Aaron Martens is no stranger to professional bass fishing success. The six-time B.A.S.S. winner was the 2005 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year, the 2012 Toyota Trucks All-Star Week champion, and he’s finished second in a record four Bassmaster Classics. But when he accepted the trophy for the 2013 Toyota Angler of the Year award, Martens called it the highlight of his career.
“I think this one was even better than the 2005 AOY because I had such a bad start and turned things around,” he said. “I never lost focus or got distracted.”
Martens claimed his second AOY title in dramatic fashion. He started the season with a dismal 85th-place finish at the Sabine River Challenge presented by STARK Cultural Venues. Thoughts of AOY seemed unrealistic.
“At that point, I was just focused on making the Bassmaster Classic,” he said. “I didn’t think I had a chance at Angler of the Year. It was the fourth straight season that I started slowly, but things went great after that. My worst finish in the next seven events was 24th, and I made the top 12 five times.”
Going into the Elite finale — the Plano Championship Chase on Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River — Martens trailed Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers by 30 points, and few gave him much of a chance at the title. Evers’ worst finish all year had been 30th place, and if he could match that, he’d take his first AOY crown.
But the schools of bass Evers had located during practice sessions disappeared, and he was left scrambling. A small limit on the first day put him in 75th place while Martens settled into third. Evers rebounded on the second day and moved up to 54th place, but he missed the cut to fish the third round, and with it lost control of the race. Meanwhile, Martens had another banner day and moved up to second. If he could finish the tournament 23rd or better, he’d lock up the AOY title.
On Day 3 — his 41st birthday — Martens posted another big catch and ended the round in third place, well inside the final cut to the Top 12 anglers. His second AOY crown was secure, and last year’s champion, Brent Chapman, handed him the trophy. Martens became just the 10th angler in B.A.S.S. history to win multiple titles, joining such greats as Roland Martin, Bill Dance and Kevin VanDam.
In the end, the 2013 AOY title should be remembered as one Martens won, not one that Evers lost. The Oklahoma pro put together a historic season, but Martens’ torrid pace in the final five tournaments was just too much to withstand. His five consecutive Top 12 finishes are only one less than the record set by Skeet Reese in 2006-07. Martens will have a chance to tie that mark in the 2014 season opener.
Already one of the most successful B.A.S.S. pros in the modern era, Martens has collected more than $2 million in B.A.S.S. winnings alone, including the $100,000 paycheck for winning Toyota Angler of the Year last week. He has won six Bassmaster events and finished second on a dozen occasions.
The Top 8 finishers in the Toyota Angler of the Year race automatically qualify to compete in the Bassmaster Elite Series postseason event, the Toyota All-Star Week and Evan Williams Bourbon Championship.
1. Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala., with 652 points
2. Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., with 640 points
3. Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., with 624 points
4. Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla., with 619 points
5. Keith Combs, Huntington, Texas, with 608 points
6. Alton Jones, Lorena, Texas, with 599 points
7. John Crews, Salem, Va., with 578 points
8. Chris Zaldain, San Jose, Calif., with 562 points
The All-Star competition will feature 14 Elite Series pros and will take place Sept. 27-29 on Michigan’s Muskegon Lake with the finale on White Lake. Joining the Top 8 are Cliff Place of Petal, Miss., winner of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, and Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C., who won Rookie of the Year for 2013.
The pros who did not qualify for one of those 10 spots are vying for fans’ votes in the Toyota All-Star Fan Favorite Angler Sweepstakes at Bassmaster.com/vote. Voting online continues through Sept. 6.
Fans also have a chance to win just for voting, no matter which pros get in. Every person who casts a vote at Bassmaster.com/vote between now and Sept. 6 is entered into a sweepstakes. Fourteen names will be drawn, and the Toyota Fan finalists will then each be virtually paired with one of the All-Star Week competitors. The fan who is paired with the winner of the event will take home a 2014 Toyota Tundra truck.
Image courtesy Seigo Saito/Bassmaster