Mercury Pro Aaron Martens locks up historic title
Following a season in which he rewrote the Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year record books and racked up wins on opposite ends of the country, Team Mercury pro Aaron Martens – who last week secured his third Elite Series AOY award – struggles to sum up a seven-month performance that goes into the books as one of the most dominating in the 37-year history of B.A.S.S. competition.
"This season has been … gosh, it's really hard to describe," Martens admits.
Try this: Aaron Martens was so good in 2015 that he won the championship before the championship event was contested. The $100,000 champion's check is already his.
Martens locked up his third AOY title with a sixth-place finish Aug. 30 on Lake St. Clair, Michigan, at the regular-season finale of the 2015 Elite schedule. After eight 2015 tournaments, Martens' AOY points total (703) gave him such a lead over his closest competitor (Dean Rojas, with 601 points) that it's mathematically impossible for Rojas – or anyone else – to catch him, regardless of the results at the Toyota Angler of the Year Championship, Sept. 17-20 in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
"That's like the Yankees being so good that they give them the World Series trophy before they even play the World Series," said Martens' Mercury teammate, Jacob Powroznik. "Aaron has just been that good this year."
Starting off strong at the Sabine
He did that in emphatic fashion, pushing his 250 Mercury OptiMax Pro XS to the limit through three brutal practice days on the sprawling river system, and then pushing it even harder through hundreds of miles up and down the treacherously flooding system through the four-day tournament. Martens weighed in 44 pounds, 8 ounces and finished third on the Sabine, his highest season-opening finish since the 2001 Bassmaster Top 150.
"I wasn't very gentle with my OptiMax that week," Martens jokes. "The Sabine is just a tough place to fish because of the distances you run and the water conditions you have to get through. Especially when it's flooding like it was this year. It's not a place where you can be timid, and it's brutal on your gear. I never worried about my motor for a second, though; I just focused on doing well at that tournament."
Kicking into gear on the West Coast
"The Sacramento River is one of the worst roller-coaster rides you'll ever go on," Martens says. "It's a long run to begin with, but once you get to Friday, Saturday and Sunday and it's 95 degrees in the Sacramento Valley, everybody who owns a boat is out on the river. The boat wakes are brutal. If you want to do well in a tournament here, though, you have to commit to fishing way down in the Delta, and that means you have to depend on your motor's durability to get you there and back. That's the biggest reason why I run a Mercury 250 OptiMax Pro XS."
Martens eventually weighed in 80.7 pounds to finish second on the Sacramento, and then backed that up a week later with 68.9 pounds and another win on Lake Havasu, the seventh victory and 65th top-10 finish in his B.A.S.S. career.
"You don't beat your gear up on Havasu the same way you would on the Delta, but you're still out there fishing and running for seven days in 102-degree heat," Martens says. "That's not easy on you as a person, and it's not easy on your motor. The 250 Mercury OptiMax Pro XS just handles the conditions, no matter where we are."
Making the most of the stretch drive
Martens wasted little time in establishing himself as the angler to beat on the Chesapeake, committing to the longest run in the 107-man field – roughly 40 miles each way through heavy late-summer boat traffic – and bringing 17.8 pounds to the scales on Day 1. He followed that up with 15.0 and 16.5 on Days 2 and 3, respectively, and then blew the doors off Championship Sunday with 21.5 (the heaviest bag of the tournament) for the wire-to-wire win.
"There aren't that many places on Chesapeake Bay where you can count on the quality of fish to be consistent for four days this time of the year, but I knew I had the right fish," Martens said. "Parts of that system remind me of the Miracle Mile in Detroit: the further down you go and the closer you get to Baltimore, the more you get bounced around by boat wakes from giant yachts. Plus, there are miles and miles of crab pots that you have to navigate through. If you ever want to run a test of a 250 Mercury OptiMax Pro XS, that's the place to do it."
Locking up the AOY on St. Clair
"I guess the best way for me to describe this season is 'incredible'," Martens said. "To be able to put yourself in contention to win an Elite Series tournament – to make a Top 12 – is a major accomplishment. It's really hard to do that. To do that several times a season and give yourself a chance to win an Angler of the Year is 100 times harder than that. I can't even believe that this season is over, everything happened so fast. But it's been an amazing year, one I'll never forget."
Upload your trophy bass photo (or any other fish) to BillDanceOutdoors.com! Or, post comments about other photos submitted by Bill Dance fans.
Join our online community and talk fishin' with thousands of other Bill Dance fans!
Bill Dance is one of the most recognizable names and brands in fishing and outdoor gear. Please browse through our selection of superior products that proudly carry the Bill Dance name.