Last Dance with A-Mart

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Alan Clemons reminded me the other day that Takahiro Omori’s Classic win took place nearly 15 years ago, a lifetime in fishing terms. That was the first Classic I covered as a member of the media, a thousand or so articles and two thousand plus blog posts ago, yet it seems like yesterday.

I had the good fortune to ride along with Aaron Martens, the tournament’s bridesmaid, on the first day of that event, and while I had the opportunity to ride with several other anglers — including some future Hall of Famers — I feel particularly lucky that I ended up in A-Mart’s boat. I received numerous lessons that day, not the least of which was how to take a leak from a boat while a hundred people are watching you from a bridge, but also about fishing, and tactics and never to count out old lures. He used a horsey head, a scrounger and all sorts of things that I’m pretty sure no one else in the tournament had in their boats, or in their possession at all.

In the ensuing 15 years, I have written thousands of words about Aaron. I’ve also had the good fortune to fish with him — shoeless, by his demand. He is sui generis on the bass tour, and that is a welcome relief when you’re trying to come up with something new yourself. No canned answers, no topics off limits, no opinions withheld – that’s Aaron.

But, as I’m sure he doesn’t need reminding, he’s yet to win a Classic. Lake Wylie in 2004 was his fourth overall, and his second straight runner-up finish. The next year he’d make it an unfortunate threepeat. In 2011 he added a fourth. Despite three AOY titles — the honor that is generally most respected by his peers — he’s still widely known for what he hasn’t accomplished as opposed to what he has. That’s a shame, and while I’m sure he’s happy with the decision he’s made to leave B.A.S.S. for MLF, it saddens me that this may be his last chance to secure a Classic win.

I’ll be on the water watching, and while my profession doesn’t allow me to cheer for any particular angler, I’ll check for Aaron’s place in the standings each day. If he’s in contention to win going into Sunday, I’ll be sure to examine the rods on his deck carefully, and maybe even ask for a peek inside the rod locker. He never held anything back before, and at this point in time he has everything to gain.

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