Pro bass angler got start with mackerel

Strange things happen here in Los Angeles. Still stranger things happen on the beaches of Malibu.
It is where Carol Martens used to take her three sons fishing. While the boys caught mackerel from the southern California pier, Carol would walk the famous surfing beach and enjoy the sun.
In the evening, she’d gather up her herd and head home.
Then one day, fate intervened. When she was picking up the boys, her youngest son, Aaron, hooked a spirited fish. Not wanting to leave quite yet, he handed the rod to his mother and implored, “C’mon, mom, reel it in.”
It may have been the smartest thing the 14-year-old ever did.
“It was so much fun reeling in that mackerel, that we decided to stay a few extra hours,” Carol remembered these many years later. “Then we began getting up at sunrise and fishing in the surf.
“We’d catch a halibut on every cast.”
Eventually, Carol and Aaron graduated from catching mackerel and halibut at Malibu to fishing for bass and crappies in the mountain reservoirs that supply water to Los Angeles. Famous bass lakes like Casitas, Castaic, and Pyramid.
Then fate intervened a second time.
“We had rented a small aluminum boat and motor at Casitas—the same day that a bass tournament was underway,” Carol recalled. “We watched the boats launching and the blast off and Aaron turned to me and said, “That is what I want to do.”
The die finally was cast a few weeks later when the Martens rented a boat up on Pyramid Lake, a small reservoir snuggled in the steep-sided mountains outside of the city.
“At $60 a day, it was getting expensive to rent boats all the time,” Carol noted. “And the wind was howling so hard and the water was so rough, I decided if Aaron and I were going to do this all the time, we needed a boat and motor of our own.”
So Gerry (Carol’s husband, who is a passionate back-packer and mountaineer having trekked around the world), Aaron, and Carol headed for the spring Sport Show in nearby Long Beach, looking for, as Carol recalled, “an aluminum cheapo for $3,000.”
They found a $30,000 bass boat instead.
“I am not a compulsive shopper,” Carol laughed, remembering the event as though it was yesterday. “But I saw this magnificent Ranger bass boat. I touched it, turned around, and said to Gerry, ‘I want it.’
“Gerry said, ‘You can’t have it.’ And we had a three-hour argument.
“Meanwhile, Aaron just stood there in shock. We’d never even been in bass boat before. We’d never even towed a boat. In fact, we didn’t even have a vehicle that could pull it.”
In the end, perseverance—and fate—won the day. The Martens owned their first boat, a shiny metal-flaked Ranger 388 with dual consoles pushed by 175 Mercury horses.
It was time for serious fishing.
“The first tournament Aaron and I ever entered was a West Coast Tournament event,” Carol said. “We finished third and cashed a cheque. We were ecstatic.
“Our first big win was at Casitas when we finished third. Then we got on a roll.”
A roll, indeed.
Gerry Martens remembers that when Carol and Aaron would walk through the door after a tournament, he wouldn’t even ask how they had fared. “I’d simply say, ‘How much money did you win this time?’” he recalled with a wide smile.
By 1994, Carol and Aaron Martens were winning everything in sight. That’s the year they captured Team of the Year honours on the Southern California W.O.N. Circuit, Team of the Year title on the North ABA (American Bass Association) trail, and Team of the Year in the W.O.N.dering Division.
But Carol said the most exciting day was when she and Aaron won the Tri-State (Arizona, New Mexico, and California) W.O.N. tournament on Lake Mead.
“It was the dead of summer and the temperature was 120 F every day of the tournament,” Carol recalled. “We won our first Ranger boat, motor, and trailer, and Aaron and I were on cloud nine.
“We sold it and split the winnings.”
By 1995, there was little left for the Martens to prove. So Aaron turned pro. It was a wise decision. He won three bass boats, motors, and trailers in three successive tournaments over a three-month period.
Then, in 2000, after rising to the top of the professional level in California, Aaron set his sights on the biggest prizes of all—the Bassmaster and FLW tournament trails.
“Gerry and I will never forget the B.A.S.S. event on Lake Mead,” Carol said. “We were on a business trip in Mexico and Aaron phoned us to say that he had won. He was only 28 years old and he was in shock.”
In the four years that Aaron has been a full-fledged touring pro, he has earned a berth to the BASSMASTER CLASSIC every single year. He finished eighth at Chicago, but would have been third had his watch not stopped (he was assessed a time penalty for weighing in late).
But he finished second at the 2002 Classic on Alabama’s Lay Lake, almost winning Bassingdom’s ultimate prize: the Classic crown and the million-dollar plus reward that goes with it.
Still, at only 32 years of age, and with more than $325,000 in career cash winnings, it is safe to say the best still lies ahead for the rising star. And when it happens, you can bet while he’s standing on the stage with all the television cameras rolling and the flash bulbs popping, Aaron Martens will remember the time on the pier at Malibu Beach when, as a 14-year old, he handed his fishing rod to his mother and said, “C’mon, mom, reel it in.”
I wouldn’t even be surprised if the first words he utters into the microphone are “holy mackerel.”

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