AARON MARTENS: ALL-STAR WEEK CHAMPION
Story and photos by Matt Pangrac
Decatur, IL – Over the course of the first two days of competition on Lake Shelbyville at Toyota Trucks All-Star Week in Decatur, Illinois, the 12 All-Star competitors battled the tough central Illinois fishery and combined to bring in a total of three five bass limits.
On Saturday, the field was whittled down to the top four anglers and the venue shifted to Lake Decatur. Only Edwin Evers managed a limit, boosting the grand total of limits crossing the stage over the first three days of competition to four.
It seemed to reason that when Aaron Martens and Edwin Evers launched their boats for the final round of competition Sunday morning on Lake Decatur, the first angler who managed to boat a limit of largemouth on the shallow water fishery would all but secure the title of All-Star Week Champion.
That wasn’t the case. Sunday turned into a shootout on Lake Decatur, as both Martens and Evers boxed a quality limit and left the outcome of the final Elite Series event of the 2012 season up in the air until the final bass hit the scales.
Martens was the first to weigh-in, exciting the capacity crowd gathered at Nelson Park on the shores of Lake Decatur with a limit weighing 13-8.
Evers, who again made the treacherous idle across an ultra-shallow sandbar and mud flat to access the deeper waters of the Sangamon River, pieced together an impressive limit of his own. In the end, Evers’ 12-4 effort on Sunday wasn’t enough, and Martens hoisted the All-Star Week trophy.
Toyota Trucks All-Star Week Champion: Aaron Martens (13-8)
Sunday on Lake Decatur: “Today, I covered a lot of good water and I tried to stay on the good stuff. Most of the areas had a little deeper water like riprap around bridges, deeper points, and little stretches of bank.
“The fish couldn’t see very well, and they would only move a foot or two to strike the bait. The strike zone was pretty small and I missed way more than I caught. I probably dumped seven or eight fish and four of them were definitely keepers. Almost all of the fish that I caught today were hooked on the back treble hook.”
Primary baits: “Almost all of my keepers came on a Bagley Balsa B1 crankbait. It displaces a lot of water which is really important when you’re fishing dirty water like Lake Decatur. It’s also made out of balsa, so the bait floats up and it’s light. You snag constantly out there, so most of the time the bait comes out of the snag when you shake it. I mainly used Chartreuse/Blue and Tennessee Shad.
“I also caught two keepers flipping a jig today.”
Primary pattern: “Yesterday, I really started keying in on certain banks. I ended up catching two of my bigger fish on shallow flats today, but I tried to target banks that had five feet of depth off of the bank. Most of the bites came in one to two feet of water.”
Key adjustment during All-Star Week: “During the first two days on Shelbyville, the wind made the water muddier and I didn’t figure out what I did wrong until the end of the second day. I was swimming a jig and the fish were missing it too much. When that happens, you really need to use a bait with treble hooks.
“I ended up throwing a crankbait a lot more on Lake Decatur because of what I learned on Shelbyville. Both days on Decatur, the fish were biting funny.”
Thoughts before Edwin Evers weighed-in: “It was scary up there because he had a few good ones in his bag. The close weights today made the victory sweeter because it wouldn’t have been as cool if I’d just blown it out. We both did really well for this lake for not having a lot of practice and not knowing the lake.”
Meaning behind the victory: “It’s awesome to win this. It’s been a few years since I’ve won one, so it’s sweet. I’ve had way too many second places, so the win is awesome.”
Edwin Evers: 2nd Place (12-4)
Sunday on Decatur: “With the drop in the water level, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get back in the river until I finally got over the big sand bar out there. After I did that, I realized that I was basically out of fuel.
“I thought that I had about 30 percent of gas in the tanks, but I guess that I was on a hill when I fueled up last night and I really didn’t have that much in there. The other big factor today was time. If I could have run in and out of the river instead if idling, I think that I would have won the tournament hands down. The fish were really biting when I had to leave, but I had to get out of there two and a half hours early to make sure that I got back.”
Primary Baits: “I spent most of the time flipping a jig and I caught two good ones on a Bomber Balsa Model B today in Chartreuse/Black.”
Primary Pattern: “Once I got up in the river, I keyed on shallow cover that was in the water – everything from trees to stumps to limbs.”
Decision to run the river: “When we came over to Decatur to practice, I caught three fishing the bank and then got up the river and had a few bites. The biggest thing was the unknown about how much the water would drop up there. It was really a guess – I saw the area on Google Earth and it looked good.”
Key adjustment during All-Star Week: “The thing that really keyed me in and got me to Lake Decatur was a bite that I actually had during practice on Lake Shelbyville. I was throwing an Xr50 in the middle of a pocket and had a keeper bite. On the first day at Shelbyville, my first bite of the morning also came on the rattle bait in the middle of a pocket. That really clued me in to what I needed to be doing.”