for example. My dad’s been with Mercury his whole career, but one of the first boats I ever owned was a used boat that had an Evinrude on the back; I liked it, so I called Evinrude and I’ve been working with them for over 20 years.
I always wanted to do my own thing and that even influenced where I chose to fish for the last 20 years. So, after a great career with FLW, I’m happy to be fishing the Bassmaster Opens where I’m pursuing some unfinished family business.
I feel ready to take my dad’s name and our family name and try to do something really special. I’m really excited about it. I’ve dreamed about hoisting an Elite trophy over my head and I’ve dreamed about winning a Bassmaster Classic.
That’s what it’s all about; getting back to our roots, getting back to our heritage, getting back to where it all began.