PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – He said it would take a 17- or 18-pound sack to win it, and that’s just what Scott Martin caught Saturday. Emerging from the pack with a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces, the Clewiston, Fla., pro won the Wal-Mart FLW Tour regular-season closer at Lake Champlain, claimed $200,000 and upended Aaron Martens’ bid to repeat as Forrest Wood Open champion.
“I’m so proud to win this one because Forrest has been a part of my life since I was born,” Martin said about Ranger Boats founder Forrest Wood.
Martin is the son of TV fishing legend Roland Martin, and you’ve probably seen him fishing on camera since the time he could first hold a rod. Incidentally, with this win Scott Martin picked up right where his father left off. The last time Roland Martin won a tour-level bass event was in a 1997 BASS tournament at Lake Champlain.
But with his second FLW Tour win as a pro (his first was at the Pascagoula River in 2000) and over a half-million dollars in FLW Outdoors career earnings, the younger Martin is making his own mark these days. Plus, this bass-packed fishery on the New York-Vermont border seems tailor-made to his strengths. For most of the anglers here, this event was about finding spawning fish and keeping track of them throughout the week. Martin makes no bones about his reliance on GPS technology during tournaments. Two years ago, he worked his Garmin waypoints into a fourth-place finish in FLW competition here. This year, he figured out how to take it to the next step.
“(Three-time FLW champ) Clark Wendlandt once said, ‘You can never win these four-day tournaments if you fish in the same spot twice,’” said Martin, who had some 500 waypoints marking smallmouth spawning beds in his Garmin by the tournament’s start. “I wouldn’t have been able to keep my weights up consistently if I fished the same areas each day.”
The winner fished the Burlington area of Lake Champlain the first two days and kept his focus strictly on smallies. By days three and four, he moved to the northeast portion of the lake and fished the Inland Sea area. Anglers hit many of the shallow smallmouth areas pretty hard the first two days, but by catching a limit early Wednesday and Thursday, Martin was able to use his time scouting a few key spots he could use Friday and Saturday.
“I saw a lot of areas that hadn’t been picked through yet,” said Martin, who said he saved his heavier fish until today. “I caught four of my biggest fish today within a hundred yards of each other. Yesterday, I knew that I needed a big bag, so I had been kind of saving this one spot. I really spent a lot of time GPSing things and concentrating on areas that were otherwise too windy or too rough for people to fish earlier in the week.”
By throwing jerkbaits as well as sight-fishing with tubes in Saturday’s calm, slick water and sunny weather, he caught two bass that were each in the crucial 4-pound range and two more around 3 pounds. His winning two-day weight in the finals – 10 smallmouth bass worth 32 pounds, 8 ounces – topped Martens by over 2 pounds.
“It’s hard to win a tournament with only smallmouths,” he said. “But I enjoy catching these smallmouths so much, I don’t want to catch largemouths.”
While he couldn’t come up with a repeat performance of his 2003 Forrest Wood Open title at Pickwick Lake, Aaron Martens didn’t feel defeated Saturday. He has cleared $300,000 in just this tournament alone the last two years and has also now eclipsed the half-million-dollar mark in FLW career earnings.
“$100,000, that’s still pretty good money,” said the pro from Castaic, Calif., whose two-day weight of 30 pounds, 4 ounces earned him second place at Lake Champlain.
For Martens, who donned a wide-brimmed hat to keep out the sun and also went sight-fishing, Saturday was about finding occupied spawning beds.
“I think about 90 percent of the fish in this lake are on beds right now,” he said. “Today, I saw a lot them that had been picked clean.”
Jonathan Newton of Rogersville, Ala., caught 1 ounce less than Martens and finished third with a final-round weight of 30 pounds 3 ounces. A two-time EverStart Series champion but FLW rookie, he won $50,000 in just his third FLW tournament fished.
“It’s been a great week. If it hadn’t been for Andy Morgan talking me into coming, I wouldn’t even have been here,” Newton said, saying that making the trek to upstate New York from Alabama to fish had been a last-minute decision.
Newton caught his limits in the finals by sight-fishing flats.
Day-three leader Randy Blaukat of Lamar, Mo., finished fourth and collected $40,000 with a final-round weight of 29 pounds, 7 ounces.
“These are the first bedding fish that I’ve caught in, like, eight years,” he said. “I just don’t like to do it, but I had to this week. Right at the end of the day I caught my biggest one.”
Day-one leader David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., made his long run south to his largemouth area Saturday, but came up short. He caught 29 pounds even in the finals, finished fifth and collected $30,000.
“I feel as good as you can, and I’m mad as (heck) at the same time,” he said. “I did everything right and caught everything that bit, but the big ones just weren’t there for me.”
Walker estimated that he ran approximately 560 miles throughout the week.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers at Lake Champlain’s Forrest Wood Open are opening-round leader Rob Kilby of Hot Springs, Ark., with a final-round total weight of 27 pounds, 1 ounce (6th place, $28,000); Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C., with 26-11 (7th, $26,000); Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., with 26-8 (8th, $24,000); Charlie Hartley of Grove City, Okla., with 26-8 (9th, $22,000); and Jason Kilpatrick of Satsuma, Ala., with 16-12 (10th, $20,000).
All of the pros caught limits both days of the final round except Kilpatrick, who weighed in four bass Saturday.
The next FLW Tour stop is the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship, scheduled for Lake Logan Martin near Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 11-14.