Aaron Martens on Dissecting a Lake

Aaron Martens Bassmaster Elite Series Angler

We have all heard the stories about how a local angler provided the key information the bass tournament winner used to win. Giving away GPS coordinates and even what lure to cast and what angle to line up to make sure the bass will bite. While I can’t confirm or disprove any of that, I have heard the stories myself. What I do know is that Aaron Martens goes out of his way to stay away from the influence of others, he prides himself on finding his own fish and his own way of catching bass. That said, I can’t think of a better angler to talk with about finding bass on a new body of water.

Aaron did add the disclaimer, “I do share some information with tour friends, like ‘they are biting crankbaits at a certain depth’, but I don’t gather coordinates, spots or areas from others.”

In talking with Aaron, he enjoys the edge he has when it comes to finding bass. “If I started using other angler’s spots and information it might dull my fish finding edge and I never want to lose that.”

Aaron readily admits that this does hurt him in competition sometimes, though. With his way of dissecting a lake and finding fish, it takes him about 3 days to figure them out not leaving him much time to duplicate the patterns and find multiple locations. On the other hand, an angler that has been given information and locations can usually be on fish within a day, leaving a lot of time to duplicate and find more.

A new lake can be very intimidating, especially if it’s a large impoundment. We’ve all been told that we should research the body of water prior to getting there. With today’s computer technology we have a wealth of information at our hands. Aaron recommends satellite imagery saying, “You can make a lake much smaller, using seasonal patterns you can eliminate a lot of water with technology.”

If your researching the lake for a tournament Aaron said to find out what it takes to win a tournament during that time of year. This way you know if the fish you find are large enough to win, and if not then you need to keep searching. With the GPS charts being so detailed the old paper topographical maps are not as popular anymore, but Aaron said he still has a few and will break them out on occasion. He does agree that most of his topo map work is done with the graph on the water these days.

I asked Aaron what were some of the first questions that popped into his head when he was told he would fish lake X. He said, ” Season will pretty much be a given, we’ll know when we are going, so next would be how deep the lake is. The deeper the lake the deeper you can catch bass, I love catching deeper fish. Generally, deeper fish are bigger. Next would be water clarity or color. I’ll also want to know what kind of fish it has. I need to know if there are trout, tilapia, stripers, what kind of shad, etc. This not only influences bait choices, but can also influence the amount of ‘trash’ fish you’ll have to work around and how deep the bass will go to feed. Bass will go where the food is.”

When asked what the deepest he had caught fish, Aaron explained, “There was a tournament in California on Lake Oroville where I caught fish as deep as 140 feet. The bait fish were way down there and some bigger bass were feeding on them. It wasn’t easy nor was it fast and furious, but I was catching quality fish and went on to win that tournament.”

You can learn about a lake while driving to it. Aaron said, ”More than likely you’ll see parts of the lake while on the road. Keep an eye on it, safely of course, look for water color changes, algae blooms, windblown banks, cover, take in all that you can before you launch your boat. Later as your developing a pattern some of what you have seen might fit. Note from the author: I would have to include here, if you’re like me, have someone watch the road while you’re drooling over the lake.

Once on the water Aaron feels it’s important to get a bass in the boat as quickly as possible. So with his research, what he has seen driving in, and what he has taken in while launching his boat, he will see if he can catch a bass quickly. “When I’m launching and idling out, I’m looking as far as I can see, taking in wind direction and strength, air temperature, water temperature, water clarity, water color, is there life [birds, bait fish on the surface], just absolutely everything I can. I’m watching my graph to find out how deep the bait fish are. Once I find bait fish, I’ll look for bass, then structure or cover. Put the three together and make a cast. Doing this you can usually put a fish in the boat pretty quick.”

When probed about impoundments being too large to be able to investigate completely and how he determines where he’ll fish Aaron explained, “You are right, it’s impossible to fish the whole lake in just a couple days. I generally pick an area 45-60 miles long that will have all the possible patterns for the given time of year available. There will be fish in this area somewhere and now I just have to find them.”

Aaron uses all his sense when fishing. He is continually looking for signs of life, birds, bait fish, busting fish. He’ll scan the lake every little while looking as far as he can see, scanning for points, the layout of the land, anything that might indicate something different or a change in the bottom. All the while he is also keeping a close eye on his graph, whether on the trolling motor or on pad. “I once found a drop that was less than a foot in a huge flat, I was on a quarter mile troll to a good looking spot and casting along the way, I noticed the drop and made a cast along it and caught a bass. With repeated casts to that spot I caught a bunch of bass. I looked the area over completely and couldn’t find a ditch or creek leading to it, nothing that would create a’ travel route’ for bass. There was nothing there but this minor drop. To this day I don’t know why they were there but they were.”

