Alexander City, Ala.
March 18-21, 2020
Hosted by Alexander City Chamber of Commerce
Lake Martin was created back in 1926 when the Martin Dam was completed on the Tallapoosa River. At the time, the 44,000-acre reservoir was the largest man-made body of water in the world, though it obviously no longer holds that distinction.
Alabama has no shortage of famous fisheries that lie within its borders, and while Martin doesn’t get the kind of attention given to the Tennessee River, Lewis Smith, Eufaula or Coosa River, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a solid fishery. Martin supports a healthy population of both spotted bass and largemouths, with spotted bass being more plentiful and the largemouths providing the better quality.
Wood and rock provide the predominate structure for bass in Martin. Much of the 750 miles of shoreline are undeveloped, and laydowns are easy to find along the banks. Where there are houses and development, anglers can find docks to target. Offshore, there are long rock points and humps, and, of course, plenty of brush piles for bass and bait to establish residence.
One of the most exciting things about the Pro Circuit visiting Martin is that FLW hasn’t hosted a top-level event on the fishery since 2001. A lot of pros will be seeing it for the first time.
In that March 2001 event, Takahiro Omori won with 44 pounds, 11 ounces (this was also back when weights were zeroed in the final days) and did the bulk of his work shallow cranking. The rest of the top five mixed in finesse fishing and some power fishing.
While there has only been one FLW Series event between then and now, the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine has made several stops at Martin over the years. The most recent was in 2019 during early March when David Gaston (who will be competing in his second year on the Pro Circuit this year) took the title with 16-15. He ran nearly 40 shallow brush piles throughout the day and did most of his work using a black and blue-colored D&L Baby Advantage Casting jig with a Strike King Menace Rage Tail of the same color.
Based on the bit of history FLW has on Martin it’s safe to bet that a shallow bite will be a factor in this event. But Braxton Setzer believes patterns will be more diverse than that.
“Historically, Martin has not been a great lake,” Setzer says. “But recently it has seen a big uptick. Tournaments this past fall were taking high teens to low 20s to win, which is crazy for outside the spring.
“Martin has a lot to offer, and guys will be able to spread out and do whatever they want to do. The lake is big, and some of the bigger creek arms and fingers can fish like their own lake. You can go up the river and catch big largemouths or go down the lake in the clear water and catch spots. I would say the lake fishes a lot like Smith Lake or Lanier in terms of how we’ll see spots and largemouths weighed in.”
All that water and two species to target mean fans can expect to see pros catch bass a variety of ways.
“It’ll be mostly a hard cover deal,” Setzer says. “There’s very little grass to speak of, unless the water is really high and in the bushes, but even then there’s not enough of it to be a player. Laydowns, rock, brush piles and docks are what we’ll see a lot of guys fishing. But people should be able to fish super shallow all the way out to 30, 40 or even 50 feet deep.”
Though there are quality fish of both species that roam Martin, Setzer is realistic about what he expects to see from the weights.
“I think if you catch 13 or 14 pounds a day you’ll be happy with where you’re at by the end of the week. We’ll see some big bags of largemouths, but, historically, if you catch a bag in the low teens every day you can work your way up the leaderboard. There are tons of fish in Martin, and you can get on big groups of 2-pounders. Figuring out how to catch those better quality fish will be the key.”
Expect to see a little bit of everything. Certainly square-bill crankbaits have been a huge factor on Martin over the years, and there should be no shortage of them tied on. Spinnerbaits and vibrating jigs should also lend a heavy hand to those who are riding the power-fishing train. Also, with the available wood cover, a good ol’ flipping jig and Texas rig will be in play.
On the flip side, a drop-shot and shaky head could do some serious work for spotted bass. Jerkbaits, swimbaits and Ned rigs will account for a fair amount of keepers, too.
1. Weather – With a warm winter so far in Alabama, there’s a chance the fish could be farther along in the spawn cycle than normal. Though, February and March can also be some of the colder months in the state, so it’s too early to predict what water temperatures will be.
2. Water level – Any time you get water fluctuation near the spawn it can make things tough, and that could be the case in this tournament. Spring rains could raise the water level faster than the Alabama Power Company would like, causing them to release water and drop the lake quickly. Rising water during the tournament wouldn’t be a terrible thing, but falling water could lead to anglers scrambling for Plan X, Y or Z.
3. Size – Martin fishes big, which will be a benefit to anglers, especially those who make it to the weekend. It’s rare in a Pro Circuit event for the pros to have fresh water available after two days of competition, but having so many nooks and crannies on this lake should help create solid fishing throughout the event – even with local pressure.
There are a lot of guys to keep watch for in this event. David Gaston, Braxton Setzer, Jon Canada and Jamie Horton are locals that should be primed for a solid finish.
Joseph Webster, Jeremy Lawyer, Johnny McCombs, Brad Knight, Dylan Hays, Bradley Dortch, Bradford Beavers and David Williams could be among the best to burn the bank. Also, West Coast anglers have a solid track record on Martin, so it would be smart to watch the likes of Aaron Britt, Miles Howe, Jimmy Reese, Lane Olson, Billy Hines and Robert Nakatomi.