By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Lake Martin doesn't contain nearly as many 5-pound-plus fish as some other impoundments in Alabama, but it's certainly not that state's equivalent of Arkansas' Beaver Lake, as some pundits had tagged it prior to last week's Bassmaster Elite Series season opener.
Lots of professional anglers detest Beaver, an impoundment that at times is so fickle that it can seem like there are more boats on the water's surface during a large-scale tournament than bass swimming around beneath it. Martin is nothing like that – it's chock-full of willing-to-bite fish and even on a bad day (from a tournament perspective), an angler might catch 30 of them.
A few in-the-know prognosticators got one prediction right – the Elite event was won with largemouths from shallow water. However, deep spotted bass factored into a lot of high finishes.
Following are some pattern specifics for the anglers who finished closest to runaway winner Takahiro Omori.
2nd: Roy Hawk
> Day 1: 5, 13-11
> Day 2: 5, 17-01
> Day 3: 5, 12-10
> Day 4: 5, 11-02
> Total = 20, 52-08
Longtime Western standout Roy Hawk had a spectacular Elite Series debut on a lake that fishes like many in his home region. He concentrated on a 5-mile section of the Tallpoosa River above and below the Wind Creek Marina launch facility and thus was able to maximize his fishing time – a 3 1/2-pounder he boxed early on day 1 was the first recorded fish of the new campaign.
"I was staying in another creek that was a long way from the ramp and I ran up to that area on one of the practice days and only caught a couple bass," he said. "Other places I tried weren't that much better and I was thinking that from what I was seeing, a good day was going to be about 10 pounds.
"Come tournament day, I figured my odds of catching a big bag were better up in that river section – there was more of a chance to tie into a bigger largemouth. I'd just stay up there and get to work and figure it out."
He treated each day as a continuation of practice, constantly seeking new sweet spots within his larger general area. He ended up weighing 13 largmouths and seven spots, most of which came off natural woody cover.
He pulled only one fish from a dock, but it was a beaut.
"It was a 5-pounder on a crankbait. I pitched it up underneath the dock and it ate it.
"The day I caught 17 pounds, I got most of them on laydowns with the crankbait. In places where I couldn't throw the crank, I'd flip a jig in there."
The vast majority of his fish came from 3 to 6 feet of water.
> Cranking gear: 7'2" medium-action Taipan Roy Hawk Signature Series rod, Quantum Tour Magnesium casting reel (6.3:1), 12-pound Yamamoto Sugoi fluorocarbon line, Duo Realis M62 5A (scarlet).
> He lost all of his scarlet-colored baits during the tournament, so he took to using raid nail polish to repaint some that were originally chartreuse. "I got them as close as I could get," he said.
> Flipping gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Taipan flipping stick, Quantum Smoke casting reel (8:1 ratio), 20-pound Sugoi fluorocarbon, 1/2-ounce Pepper Custom Baits jig (black/blue), Yamamoto Flappin' Hog or Yamamoto Double Tail trailer (black/blue).
> Main factor in his success – "In my mind, it was staying close and spending all the time I had casting. Compared to some guys, I had an extra hour of fishing every day because I was doing so little traveling."
> Performance edge – "I think it was my Lowrance unit. Being a new lake for me, I was using the trails (feature) a lot each day to see where I hadn't been yet and also the map to find places I hadn't been to."
A deep-shallow combo approach propelled Adrian Avena to a 3rd-place finish.
3rd: Adrian Avena
> Day 1: 5, 10-00
> Day 2: 5, 16-05
> Day 3: 5, 12-14
> Day 4: 5, 11-10
> Total = 20, 50-13
Like Hawk, Adrian Avena also kept his running around to a minimum, as he had places to catch spotted bass and other places to catch largemouths, all in Kowaliga Creek. He pursued the spots in the early hours and switched to the largemouths after he'd compiled a decent limit.
He fished solidly throughout the event, but his high finish (his best in two-plus seasons on the Elite Series) was built around the 6 1/2-pound largemouth he caught on day 2, when he moved up a whopping 56 places in the standings.
"Without that one fish squeezed in there, I would've still gotten a check but I probably would've ended up somewhere in the 40s," he said. "Going shallow got me three good fish – the 6 1/2, a 3 1/2 and one that was close to 3."
His spotted-bass work was strictly vertical fishing while paying close attention to his Lowrance HDS9 unit. He caught those fish in 30 to 45 feet of water on a Berkley Gulp! Minnow.
"I'd be watching the 2D and I'd see one, and then I'd kick the trolling motor into reverse and drop down and try to entice it into biting."
In the shallows, he threw a 3-inch swimbait and flipped a jig to wood targets. He caught one largemouth on a Berkley Cutter 110 jerkbait (elegy bone).
> Shaky-head gear: 6'10" medium-light Abu Garcia Fantasista rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier 35 spinning reel, 8-pound Berkley Fireline Super 8 braided line (main line), 6-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon (leader), 3/8-ounce VMC Moon Eye jighead, Berkley Gulp! Minnow (smelt).
> Swimbait gear: 7' medium-heavy Abu Garcia Villain 2.0 rod, Abu Garcia Revo ALX casting reel, 6- or 8-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, 1/4-ounce custom-made ball-head jig, unnamed 3" swimbait (shad).
