Weeks after his record-setting performance in Grand Rapids, Minn., veteran Major League Fishing angler Aaron Martens would love to rest upon his fishing laurels.
Those laurels being the fish catching skills and mental insight that helped A-Mart find not one, but two enormous schools of bass during Elimination Round 1 competition.
If you’re keeping score at home, A-Mart’s weight total that day was one for the ages, setting the current MLF benchmark for an angler’s single day weight total at a staggering 88-pounds even.
What’s more, Marten’s epic day of fishing in Minnesota topped Kevin VanDam’s previous MLF record weight of 82-pounds, 7-ounces, a mark that KVD had set during the Championship Round of the 2014 Summit Cup in Alpena, Mich.
But as Martens and the other MLF Cup anglers arrive in eastern Alabama this week for the 2017 MLF Challenge Cup on Lake Eufaula, they are anticipating a different kind of derby if previous early fall MLF tournaments at such southern venues serve as any indication.
Thanks to stagnant early autumn fishing conditions, warm water temperatures and even lake turnover in some water bodies, these early fall Challenge Cup events have been, well, a bit of a challenge.
But whether this week’s event in Alabama at famed Lake Eufaula proves to be a wide open fish catching affair or a difficult grind, either way is fine with Martens.
Especially since he and the other MLF anglers have a little bit of history and knowledge on Eufaula at previous events contested here, albeit at other times of the year.
“I like tough events when I (think I) know the fishery pretty well,” said Martens, who has competed on Eufaula four times in B.A.S.S. competition.
“But I like it wide open when I don’t know the lake very well, which is often the case in Major League Fishing.”
At those tougher fishing events, Martens feels that it’s easier to get a pattern going when an angler is familiar with the lake.
“I think most guys are the same way,” said Martens, a two-time Championship finalist in MLF competition. “On lakes that you have an advantage on, then you like for it to be tough because your knowledge helps separate you from the pack a bit.”
While Martens didn’t know for certain that Eufaula would be the spot he’d be fishing today, it was a fair guess given the lake’s size, history and proximity to the tournament headquarters.
That being said, he hasn’t competitively fished the 45,181-acre Eufaula at this time of the year before and he won’t know what to expect until he completes his ride around in the zone he is fishing today.
If the fishing does prove to be much tougher here in the southeast than it was up in Minnesota a few weeks ago, Martens is going to work at reminding himself to slow down.
“When you can’t see the fish very well, you don’t know where they are at and they are not biting very good – all things that can happen in the early fall – then it can be a tough, grind it out mental kind of deal,” he said.
“And when it’s like that, you have to hit the brakes and really slow down. I’ll probably have to keep reminding myself of that.”
On the Bassmaster Elite Series where Martens has been a star for years, he’s won three B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles (2005, 2013, 2015) along with capturing eight B.A.S.S. wins (five of them being Elite Series victories).
Add in his 18 appearances at the Bassmaster Classic and his four runner-up finishes at the Classic (2002, 2004, 2005 and 2011) and it’s easy to see that Martens is at the top of the professional bass fishing game and then some, regardless of what circuit he is competing on.
But as good as his physical fish catching skills may be, it’s his mental fortitude that often makes the most difference.
“I’d say it’s probably more a mental sport than anything,” he said. “It’s just really a thinking (man’s) sport because sometimes, just catching a bass isn’t that hard. But that doesn’t really help you that much when things are tough and that’s when your mental strength will be tested.
“You have to stay tough and remain focused when the fishing is slow,” Martens said. “It might be later on in the day before you figure something out and catch a few good ones.
“But you can’t get frazzled until that happens, you have to stay focused and keep working for a couple of key bites. That can help get you eventually get dialed in. Maybe you’ll start out slow, but you could light it up at the end.”
And that’s something that has been proven time and time again during the history of Major League Fishing competition, the fact that an angler that is doing well early on in the first period often isn’t the angler who is on top of the SCORETRACKER LIVE! leaderboard at the end.
“It can be hard to do so, but you’ve got to try and stay relaxed and stay focused,” said Martens. “You want to be able to make good decisions (out on the water).
“When you’re fishing good, the decisions are easy to make, or so it seems,” he said. “But when you’re struggling a little bit, it’s easy to get frazzled and you’re not as confident in your decisions.
Whether a MLF angler is whacking away at the SCORETRACKER LIVE! leaderboard as Martens did in Minnesota a few weeks ago, or whether he’s in a grind-it-out kind of fishing derby deep in the heart of Alabama at a famous fishery that is fishing slow and tough.
Either way, don’t be surprised to find Martens near the top of the leaderboard.