Six months ago, the AOY wasn’t even close on Martens’ radar. In the Sabine River, Texas, event he placed a dismal 85th out of 99 anglers. It was not the start to the 2013 year he wanted. However, Martens made up ground quickly in the next seven Elite tournaments. He did not place lower than the 24th spot after the first event. In true champion fashion Martens finished 12th place or higher in the final five Elite derbies.
Winning AOY again has taken some of the sting out of his Bassmaster Classic performances. From 2002-11, Martens finished second four times. Two of those were behind Kevin VanDam. Martens is only one of 10 anglers to win the AOY more than once in the 43-year history.
Before the final event on Lake St. Clair, Martens was 30 points behind Oklahoma pro Edwin Evers. Many folks thought that was an insurmountable lead. In the previous seven Elite tournaments, Evers never finished below 25th place. However, Evers weighed in only 13 pounds and was back 79 places. With the Evers stumble, Martens was able to close the door weighing more than 60 pounds of smallmouth bass in the first three days.
Lake St. Clair did not hold up to its No. 1 ranking among the top bass lakes in the country. Most of the Elite field of anglers made runs of more than 80 miles to Lake Erie or Huron to catch the larger smallies. Martens was one of those anglers making the back-breaking rides to catch the more quality size smallmouth.
Not one to hold back, Martens wanted the season final win along with the AOY. On Sunday afternoon on his way back to the weigh-in site, Martens fought huge waves in the Detroit River. As he attempted to navigate past some of the larger cruisers he struck a 7-foot wave.
The boat did a slight twist when it hit back in the water and Martens heard two of the main jack-plate bolts break. He was 37 miles from check-in and had to limp in to a nearby marina. Martens’ wife, Lesley drove over to pick up him and his camera for the road trip back to the weigh-in site. Martens said he had more 20 pounds of bass, which he released. That limit would have made it close between him and tournament winner Chris Lane of Guntersville.
This was a Southern fried event on Michigan waters. Ten of the top 12 anglers were from the South or Texas. Five of the top anglers in the final 12 reside in Alabama. Lane moved back on top over Day 2 and 3 leader Mark Davis to clinch the win and a sloth in the Classic on his now home lake.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com.