> Flipping gear: 7' medium-heavy Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier rod, same reel as swimbait (8:1 ratio), 17-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, 3/8-ounce All Terrain Tackle swimjig (black/blue with skirt trimmed for a finesse-style presentation), Berkley Havoc Pit Boss Jr. trailer (black/blue).
> Main factor in his success – "Having that 1-2 punch approach."
> Performance edge – "I always thought the HydroWave was kind of a gimmick and I'd never buy one, but I was given one to put on my boat and there were a couple of situations where it made a difference and proved to me that it's legit. On the second day I only had one line-burner in my livewell and I turned that thing on, and within 45 seconds I had a school of spots right under my boat. They were just coming up to my trolling motor and I caught seven in seven drops."
Lake Martin reminded Jared Lintner of a lake he's fished hundreds of times back home in California.
4th: Jared Lintner
> Day 1: 5, 13-15
> Day 2: 5, 12-14
> Day 3: 5, 11-04
> Day 4: 5, 12-09
> Total = 20, 50-10
When Jared Lintner first laid eyes on Martin, it instantly reminded him of Lake Nacimiento, an impoundment near his central California home that he's fished often – and successfully – for many years. Thus, he fished Martin accordingly
"That lake (Nacimiento) used to be really good back in the day for both largemouth and smallmouth," he said. "I remember (he and his team partner) got 3rd in a tournament there one time about 15 years and we weighed 22 pounds. Then the spots got in there and really changed the fishery.
"Even though Martin is 20 times the size, there's a lot of visual similarities between them and the fish kind of set up the same way. You can go deep with a dropshot and catch them in 30 to 50 feet, but I've always spent some time fishing (Nacimiento) shallow because there's a certain number of fish that always stayed there.
"Knowing the history of Nacimiento," he continued, "you can go catch a limit of spots and then fish shallow for two to four bites the rest of the day. If you got them you did well, and if not you finished in the middle of the pack."
He used a small swimbait to do a number on the spots in 10 to 20 feet of water during the early part of each day. He couldn't establish a flipping bite for the largemouths, but was able to get them to react to crankbaits and rattlebaits pitched at close range.
"The deepest I hooked a largemouth was probably 2 feet and I was always surprised where I got bit," he said. "Wherever it looked like I should catch one, I never would. Then I'd just be going down a bank and there'd be one stick and I'd catch one off it, and that was right after I'd just fished 40 laydowns and never had a bite."
> Swimbait gear: 7'5" medium-action G. Loomis GLX 892 rod, Shimano Metanium HG casting reel (7.6:1 ratio), 10-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 1/4-ounce homemade ball-head jig, Jackall Rhythm Wave (albino shad) or Keitech 3.3 (pro blue red).
> He also threw another "old school" Rat-L-Trap that was productive for him at Clear Lake years ago.
> "I only have four of those Speed Traps left and I'll go diving after them if I have to," he said.
> Main factor in his success – "Fishing what looked good based on my home lake that was 2,000 miles away."
> Performance edge – "The Panoptix on the Garmin unit for catching the spots – I could put the trolling motor down and find the bait and see the fish out there, and then bomb the bait out where they were at and catch them. Also, I think having the HydroWave on when I milled around in the shallow water helped. If nothing else, I think it distracts from the trolling-motor and boat noise."
Luke Clausen caught a lot of nice spotted bass from an area that covered about one square mile.
5th: Luke Clausen
> Day 1: 5, 12-12
> Day 2: 5, 15-04
> Day 3: 5, 13-03
> Day 4: 5, 9-04
> Total = 20, 50-07
During practice, Luke Clausen actually got deterred from fishing for the deep spotted bass near the dam because of how many fellow competitors he encountered who had the same idea. He briefly switched his focus to largemouths, but that was unproductive.
"I spent half or three-quarters of my practice time fishing shallow just because there were fewer guys doing it," he said. "I never could get anything consistent going on them, though.
"Toward the end of practice I got a few good bites out deep, and then I started idling around and finding a few more places where I thought they were going to pull up. Places where I never made a cast in practice turned out to be good in the tournament."
He eventually honed in on an area that covered about a square mile.
"It had better average quality than the other places I found," he said. "It seemed like there were more 3-pounders in there than anywhere else."
He threw a shaky-head when fishing around brush and a wacky-rig in more open water.
> Shaky-head gear 7' heavy-action Phenix Feather rod, unnamed spinning reel, 10-pound Yo-Zuri Super Braid (main line), 10-pound Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon (leader), 1/4-ounce Z-Man Shaky HeadZ jig, Z-Man FattyZ (green-pumpkin).
> Wacky-rig gear: 7' medium-action Phenix rod, unnamed spinning reel, 10-pound Yo-Zuri Super Braid (main line), 8-pound Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon (leader), 1/0 Owner Weedless Wacky Hook, unnamed 5" stickbait (green-pumpkin) with 3/32-ounce nail weight inserted into head.
> Main factor in his success – "Identifying that one area and staying there and just rotating through stuff."
> Performance edge – "I'd say it was the new Phenix rods I'm using. The action, sensitivity and weight really allowed me to feel the bites."
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