Defining Moments

Imagine the National Football League team you play on is so exceptional that the Vince Lombardi Trophy is presented well before the Super Bowl is even contested. Well, this scenario turned true for none other than Team Mercury’s Bassmaster Elite Series competitor, Aaron Martens. Remember the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ perfect season of 17-0?


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Martens often locates big bass while flipping heavy cover Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Already notched in the Elite Series record books is a seven-month performance that ranks as one of the most dominating in the B.A.S.S. competition’s 37-year history. Securing his third Angler of the Year (AOY) award, Martens racked up wins from California to Chesapeake Bay during the 2015 competitive season. His third title was cemented with a sixth-place finish Aug. 30 on Lake St. Clair, Mich., during the regular-season finale of the 2015 Elite schedule of events.

The 107-man Chesapeake Bay tournament established Martens as the angler to beat with the longest run of 40-miles each way zipping in and out of heavy, late summer recreational boat traffic.

With eight 2015 tournaments under his belt, Martens’ AOY points total of 703 marked such a lead over fellow competitor Dean Rojas’ 601 points that it was mathematically impossible for Rojas or any other competitor to surpass Martens and his bass fishing prowess. As the mid-September Toyota Angler of the Year tourney approached, Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., would see Martens crowned Bassmaster Elite Series champion with a $100,000 check in hand.

Martens’ story begins with his recollection of past seasons and specific tournaments that served as inspiration toward this end-of-season outcome. One contest that Martens looked to with slight apprehension was the March 2015 season opener on the Sabine River in southeast Texas.

Having coveted the 2013 Angler of the Year award, that season started off on the Sabine as well, though the tournament’s leaderboard displayed a poor performance for Martens with a 85th place finish—Martens’ third-lowest finish in 10 years of competitive fishing. With a comeback that later allowed him 2013 AOY accolades, this season’s opener produced some trepidation for the top Team Mercury angler. It was thought the Sabine was an affliction of sorts, and Martens’ pre-tourney practice sessions and reconnaissance were aimed at removing any doubt of success.

Many hundreds of miles were spent traversing a treacherously flooded river system during the four-day event. Martens’ practice regimen and fishing aptitude paid off handsomely with a weigh-in of 44 pounds, 8 ounces, signaling a 3rd place finish on the once-dreaded Sabine. This notched his highest season-opening result since 2001s Bassmaster Top 150.

Following his success at Sabine, Lake Guntersville represented a dim 66th place finish, which had Martens eagerly awaiting the California fishing venues of the Sacramento River/California Delta and Lake Havasu. Enjoying previous successful encounters with both fisheries during his entire career with multiple top 5 finishes in each, Martens was determined to keep this streak going.

At the start, Martens piloted his Pro-XS powered Phoenix toward the delta for a 90-minute one way run for the best possible fishing spot. Amid pleasure boat traffic up and down the river, Martens eventually posted a weight of 80.7 pounds to place 2nd on the Sacramento coupled with a winning weigh-in of 68.9 pounds on Lake Havasu a week later. This victory would comprise a total of seven overall and his 65th top-10 finish in Bassmaster competitions.

With a sense of momentum built up after his West Coast victory tour, two top-20 finishes at Zippo BASSfest, 13th place on Kentucky Lake and 15th place at the Evan Williams Bourbon Elite on the St. Lawrence River, helped Martens slip past fellow competitors Rojas and Justin Lucas. Martens went into the Huk Performance Fishing Elite on the Chesapeake with an 11-point lead in the AOY standings.

The 107-man Chesapeake Bay tournament established Martens as the angler to beat with the longest run of 40-miles each way zipping in and out of heavy, late summer recreational boat traffic. Day 1 scales saw a weigh-in of 17.8 pounds, with consecutive days 2 and 3 comprising 15.0 and 16.5 pounds respectively. Championship Sunday provided the heaviest catch of the tournament with 21.5 pounds for a complete tournament win.

Martens’ Chesapeake victory added more than a 50-point cushion to his AOY standing going into the Plano Elite on St. Clair. This points gap represented a tremendous lead ahead of the St. Clair contest regardless of that tournament’s outcome. Martens’ Day 1 St. Clair weigh-in totaled 18.5 pounds, giving him 24th place. But when Championship Sunday came around his final tournament weight totaled 75.7 pounds, enough to secure 6th place and making it mathematically impossible for any fellow angler to beat his AOY points accumulation and trophy acquisition.

While his dominating performance was unparalleled, what’s even more remarkable is that Martens slept through his alarm clock and spotted the field 30-minutes. “I guess the best way for me to describe the season is incredible,” Martens exclaimed. “To be able to put yourself in contention to win an Elite Series tournament…is a major accomplishment. It’s really hard to do that. To do that several times a season and give yourself a chance to win an Angler of the Year is 100 times harder than that…I can’t even believe that this season is over, everything happened so fast. But it’s been an amazing year, one I’ll never forget.”

Martens’ other AOY titles came in 2005 and 2013 with tournament winnings this season totaling $286,500. This figure pushes his Bassmaster earnings to $2.53M, and puts him in fourth on the all-time list…but he’s not done just yet. After St. Clair’s performance, Martens has attained the No. 1 spot on the world rankings for the very first time in his career.

About B.A.S.S.
The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, with membership that’s more than a half million strong. Founded in 1967 by Ray Scott, B.A.S.S. is focused on providing a credible and competitive tournament trail, improving the environment through uniting and amplifying the voices of anglers, and also to secure the future for our youth. The Bassmaster Classic is recognized as fishing’s world championship and the first Classic awarded a winner-take-all paycheck of $10,000. Today, tens of thousands of people cram into coliseums to watch the daily weigh-ins, and close to $2M is awarded to the anglers—$500,000 of which goes to the champion. There are currently B.A.S.S. Nation clubs in 46 of the United States plus organizations in Canada, Mexico, Italy, Japan, South Africa and Zimbabwe.