NORTH EAST, Md. — Some fishermen like to play it safe when they’re leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race late in the season.
|Martens distances himself from Rojas for AOY!|
They focus on getting a good limit, drawing a paycheck and earning valuable AOY points. But Aaron Martens seems to be taking a different approach during this week’s Huk Performance Fishing Bassmaster Elite at Chesapeake Bay.
The Alabama angler, who came into the event with a slim 11-point lead in the AOY standings, caught 17 pounds, 8 ounces of bass Thursday and claimed the Day 1 lead in a tournament that is shaping up to be a tough one down the stretch. Michigan angler Chad Pipkens is second in the tournament standings with 16-14, and Japanese pro Morizo Shimizu is third with 16-9.
“I had seven keeper bites, and I broke two of them off,” said Martens, who increased his AOY lead over Dean Rojas to 52 points. “My bites were spread out all day. I wish I could catch them faster. But no matter how fast or slow you move, it’s going to be a bite about every hour and a half.”
Like most of the anglers near the top of the leaderboard, Martens seemed almost surprised to bring in a good catch after a dismal three days of practice.
He said he only has a handful of spots he feels he can depend on, but he thinks he has something figured out with the tidal flows that have such a profound effect on the fishing at Chesapeake Bay. That could affect his decision-making process out of the gate Friday morning.
“There is a one-hour window with the tide when you can catch them really good,” Martens said. “I could run the tide if I had enough spots, but I really don’t.”
Martens said Friday’s early-morning tide isn’t likely to be right in the areas where he caught his fish Thursday. So he’s considering starting in a totally different area, much closer to the launch site. “There’s a lot of fish right here, and the tide’s going to be really good here tomorrow morning,” Martens said. “If I run straight there (to Thursday’s area), the tide’s not going to be good. I’ve got to look at the tides and consider everything.”
One thing Martens said he won’t be thinking much about is the AOY race.
"I don’t even check the AOY stuff,” Martens said. “My wife checks it and tells me where Dean Rojas is, but I can’t worry about that. I’ve got to put AOY to the back of my mind and worry about this event.”
Martens was Angler of the Year in 2005 and 2013, and he has finished in the Top 20 in five out of the six Bassmaster Elite Series events so far this year, including first in the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Havasu presented by Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels in May.
Despite Martens’ excellent day, he’s only 10 ounces ahead of Pipkens, who caught 16-14 after getting off to a slow start.
The 31-year-old pro said he only got four to seven bites a day during practice. But since most of the fish he caught were good ones, he came into the event with perhaps a little more confidence than some of his competitors.
“I knew it was going to be a tough tournament, but I felt like I was probably getting a few more bites than a lot of guys,” Pipkens said. “Between the handful of bites that I was getting every day, I was hoping I could bounce around and catch four to six keepers a day once the tournament started. Pipkens said success on Chesapeake Bay is not just a matter of finding the right spot, but of hitting that spot at just the right time.
“I didn’t have a fish the first three hours, and I was fishing some good stuff,” Pipkens said. “You’ve just got to keep your head up. I caught my biggest fish today the third time I hit a place, and I hadn’t had a bite yet. It’s just a matter of timing. You hit a place just right, and you might catch two or three like that.”
Behind Martens, Pipkens and Shimizu are California pros Brent Ehrler (15-15) and Skeet Reese (15-13). Florida rookie Koby Kreiger and Virginia pro Jacob Powroznik are tied for sixth with (15-2). Rojas, who led the AOY race much of the season before falling behind Martens, is in 42nd place with 8-7.
The fishing was so tough that 25 anglers zeroed or caught only one fish. Among the anglers who failed to boat a keeper were New Jersey pro Michael Iaconelli and popular Florida pro Shaw Grigsby.
The tournament will resume Friday with takeoff from Anchor Marina and North East Community Park. The weigh-in will be held back at the park at 3 p.m., with only the Top 50 anglers advancing to Saturday’s semifinal round.