After leading day one of the FLW Tour event on Lake Cumberland presented by T-H Marine, then falling back to fifth place on day two, Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., battled back to regain his lead on the final day of the event Sunday, winning in Kentucky with a four-day total of 60 pounds, 1 ounce.
This marks Martin’s 8th FLW Tour win – a new FLW record. During his 18-year career he has won Tour events in Florida, Mississippi, New York, Arkansas, Maryland and now Kentucky, proving that he’s matured from a being just a kid under his famous father’s wing to one of the top anglers in the professional fishing world.
His win on Lake Cumberland demonstrated just how much he has learned to trust his instincts to fish new water instead of being chained only to places where he has caught fish in the past.
“When I first started fishing professionally, I would only fish places where I had caught a fish in practice or in the tournament,” Martin says. “I didn’t have the confidence to go down the lake during a tournament and just pull into a place I had never fished before. Basically, I was a very spot- or area-oriented angler. So this win feels good because it shows progress in becoming more of a pattern-oriented angler that is willing to take risks on new water during the events.”
Martin credits the FLW Tour’s annual stop at Beaver Lake for being the place that taught him to trust his gut and increasing his confidence in “just winging it.”
“Every year we went to Beaver Lake, I’d just get killed,” he recalls. “And that’s because I would run down the lake and only fish places where I got a bite in practice. Through the years I’ve discovered the hard way that’s the absolute wrong way to approach Beaver Lake.
“I learned I had to be willing to fish places I’d never fished before – to have enough confidence in myself to say, ‘This looks good, I’m going to fish it and I’m going to catch one here.’”
For Martin, Kentucky’s Lake Cumberland in April proved to be very similar to Beaver Lake in that regard. He realized that similarity early on in practice while focusing his efforts on the many smaller creeks on the lake’s lower end. The more he moved around “fishing free,” the more bites he got, from all species, which was a key component to his strategy.
“I didn’t want to lock myself into any one species category,” Martin says. “I didn’t want to say, ‘hey I’m only fishing for smallmouths or I’m only fishing for largemouths’ – I wanted to fish where there was equal opportunity to get bit by all three species at any time. And I found that on the lower end of the lake – specifically in the creeks on the lower end, not just pockets off the main lake. The creeks had keeper smallmouth, largemouth and most of all the spots down there seemed to be bigger as well.”
As a result, each day Martin weighed in mixed bags of bass comprising a scorecard of 19-7, 12-0, 14-14 and 13-12.
Martin’s strategy was tested to the extreme by an onslaught of varied weather during the event, which ran the gamut from raw, cold rain and wind on day one to bright warm sun on the final day.
Through most of changes, Martin relied on a deep-diving suspending jerkbait. He caught a couple of bass on a ½-ounce M-Pack Flippin’ Jig the first day, but the jerkbait played the biggest role on days one through three. He twitched the jerkbait around bushes and wood on the points and in the backs of pockets and drains. He upgraded his jerkbait line from 10-pound test to 12-pound test P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon to allow him to pull his jerkbait free when it got hung up in the branches of bushes.
“Normally I like 10-pound test for a jerkbait,” Martin says. “But I was fishing around so much rough stuff it was easier just to pull and break the branch off with the 12-pound test P-Line Tactical than having to go in there and dig around to get it back.”
Just as the jerkbait bite started to dry up on the final day and throwing other anglers for a loop, Martin again borrowed a page from his Beaver Lake playbook: he tied on a wake bait.
“About an hour into the day everything just got right for a wake bait,” Martin says. “It got sunny, calm and slick, and the fish were starting to follow my jerkbait and not eat it. That top layer of water was heating up and I started seeing baitfish activity on the surface. When that happens on Beaver Lake, a wake bait can be deadly this time of year. So I got an old Bomber Long A out of my tacklebox and tied it on. I hadn’t used it in so long the hooks were rusted and I had to change those out and put it on a rod that had some 15-pound P-Line monofilament on it.”
Martin points out that in the past that’s an adjustment he probably would not have made. Throwing a bait on the final day of a tournament that he hadn’t thrown all week was a risk he wasn’t willing to take. But these days, Martin relishes the opportunity to adjust on the fly. He’s learned that those small windows of opportunity are how tournaments are won, which is exactly what happened at Lake Cumberland Sunday. As a result, the wake bait produced some of his key fish for the win.
After being handed the trophy, Martin dedicated his win to his wife, Suzanne.
“I fished this week with a purpose to do something special for my wife,” he says. “So this one is for her.”
Top 10 pros
1. Scott Martin – Clewiston, Fla. – 60-1 (20) – $125,400
2. Barry Wilson – Birmingham, Ala. – 58-6 (20) – $30,100
3. Terry Bolton – Paducah, Ky. – 57-5 (20) – $25,000
4. Matt Reed – Madisonville, Texas – 55-15 (20) – $20,000
5. Scott Canterbury – Springville, Ala. – 55-7 (20) – $19,000
6. Chris McCall – Palmer, Texas – 53-10 (20) – $18,000
7. Cody Meyer – Auburn, Calif. – 53-8 (20) – $17,000
8. Casey Scanlon – Lenexa, Kan. – 51-11 (19) – $16,500
9. Clark Wendlandt – Leander, Texas – 50-0 (15) – $15,000
10. Anthony Gagliardi – Prosperity, S.C. – 48-14 (19) – $14,000