Bill Dance Outdoors

Martens rides the tide to dominating Elite Series win on Chesapeake Bay

NORTH EAST, Maryland (August 18, 2015) – It seemed like an epic failure unfolding in front of the watchful eye of the tournament bass fishing world: 11 a.m. on Championship Sunday at the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, and Team Mercury pro Aaron Martens had not caught a single fish. Not a 12-ounce keeper, not even a 10-inch throwback. Even worse, he had broken off three big fish – two 4-pounders and a 5-pounder – and had seen his 5-pound lead evaporate into a 10-pound deficit.

No worries, however. Martens, one of the most dominant tournament bass anglers in the world, patiently waited for the tide to change.

Powered by a mid-day flurry on a falling tide that resulted in 21 pounds, 5 ounces, Martens easily won his second Elite Series event of the 2015 season, racking up 70 pounds, 2 ounces of Chesapeake Bay largemouth and smallmouth bass and taking a major step toward securing his second Elite Series Angler of the Year title in three years.

"I knew my time was coming," Martin joked about his apparent mid-morning crash. "It doesn't matter how good a fisherman you are, these tidal bass won't bite if the tide is wrong. You can be on a mega school of 6-pounders and hitting them on the head with a bait, but if they're not ready to eat, they won't bite anything. Don't get me wrong, I was a little frustrated to lose three good fish, but I knew something good was going to happen when the tide changed."

Sure enough, virtually the moment the tide started to ebb in the area that Martens was fishing – known simply as "Middle River" on the upper Chesapeake – the bite was on. Martens hooked a 7-2 (the biggest fish of the tournament) to start a three-hour dock-fishing tear that resulted in an 8-pound win and pushed his AOY lead to a daunting 69 points with one regular-season event remaining before the Angler of the Year Championship.

"Going into this event, I really didn't think I had the fish to win," Martens confessed. "I knew the quality of fish in that Middle River area was good, but I didn't know if there were enough of them to catch a 16- or 17-pound limit every day, and I didn't know if I could make those fish bite for four days in a row."

He did indeed, however, nursing five keeper bites out of Day 1 for 17-8, and holding onto the lead through Days 2 and 3 with 15-0 and 16-5, respectively. Martens spent his entire tournament in and around Bowley Quarter Marina at the mouth of the Middle River, alternately throwing a chatterbait over small open areas, and skipping a jig or casting a drop-shot into tiny, precise spots inside the marina's maze of dock pilings.

"It's not an easy way to fish," Martens said. "You're trying to get your bait into a tiny little 6-inch window way back under a dock, and then you have to figure out a way to maneuver a fish out of that mess without getting wrapped up or having barnacles cut your line. It can get pretty nerve-wracking."

Mercury pro Gerald Swindle finished fourth with 54-10.

Banking on his equipment: Martens made the longest run of the 107 anglers in the tournament, heading out of the Anchor Marina launch in the extreme upper end of Chesapeake Bay and barreling upwards of 40 miles south through heavy pleasure-boat traffic toward Baltimore to get to Middle River. Though not as extreme as the 7-foot wind waves of Lake Erie, the Chesapeake is well known as a rugged run the further south you go and boat traffic increases.

"That was not an easy trip," Martens said. "There are so many yachts and big pleasure boats here, and it's the middle of summer. Plus, this bay is like a slalom course: you have to zig zag your way through thousands of crab pots to get up and downriver. You just have to accept the fact that you're going to get bounced around by boat wakes, and trust in your equipment. I run the 250 Mercury OptiMax ProXS, so I don't worry about it. That motor is made to handle the abuse."


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