A bird in the livewell is a win for Martens
LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – Aaron Martens heard the chuckles from the crowd when he explained the primary pattern he used during the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Havasu presented by Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels.
But as crazy as it sounded, he was serious.
Martens made a short run up the Colorado River each day and fished thick patches of shoreline vegetation where big largemouth bass were feeding on blackbirds. Flipping a bait designed to mimic their prey, he caught enough bass the first three days to enter Sunday's championship round in fourth place.
Then during the championship round, he caught five bass that weighed 19-5 and took home the $100,000 first-place prize with a four-day total of 68-9.
He used a drop-shot rig some during the week, too. But after the final weigh-in, the buzz was about the birds.
"I do that all the time," said Martens, who earned the victory on Mother's Day with his own mother, Carol, in the crowd. "I don't know why people don't believe me when I say it. The birds fall out of the nest, and the bass eat them. Birds are definitely part of their diet."
Martens used a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce weight and a 4/0 Heavy-Cover Gamakatsu hook rigged with a green pumpkin punch skirt and one of two plastic trailers. His choice of trailer was determined by which weight he was using – it was a large Rage Craw for the 1/2-ounce rig and a Speed Craw for the 3/4-ounce setup.
He paid special attention to areas where lots of blackbirds were nesting.
"I probably shouldn't even be talking about it, because I've known about it for 25 years," said Martens, who said several fish spit up black feathers in his livewell during the tournament. "I've caught them in California and had them spit up full-grown blackbirds.
"Maybe it's such a good pattern because so many people don't believe it."
Though the pattern led to a victory, Martens said there were times when it was frustrating to execute.
The thickness of the tules that line the riverbanks, combined with the high winds that blew during much of the tournament, caused him lots of problems with tangles and forced him to change baits frequently. Once he hooked a fish deep in the tules, landing it was an adventure.
The process was aided by a 7-foot, 6-inch extra-heavy flipping stick from the namesake series he helped design for Enigma. He also relied heavily on 30-pound Sunline SX1 braid.
"I had to use a 3/4-ounce weight instead of a 1/2-ounce today because I started pitching way back in the tules," Martens said. "I would have loved to go even heavier, but I was afraid to. I had five or six bass drop the 3/4-ounce weight today, and I just didn't think a 1-ounce would work."
The come-from-behind victory was Martens' seventh career win with B.A.S.S., and his first since 2012. It was particularly sweet, with his mom in the crowd. (His Lake Havasu win is his second Mother's Day victory -- his first came on Lake Guntersville in 2009.)
"She's the one who got me started in fishing, and she's been fishing again herself about two or three days a week since my dad died (in February)," said Martens, who grew up in California and learned to fish on lakes like Havasu before moving to Alabama. "She's been happy, and it was great having her here this week."
Martens' jubilation came at the expense of Arizona angler Cliff Pirch.
Pirch entered the final round in first place, leading Texas angler Takahiro Omori by less than a pound. But the areas near the launch site at Lake Havasu State Park where Pirch had done so well all week finally went dry.
"I probably needed to leave and go somewhere else, but I decided against it," Pirch said. "I made a move (Saturday). I went somewhere else, and Takahiro Omori caught 20 pounds there. Justin Lucas caught 18 pounds there. I decided to stay there today, and it just didn't work out."
Pirch finished second with 66-9, followed by Edwin Evers (65-0), Omori (64-9) and Elite Series rookie David Williams (62-14).
After making a big jump on Day 3 to qualify for Sunday's final Top 12, Lake Havasu City resident Dean Rojas caught just 14-6 Sunday. He finished sixth with 61-7, just ahead of reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Casey Ashley (61-4).
However, Rojas, who has qualified for the final round in the last three of the four Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments this year, currently leads the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race with 365 points (based on cumulative finishes in Elite tournaments), just 10 points of Lucas, winner of the Sacramento Elite, and Martens, who has 332 points.
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