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Chalk Talk: Speed-cranking with Martens

Chalk Talk: Speed-cranking with Martens

(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)

Three-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens talks at a breakneck pace, he runs for exercise, and when it comes to cranking he still feels a need for speed. While he started his career with 5:1- and 6:1-ratio baitcasting reels and the notion that slower could be better, as his career has progressed he’s often upped the pace.

Advances in reel technology have made that possible. “Seven to one was like fire,” he said. “It’s super-fast.” Unfortunately, the gearing on the early speedsters wasn’t great. Under the strain of a fish or a big diving plug they’d often suffer from too much torque. Today’s models handle those situations virtually flawlessly. Martens tries to use the fastest reel he can and has been “asking for a 9:1 for about 10 years.” He cautioned that gear ratio isn’t the only measure of a fast reel: “Inches per turn … that’s what you really need to know.”

He uses Shimano reels, relying on a 7.4:1 model when it’s cold or he’s cranking small to medium divers, but said that an 8.5:1 model is his “go-to,” explaining that it’s “great for covering a lot of water.” He added that modern baitcasting reels are lighter and more refined than ever before, which allows them to cast lures that previously could’ve only been thrown on spinning tackle. He likewise has a system for his rods, using 6 1/2-foot models in close quarters, 7-footers when he needs to combine accuracy and distance, and rods of 7 1/2 feet or more when long-distance casts with big baits are essential. The longest rod in his current arsenal is 7’10”.

He’s used fluorocarbon since 1999, and that’s what he uses most of the time for cranking: he prefers Sunline Sniper when it’s cold because it’s more supple and has more stretch, allowing it to last longer; and Sunline Shooter for more aggressive strikes, particularly around thick grass, timber and docks. He said that the Shooter is “closest to braid.” He’ll also use straight braid for deeper-diving lures in thick timber or vegetation and even when using fluoro he’ll use braid as backing to conserve line. He tries to spool on just about 20 more yards of fluoro than he’ll need, which means that on a long cast he can usually see the backing. No matter which line he uses, he pays careful attention to the quality and condition of his split rings and treble hooks, sometimes staying up past midnight to make sure that even hooks that came from the factory razor-sharp have the meanest possible cutting point.

One other piece of equipment that Martens uses to keep his speed-cranking game in top condition is his own body. “The reason I exercise is because fishing is very physical,” he explained. If you don’t stretch properly before, during and after your time on the water, all it takes is one awkward move or muscle pull and you’ll be out of commission for the long haul

If you want to get the skinny on some of Martens' other speed-cranking tips, including why he’s trying to get Enigma to make him a series of 6-foot rods, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.

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