While the high-stakes tournament season officially kicked off earlier this month at the Toyota Series opener, the fireworks boomed for the first time last weekend. Quickly, we saw two incredible wins push 2024 into the record books.

Scott Martin’s Okeechobee blowout gets first nod. As I’ve declared several times in the past, B.A.S.S. couldn’t write a better script. Here’s the hometown hero, on his home lake, in front of his legendary family, taking the crown. Martin did so in wire-to-wire fashion, something once unheard of in pro fishing. The result was a record-breaking weight, finally surpassing the mark set by Byron Velvick over two decades earlier.

With the win, Martin secures a place in the 2025 Bassmaster Classic. He’d been vocal in the past about his desire to qualify for and win the Classic, something that has eluded him even through attempts on the Elite Series. Capping this all off was his father’s inability to win the big event, despite dominating the early years of B.A.S.S. competition.

This anomaly – the Classic trophy somehow never earning a place in a Martin household – is one of the greatest mysteries of organized bass fishing. Younger fans simply can’t begin to understand how dominant Roland was for nearly three decades. He often won several events a year. Add to that the fact that Roland appeared in 25 Bassmaster Classics without a win, and that he placed in the Top 10 on eight separate occasions, and the whole thing starts to feel like a jinx.

Fans know his son Scott from FLW success and a gigantic media presence. He’s been the poster child of modern professional bass fishing, literally. It’s as if Scott Martin has already won the Classic, his fame and following are so robust. But yet, no trophy.

On the MLF side, we watched one of the sport’s best again show off his stuff. Dustin Connell took down a traditional Texas fishery in untraditional ways, wielding finesse applications to master Toledo Bend.

Connell caught over 300 pounds of bass himself over four days, literally lapping much of the field, some twice. In the all-you-can-catch format, the Bass Pro Tour has built a handful of competitors simply at a level all their own. The names Connell, Wheeler, Shuffield and Jones, Jr. will get cycled many more times this year, believe me.

Both of these monumental victories showcased the talents of two of the greatest professional bass fishermen of the day. Both are far from rookies. Each has been through the recent changes in competitive fishing, from formats to formidable methods, and came out ahead.

What strikes me most about each of these champions and their recent wins are the unconventional methods they employed.

While Martin’s win may appear as a typical Florida approach on paper – light worms and ChatterBaits on isolated targets – it was far from routine. Martin painstakingly worked his areas utilizing forward-facing sonar. Remember, this is the same technology that many competitors and fans initially discounted as a deep-water, finesse technique. A niche thing.

Not so, as I stated from the beginning. Today, forward-facing sonar is already dominating the majority of bass fishing applications. The few techniques still unaffected by the scope have simply not been adapted effectively.

But what’s so interesting about this is the way that Martin used the technology to his advantage, rather than resist the change. Seems logical considering Martin’s hard-charging, proactive approach to his career. But it hasn’t been so easy for other veterans, convinced they can no longer beat the kids.

Connell, still a bit of a kid himself, embraced the technology from the beginning. Utilizing forward-facing sonar, Connell immediately set out to claim his place at the head of the table and never looked back. Remember, Connell won twice – back-to-back in 2022 to cap the season. I predict he’ll be a formidable adversary in the 2024 AOY race.

But even Connell, despite making it again look easy, worked his butt off for the win. He was vocal about pre-tournament prep. Rather than chase around golf balls or deer during the offseason, Connell stuck to his plan of continuing education in the forward-facing realm. Thousands of hours on the water have allowed Connell to develop a sixth sense with his electronics. His efficiency and casting is likely second to none. While others spend time getting better in the new world of bass fishing, Connell spends time weighing keepers.

Each of these two greats of the sport – Martin and Connell – recognized a new frontier in competitive fishing and instantly brought it into the fold. Like the old days of pitching into a bucket in the backyard or testing crankbaits in the pool, mastering the efficiency of the approach continues to be the key to big-money tournament fishing.

But what move will the sport’s best make once the others catch up?

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)