30.Jun.2013 by Brett Carlson
DAYTON, Tenn. – Casey Martin led the opening day of the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour season with a 26-pound, 12-ounce Lake Okeechobee stringer. Fittingly, he closed the regular season by winning with a 30-pound final-day stringer. Between the bookends was a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. The ride ended Sunday at Lake Chickamauga with one of the most dominating victories in FLW Tour history.
When Martin arrived in Dayton, he was solely focused on trying to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup. The odds were against him as the New Market, Ala., pro entered the tournament 54th in the standings. That meant Martin would have to make the top-10 and receive some help from others above him.
On day three of practice he located three schools of bass, one of which was loaded with fish and completely lit up his Lowrance unit with white dots (which indicate fish). The spot was a shell-ridden ledge with 15 feet of water on top and 25 feet on the bottom. But as boat No. 76, Martin was beaten to the spot the first morning by Mark Rose. With Rose’s permission, Martin fished alongside as the two whacked giant stringers. Two other anglers joined, but only Martin made the top-20 cutoff. That third day was the pivotal one.
“I thought the mega-school was gone and I almost left,” recalled Martin. “Then I idled around one more time to see if they were still on the graph and they were. So I adjusted and switched to a spinning rod and a drop-shot.”
Not only did Martin re-ignite the school, he was able to lay off his big-fish spot and have something in his back pocket for the final day. In the weeks leading up to the event, the Canadian-born pro practiced on Lake Guntersville near his house. The two TVA lakes fish similarly and Martin was prepared for the day-three curveball.
“Not only did I look for the same stuff, but I checked on how the schools reacted to different baits on consecutive days. I knew about the drop-shot coming in because my girlfriend Lindsey would throw one out of the back of the boat.”
Martin’s patience with the big-fish spot paid dividends Sunday as he was fishless on his primary area an hour into the day.
“Both spots were within sight of each other in Harrison Bay. I was struggling on the mega-school and I saw a local start to go over to the big-fish spot. I was thinking about leaving anyway, but that really forced my hand.”
On his third cast he tied into twin 5-pounders, but one came off at the boat. From there, the crush session was on. An 8-pound, 5-ounce giant, his biggest fish of the week, bit just before 9 a.m. and he had his limit around 11. The final tally of 30 pounds, 1 ounce is astonishing, even for Chickamauga, but especially for late June.
Martin’s four-day total weight of 103 pounds, 3 ounces, is second all time in FLW Tour history as is his 22-pound, 11-ounce margin of victory. The only thing he didn’t do was give the sizeable and raucous Dayton crowd a hometown winner.
“It’s been a crazy year. I didn’t even think I would make the Cup. It went from an average year to an unbelievable year pretty quick.”
Martin caught most of his fish this week on a Picasso Bait Ball Extreme tipped with either Gene Larew Sweet Swimmers or Zoom Swimmin Super Fluke Juniors (albino color) on top and either Strike King Shadalicious (blue gizzard color) or Basstrix swimbaits on bottom. While Martin had 13 swimbaits connected to his rig, only the bigger three on bottom had hooks, per Tennessee rules.
Yesterday’s drop-shot rig consisted of a 3/8-ounce weight, a green pumpkin- or morning-dawn colored Roboworm on 10-pound-test Seaguar Invizx line with a 15-inch leader. Martin also caught fish this week on a 3/4-ounce Omega football jig (Ozark special color) and a Strike King 10XD crankbait (sexy blueback herring color).
“People can say it’s just another Alabama rig win but those fish wouldn’t touch it on day three. But today it caught all my fish. Twelve of the 20 bass I weighed this week came on it.”
Martin has been featured all year in a Youtube reality series titled “Circuit Breaker.” The Grand Lake episode will be out shortly and fans won’t want to miss the Chickamauga finale.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d win one in my rookie year. I know how good these guys are.”
Martin’s $125,000 win was the fourth, and by far the biggest, win of his career.
“Coming into this event, I didn’t even know if I’d be back next year. I wanted to, but it’s expensive. So this is huge; I’ll definitely be back.”
He’ll also be one of the 35 pros from FLW Tour at the upcoming Forrest Wood Cup on the Red River.