He will also notice smells of stagnant water, clean water or polluted water. If there is something off about the water he will leave it, he won’t waste time fishing an area just because it looks good if it smells bad. Aaron went on to say, “When you’re tuned in and pull into a pocket that is fairly calm, sometimes you can smell the lingering scent of bass that have just mauled bait fish. You know you’re on some active fish then!”

Aaron covers a lot of water when investigating a lake. 45-60 miles is a lot of water. When he puts all the pieces together he said, “You’ll know in a cast or two if you have the bass you need. If you have bait fish, bass and structure, a properly placed cast should produce a bite. If it doesn’t I might try a couple more times. If I know I’m putting a bait where I need to and I’m not producing bass I move.”

Aaron talked about the importance of learning what a bass looked like on your electronics. “If you know what a bass looks like you can prevent a lot of wasted time fishing over the wrong species. This helps cover that 45 miles a lot quicker as well”, Aaron explained.

Aaron is a big believer in using his electronics, even when on plane he’s watching his graph, looking for creek channels, points, drop offs, anything that changes as it can all hold bass. “Electronics today really have great maps, use them to find areas to investigate.” Aaron continued, “Follow the contour of the shore looking for places where there are faster drops, brush piles, anything different. Be a very observant fisherman using all your senses, electronics are your eyes, ears and nose for under the water.”

When discussing the seasonal patterns Martens stated, “Bass are very predictable June through December. They react to food, weather and water conditions. During this time of year bass travel in packs [schools] and you want to look for the pack of bass that has the largest size fish in it. Going back to your research, you know that it’s going to take a three pound average (example) to win so that’s what you’re looking for. “ Aaron went on, “Just because you found a pack that is mostly 2 pounders doesn’t mean three pounders are not there. Sometimes you have to determine how many you’ll have to weed through to get your quality limit. There are packs of 2 pounders, packs of 3 pounders and then mixed packs. You have to get to know the fish and know how to get the bigger ones or how long it’s going to take to get the bigger ones.”

“Now January through June, hormones come into play and it’s a whole different story.” Aaron elaborated, “If you are a good deer hunter you’d probably be good at catching bass.”

When asked about fishing a new lake and if he fishes the ‘Regional Pattern’ or fishes his strengths, Aaron replied “Regional patterns work. Take Okeechobee, punching mats works great during the right time of year. However, it’s important to try and become versatile, get good at all fishing styles. Fishing your strengths all the time can hurt you. For example if you’re catching top water fish but dumping a few and those same fish will hit a fluke, you’ll have a much better hookup to land ratio with the fluke. Don’t get stuck on the top water because you like it, the goal is to put bass in the boat and in this case a fluke is the better answer.”

Many anglers keep records over the years of all types of stuff, bass tournament results, patterns, water conditions, productive baits, weather and more. When asked about his record keeping Aaron put it like this, “Not really, unless you count the GPS coordinates on the electronics. Things change so much and fish react to those changes, I have learned what works under different conditions and run with that. I’m always experimenting and tweaking things so every day can be something new.”

Returning to a lake can leave an angler with a couple paths. Do you start where you caught them before or do you scratch it all and start fresh? Aaron gave some interesting insight to this question, “I’ll definitely check the areas that I had success at before that fit into the season. However, with today’s media coverage, spectators and the amount of tournaments being held, most of the high producing spots are dry and we (tour level anglers) have to start fresh anyway. Good spots from the past are definitely worth checking though, sometimes it’s just a matter of changing the technique to get the bite going.”

Aaron Martens Bassmaster Elite Series Angler

I’d like to thank Aaron for taking time away from his family to speak with me. When I called he was with his kids and they were all getting haircuts. When I asked to call him back at a better time he said, “I’m always with my family and they are very understanding, besides they are busy getting their haircut right now [with a chuckle] so fire away”. Aaron was full of information and loved to talk, I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him.

To learn more about Aaron Martens visit his site AaronMartens.com and on facebook at Aaron-Martens Facebook Right now with the Elite Series “Vote In” campaign, where we as spectators get to pick four anglers to fish in the Bassmaster All Star tournament, Aaron is giving away an autographed tournament shirt via a drawing to those that help him get votes with their facebook. Check out Aaron Martens on Tour for details on how to get entered. If he wins and you voted for him you might get to ride with him while he fishes.

Get the Net it’s a Hawg
Mike Cork

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