Lessons from legends: Aaron Martens

We bunked in a large cabin with the film crew and Shimano’s pro staff coordinator, Blaine Anderson. It was a relaxed time, and the project went really well. It gave us a lot of one-on-one time together, talking new products and techniques for catching bass — a time I value now more than before. 

Aaron’s lighter side 

Once, during an event on Clarks Hill Reservoir in South Carolina, I found a school of fish close to our official takeoff site. So close, in fact, I could almost cast to them.

On the first morning of competition, I watched anxiously as the boats ahead of me left in single file, wondering if any of them would run to that school of fish. I was in the last flight and, just as I thought I was in the clear, one competitor veered and headed to my honey hole. That competitor was Aaron Martens.

When my number was called, I joined him on the opposite side of the point. About the time I deployed the trolling motor, a school of bass erupted on the surface between us. Choosing a topwater, I hooked up instantly and boated a nice 2 1/2-pound keeper. On the next cast, I hooked and boated another. To that point, Aaron was an observer, unable to buy a strike.

In just a few more casts, I added two more to the livewell. Aaron was now beside himself, wanting to know what I was throwing. And, of course, I showed him. But I can’t lie; it felt good beating the sport’s “Furious Hogsnatcher” … even if only briefly.

Things soon changed, and the fish quit responding to topwaters. They were now keyed solely on the bait they were chasing. Seeing that, Aaron made a lure change and was soon catching them at will. In no time, he was culling to a healthy limit of Clarks Hill schooling bass. 

As the minutes turned to hours, he kept culling … while I watched, unable to catch even a bare 14-inch keeper.

He eventually must have felt sorry for me, as he called me over to get one of his special baits — a “Scrounger”  — which was relatively new at the time. Rather than simply tossing me the lure, he sat down and began to assemble and modify it — custom trimming its transparent lip and soft-plastic body. Our boats sat rail to rail, as he meticulously tweaked the lure. Dissatisfied with the initial effort, he scrapped the lure’s transparent lip and started over.

As he was trimming the second one, a school of fish erupted on the far side of his boat. Impulsively, I fired a cast across his deck into the melee and hooked up with my biggest fish of the day. As the fish cartwheeled across the surface, Aaron realized its size and shouted, “Dude! Here I am making you a bait and you’re catching fish on the other side of my boat. That’s not cool, bro.”

In unison, our marshals and I broke out laughing … all while I’m trying to battle this fish without setting foot on Aaron’s deck. 

Finally, after a few frantic minutes, I managed to work the fish around his transom and into my hands. All the while, the school of fish kept busting and Aaron kept trimming the bait he was about to give me. He was strange that way. He would oftentimes stop fishing in the middle of a good bite to work on his tackle and become totally consumed by the effort. 

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