By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
A single day of utter dominance and some solid fishing the rest of the way proved to be just enough to put Scott Martin in the winner's circle at the Potomac River FLW Tour Major.
The reigning Forrest Wood Cup champion from Florida snatched a lead of nearly 4 1/2 pounds on day 1, then watched his advantage dwindle on each of the remaining 3 days. Nobody was able to erase it entirely, however, and he ended up prevailing by 3 ounces over National Guard teammate Justin Lucas in the derby held just outside the nation's capital.
The fifth Tour win of his career moved him up to 2nd in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race and 5th in the BassFan World Rankings. It marked his fifth finish of 17th or better in eight outings dating back to his Cup triumph last August.
Here's how he did it.
There's far less aquatic grass than usual dotting the Potomac right now, but Martin nonetheless felt that the winner on the tidal fishery would emerge from the milfoil beds.
"After being there last year, I saw that I was going to have to be in the grass to do well, and obviously grass is what I enjoy fishing the most," he said. "I focused on some of the big flats and thought that the cold weather they'd had several weeks ago might have held some of the fish back a little bit, and that the schools of bigger fish would be in the grassbeds.
"I picked out two areas that had good concentrations of fish that I knew would be fished by a lot of people, then I also wanted to find a few places off the beaten path that I could hit at optimal times during the day and catch a few key fish."
> Day 1: 5, 22-10
> Day 2: 5, 15-01
> Day 3: 5, 15-04
> Day 4: 5, 13-07
> Total = 20, 66-06
The 145-angler field encountered the highest tide of the day during the initial hours, and Martin elected to begin each day on a bed to the north of the launch in National Harbor, Md. He primarily threw moving baits there.
As the tide fell, he'd relocate about 20 miles to the south and pull out a flipping stick.
"For flipping grass, I like the last 2 hours of low tide and the first 2 hours of incoming," he said. "Some people like it higher, but for me, it's easier to anticipate where the fish are going to be when it's low. When it's high, they seem to spread out a little more."
He had about 16 pounds in his livewell when he went south on day 1 and managed to cull up by more than 6 pounds during the remainder of the day to compile a massive sack that was the best of the tournament by far. A couple of his best fish came from the northern locale.
"I was boat (No.) 141 the first day and by the time I got there, there were 20 other tournament anglers in the area. I stopped on the outside, which is where I wanted to fish anyway, and in hindsight, all those people being there worked to my advantage.
"If I'd gotten there first, then they would've been stopping outside of me, but I think all the pressure in there and the noise of the trolling motors and livewells and depthfinders pushed some of the fish out. I caught that 5-11 on the outside, then I circled all the way around to the other side of the armada and caught another 5-pounder."
Martin took a big lead on day 1 and the field could never catch up.
He made his jaunt to the south at about 11:00 that day. On day 2 he waited until noon, and he left at 9:00 on each of the final 2 days.
The southern areas, in the vicinity of Aquia Creek and Potomac Creek, featured much thicker grass. He had success there flipping a Bruiser Baits Paddle Tail.
"I couldn't get bites on that up north, but for flipping, it was great," he said. "I caught a lot of fish down there doing that."
In his northern locale, he threw a ChatterBait with a Bruiser Baits Crazy Craw trailer and then would "mop up" afterward with a Bruiser Baits Stick Worm.
He said his weigh-in fish were split roughly half and half between the northern and southern locales.
Winning Gear Notes
> ChatterBait gear: 7' medium-heavy Okuma Helios rod, Okuma Helios casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 17-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait (black/blue), Bruiser Baits Crazy Craw trailer (black/blue).
> Worm gear: Same rod and reel, 12-pound XPS fluorocarbon, 1/8-ounce River2Sea tungsten weight, 4/0 Lazer TroKar straight-shank worm hook with plastic baitkeeper, 5" Bruiser Baits Stick Worm (black/blue or watermelon-red).
> He said the straight-shank hook was important because it allowed the hook to stay clean. "A hook with a 90-degree bend would've been picking up a bunch of that black moss off the bottom."
> Flipping gear: 7'6" heavy-action Okuma Helios flipping stick, Okuma Komodo casting reel (7.3:1 ratio), 17-pound XPS fluorocarbon, 3/16- or 1/4-ounce River2Sea tungsten weight, 3/0 straight-shank Lazer TroKar flipping hook, Bruiser Baits Paddle Tail (junebug).
> "The River2Sea weights are wider around than other brands of that size I've used in the past," he said. "They matched the diameter of the bait perfectly and there wasn't a big hunk of plastic sticking out around the outside of it, and that make it more weedless."
> He added that the sensitivity of the Okuma rods played a big role in detecting extremely light bites and that his Zeko shoes kept his feet comfortable throughout the long tournament days. "That might sound corny, but it's important when you're on your feet trying to grind it out every day. If your feet aren't comfortable, then your back can start hurting."
> "My Numa optics were a very important factor in my win. Simply put, the superior polarization allowed me to see the submerged milfoil beds better for precise pitches."
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success "Paying attention to the pressure in my areas and making adjustments accordingly. Whether it was locals or tournament anglers, a lot of guys would Power-Pole down and stay on their own little 10-yard stretch all day. I moved around and paid attention to the pressure, and I got two of my big fish on the first day because of that."
> Performance edge "The GPS in my Garmin electronics is so accurate that I could save a waypoint in a high-water spot where I couldn't see the grass, but I could tell it was a little thicker there because I could feel it with the ChatterBait. Also, the twin Power-Poles allowed me to stay in perfect position to cast, and I know that resulted in several extra fish."
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