MARTENS: GETTING ORGANIZED

CELEBRATION, Fla. - After finishing second in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic for the third time in four years last year, Aaron Martens took some time off from fishing to finally get organized.

That could mean even greater achievements this year for the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Martens would like nothing better than to start the season with a victory in the 2006 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Tohopekaliga, Feb. 24-26, in Kissimmee, Fla.

“I'm excited about the season,” said Martens, who grew up fishing in California and now lives in Leeds, Ala. “I haven't fished much in the last three months, so I'm aching to fish.

“I went from being the most unorganized fisherman to the most organized of my life. I worked on it for three months straight. It's been all work. And I'm not even two-thirds done.”

A gifted angler who is widely respected for his skills and knowledge by fellow pros, Martens said his lack of organization when it came to his tackle hurt his fishing.

“I wasted a lot of time last year looking for stuff,” he said. “I'd find it, but it'd take me an hour to find it. Now it'll take me a couple of minutes.” Contributing to his organizational troubles last year was the move of Martens, his wife, Lesley, and their daughter to Alabama.

“It was tough last year. We were moving into a second house and we still had the house in California,” Martens said. “It made for a complicated year.”

Starting the season with the Classic on fabled Lake Toho - which produced the BASS record five-fish stringer of 45 pounds, 2 ounces for tournament winner Dean Rojas in January 2001 in a BASS event - adds to Martens' excitement.

“I'm going to need to get a little lucky there. A lot of guys pray for a little bit of luck there,” Martens said. “It seems every time I fish in Florida, I learn a little bit more. If I can find them, I can catch them. It's finding them that's the key.”

Martens said fans will see a lot bigger bass brought to the scales than they did in Pittsburgh during the 2005 Classic on the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny rivers. In that Classic, Martens finished six ounces behind winner Kevin VanDam of Michigan with 12 bass weighing 12 pounds, 9 ounces. Ironically, Martens also trails No. 1- ranked VanDam in the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index, averaging 28 pounds per tournament.

Martens also finished second in the 2004 Classic on Lake Wylie in Charlotte, N.C. - 2 pounds, 12 ounces behind winner Takahiro Omori. Martens didn't qualify for the 2003 Classic in New Orleans. He finished second, 6 pounds, 4 ounces behind Jay Yelas, in the 2002 Classic on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Ala.

He is the only pro with three second-place finishes in the Classic. “I don't think about it that much,” Martens said of his second-place finishes. “Looking back, in Pittsburgh I would've fished some different techniques that would've caught me a fish or two more. Lake Wylie and Lay Lake, I pretty much did all I could do.”

The weather conditions will play a big role in the 2006 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Toho. When Rojas won there in 2001, a major cold front was followed by a warming trend. When the tournament started, bass had moved onto their spawning beds, but only a handful of the pros realized what happened. Martens, like Rojas, sight-fished that tournament.

With its February dates, the timing is right for that to happen during the Classic. “Whatever's going on, I should catch some bass,” Martens said. “It's just a matter of getting on them. There's a lot of water to cover. Hopefully, I'll trip on the right wad of fish.”

The 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic will be hosted by the Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Central Florida Sports Commission.

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry’s widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com/classic