If I’d had to guess which of the non-current Elite Series pros would have accepted the “Legend” invitation to rejoin the top tour at B.A.S.S., I wouldn’t have hesitated to answer “Roland Martin.” For reasons of his own, though, Roland turned down the spot and David Fritts accepted it. That surprised the hell out of me, because while there can be no doubt that Fritts was once a tremendous tournament angler and innovator, he’s been an afterthought for many fishing fans in recent years. While he’s certainly not a newcomer to B.A.S.S., Fritts, who turns 60 next week, will be a most intriguing “rookie” and one whose results I will follow closely.
Based on his recent tournament results, you shouldn’t expect him to do well. He hasn’t made the Forrest Wood cup since 2013, and in five of the last eight FLW Tour seasons he fished (he sat out the 2011 campaign), he’s finished 94th or worse in the final standings. That would seem to indicate that he’s no longer likely to be competitive. If those seasons were the only items on his resume, you could bet with some certainty that he was going to get his butt kicked. But they’re not the only records for his performance, and he’s had some tremendous years previously. He’s fished every type of bass water the country offers, and while he’s especially good and especially prone to try one particular technique, he’s certainly aware of and skilled in many others.
Moreover, the hallmark of his career has been streakiness. With B.A.S.S., he had 11 top ten finishes in 1993 and 1994 alone, including wins at Logan Martin (1993 Classic), Buggs Island and Seminole. With FLW, he had three tour-level wins in 1997 alone – at Eufaula, Kentucky Lake and Lake Ferguson. Granted that was all two decades ago, but the raw material is there to get on that kind of roll. The question, to me, is whether he’s in good enough shape and has enough “want-to” to put himself through the rigors of the schedule – to be out there when it’s miserable, fishing in a way that he doesn’t necessarily care for.
Fritts has remade himself before. Around the time of his 1997-98 dominance with FLW, he transformed his eating habits to shed a substantial amount of weight and get in better fishing shape. It may have been done partially as a way to promote FLW sponsor KFC (someone correct me if I’m remembering this incorrectly), but the magazine made a big deal over the fact that he was eating lots of skinless broiled chicken and veggies. At some point, though, all the desire and lifestyle changes in the world may not be enough. I don’t think he will go down in flames, but if he does finish anywhere near the top of the heap it’ll be a huge story in our world, and hope for older anglers everywhere.