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ALPENA, Mich. – After a very long year of competing on the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament trail, Aaron Martens is a bit on the tired side and ready to return to his home and his family back in Alabama.
But not just yet.
Because in a year that saw him win the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year title for the second time in his sterling career, the Leeds, Ala., professional angler still has some unfinished business to take care of in Alpena, Mich.
By the end of the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2014 General Tire Summit Cup Championship Round on Grand Lake, Martens hopes that he will have figured out the smallmouth bass well enough to win the title.
If he does, winning the MLF title will allow Martens to cap one of the best years ever in his illustrious career.
Not to mention beating one of his biggest arch rivals in the sport, Kevin VanDam, in what is virtually KVD's very own back yard.
Earlier in this event, during his nail-biting sprint across the Sudden Death finish line, just milliseconds in front of Greg Hackney, Martens used his trademark finesse fishing style to vacuum up good numbers of smallmouth on Long Lake.
"Yeah, I did pretty good for one quarter," said Martens. "But the second quarter, I fumbled like 12 bites in a row, it was crazy. And that included some big ones too. Can't do that today."
One round ago, it was a quantity-over-quality kind of a day that propelled Martens into the Championship Round against VanDam, Hackney, Shaw Grigsby, Timmy Horton, and Brent Ehrler.
Will Martens - who finished second in the 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2011 Bassmaster Classic competitions - need to look for bigger fish if he is to upset the power-fishing VanDam on Grand Lake?
"I don't know, I don't know how many big fish there are on this lake," said Martens, the 2005 and 2013 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year.
"But you can win with numbers too on these lakes. It's hard to say, but the big ones, (if you find them), could be in schools. Like we've already seen on the first lake (Hubbard) where some of the guys got on schools of big fish."
Long Lake: 5,625 acres, 7.5 miles long, 1.5 miles wide, 23 miles of shoreline
Given what Martens has already accomplished in his career - one of the sport's best ever resumes with two AOY titles; six B.A.S.S. wins; 12 second-place finishes; 60 Top-10 finishes; and more than $2.1 million in career earnings - how important would it be for him to win the Summit Cup?And to beat that guy from Michigan?"Yeah, that one guy from Michigan, that VanDam guy?" Martens laughed. "Yeah, that would be really good. But it's not just that, I just want to win. I've got to keep that attitude and go out there and figure something out."
Figuring something out on Grand Lake would give Martens a huge win and plenty of reasons to keep smiling.
As well as finally earning some well deserved rest after a long and busy season.
While many weekend warriors would love to trade places with Martens for a few days, they might not be so eager after they see how long the hours are, how many weeks away from home there are, and how many short nights there are between tackle-prep sessions and pre-dawn boat launches.
It's a demanding grind for sure, but one that Martens dearly loves.
But it also is extremely taxing and something that the bass fishing superstar is ready to take a break from after the final is over.
"I've tortured myself the last couple of days (with fishing and staying up late prepping tackle)," said Martens. "And I've been away from my family for an extra week. So the only way to make it (all) worthwhile is to win it.
"That will make everybody happy, my family, my daughter, my son. I've already worked as hard as I can without killing myself. Now I've just got to go out and fish as hard as I can without killing myself."
“It's hard to say, but there could be some largemouths in this lake.”
Martens hopes to make the day easier on himself by making some good initial decisions about where and how to fish at Grand, hopefully getting off to a quick start.
"I may need to make adjustments pretty quick because they are probably not going to bite real good (at least early on) because of the heavy cloud cover," he said. "They might be a little off this morning."
A little off since smallmouths - especially up north - seem to bite best on sunny days.
Will that cause a change in the game plans for the Championship Round anglers?
"Maybe, there could be some guys who figure that out (that it's a slower smallmouth bite early on) and could go largemouth fishing and try to catch them good," said Martens. "It's hard to say, but there could be some largemouths in this lake."
Whichever species ends up being targeted, Martens is hopeful that he can pull off the Summit Cup win.
Because it would be yet another accomplishment in a career chock full of them.
And because it would help take the sting out of a bittersweet year that saw Martens experience the highest of highs in winning the 2013 AOY title and the lowest of lows in failing to win a tournament despite several agonizingly close finishes.
But a win in Alpena would make all such memories go away.
"I want to win an MLF event, one of these tournaments," said Martens. "It's only the fourth one, but it would be nice to win this one."
So is winning the perfect remedy for removing that sour taste in Martens' mouth of missing out on a B.A.S.S. win in 2013?
You bet. Because if Martens catches plenty of smallmouths on Grand Lake, beats KVD and the rest of the field, and claims his first ever Major League Fishing crown, there will be nothing but the sweet taste of success to end the year.
"This would bring back some of the sweetness (to winning) Angler of the Year," said Martens.
And it would cap a year that has fully affirmed that when it comes to professional bass fishing, Aaron Martens is one of the best pros to ever cast a line.
PLEASE NOTE: The Championship Round, that will air on Saturday, February 8, is a two-hour show and will start at 2 p.m. ET. One hour earlier than normal.
"Jack Link's Major League Fishing" Show Page