FLW Press Release
By Brett Carlson
CLEWISTON, Fla. – While many in the industry expected Casey Martin to thrive after moving to the front of the boat, few thought his success would come so quick. Martin, the Canadian-born pro who now lives in New Market, Ala., whacked a 26-pound 12-ounce stringer Thursday to lead the 175-boat field at the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour opener on Lake Okeechobee.
|Casey Martin took lead with his 6 1/2 pounder|
coming on the first cast.
While the bite certainly improved, as evidenced by 157 limits (including seven over 20 pounds), Okeechobee is still fishing “different.” Many of the sport’s best mat punchers struck out (Randall Tharp 81st, Scott Martin 93rd, JT Kenney 113th, Mike Surman 140th) while others found no discernible pattern. At this point, the best strategy might be to try a little bit of everything – which is exactly what the 32-year-old rookie did.
“On my first cast I caught a 6 1/2-pounder; the net wasn’t even out yet,” said Martin, who left a career in electrical engineering to pursue his dream of bass fishing. “The momentum just went from there. I had a 12-pound limit early, which I knew would keep me in check range and then I just went running all over the place. I checked spots I fished during the EverStart (event) and a bunch of other stuff that looked good. At noon I had about 20 pounds.”
Martin hit four or five different areas and burned almost two tanks of gas. He explained that with the improved bite he wanted to reexamine several areas that weren’t producing in practice. As he suspected, several of them turned on as the water clarity improved and the temperature rose. Interestingly, the pro leader said he would only receive one big bite from each area.
“I think some guys just hunker down in an area and just fish, where I just ran to the best spots in certain areas. I think that’s what made the biggest difference.”
Each of Martin’s three big fish weighed just over 6 pounds and each were caught on different baits. Those three baits were a green-pumpkin-colored Z-Man ChatterBait, a bluegill-colored Omega Custom Tackle swim jig and a flipping jig. The early limit Martin boxed came from flipping as well. In total, he said he managed around 12 to 15 keepers.
“I did a little bit of everything. I like to fish for five of the right bites and if I get them I get them. If I don’t I’ll have my tail between my legs, but I am OK with that. And Florida is just a matter of getting the right bites so that really suits me.”
Martin is fishing out of Bryan Thrift’s old Ranger and joked after weigh-in that the Chevy pro must have left his horseshoe in one of the compartments. But the reality of the situation is that Martin is no ordinary rookie. That was clear after he won three FLW Tour events as co-angler in just two years.
“Coming into my first event as a pro, I just didn’t want to bomb out. There is a lot of pressure coming into your first event, and I really didn’t want to let anybody down. Practice was really tough, and I didn’t want everyone thinking that I couldn’t make it as a pro. I knew that if I did well in this event it would set the pace for the rest of the year.”
|Cotton took all day for his weight.|
Like Martin, the action was fast and furious for second-place pro Rick Cotten this morning, but for the wrong reasons.
“First thing my co-angler catches a pair of keepers and then his big fish, which was over 6 pounds,” explained the Guntersville, Ala., pro. “At that point I thought I was doing something wrong. Then at about 8:30 I moved areas and caught 10 keepers, which was all of my weight. Then as soon the wind got up the bite died, but I got what I got from that area and left.”
Cotten said he had no intention of hitting that spot, seeing that it only produced 2-pounders in practice. But he’s glad he did. His best five largemouths weighed 24 pounds even and his kicker registered 7-4.
“I think the females just moved in and I was fortunate. Everyone I caught came on a jig.”
Cotten went on to compliment his co-angler, Ron Shearer, who was a cool customer in a big spot.
“When I hooked that big one, there was a ChatterBait rod stuck in the net. Instead of panicking, my co-angler dove at the fish with the rod and reel pinned and we got her in. Ninety-nine percent of co-anglers would have panicked there and tried to get the rod and reel out first.”
Drew Benton also enjoyed a dream first day as an FLW Tour pro.
“I like to sight-fish and I caught one off the bed this morning, but I did a lot of pitching and casting too,” said the Panama City, Fla., native. “When I came down here I was really expecting to sight-fish a whole lot more than I have. That’s really my strong suit down here. Every time I come down, I feel like I can compete when I can I catch them off the beds, but this year there hasn’t been that many move up.