Legacy of a Winner

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Roland Martin’sstoried tournament career is over, but he left some important fishing lessonsbehind

Every sport hasits superstars. They grow in stature during the course of their careers untilthey stand head and shoulders above the pack. None stands taller than RolandMartin, who announced his retirement from professional bass fishing inNovember.

Even at 65, Martinis an extra ordinary competitor. Yet he chose to retire from the sport after 35years because he became dissatisfied with his performance in recenttournaments.

“I’m a reallyproud person and I came to the conclusion that I can’t compete at the samelevel I used to,” says Martin. “My interests are changing now. I hadsome excellent hunting trips last fall and got a nice bull moose in Alaska anda big elk in Utah. I had some great fishing trips, too–just for the fun of it.I really enjoyed myself and I didn’t think about fishing in bass tournaments. Ijust felt like it was time to go.”


I first met Rolandin 1966, a year before Ray Scott held his first bass tournament and a few yearsbefore Roland began competing professionally. I had heard about the phenomenalyoung angler from a friend who had hired Roland as a guide on Lake SanteeCooper in South Carolina.

My wife, Gayle,and I joined Roland for a three-day fishing trip. He lived up to his billing:Though only in his mid-20s, he knew more about bass fishing than most seasonedveterans. The highlight of the trip was when Gayle hooked the biggest bass ofher life. The lunker burrowed down into weeds and wouldn’t budge. The weeds hadgrown up and covered the surface in places and were so thick we couldn’t getthe boat through them. Roland pondered the situation for a moment. “Don’tworry,” he said, “we’ll get that bass.” Then he took off his shoes,emptied his pockets and waded out into chest-deep water to retrieve thel0-pound-plus largemouth from the weeds.

At the end of thetrip, as we were bidding Roland goodbye, he told us that his parents had beenkilled two weeks before in a car crash in Belgium. Such was his ability toconcentrate on what he needed to do to get a job done. I thought to myself,this kid will go far in whatever direction he decides to take with hislife.

That he did.Roland went on to garner almost every accolade possible in professional bassfishing. Although he never won a Bassmaster Classic (he finished fourth in hisfirst Classic in 1971 and his last in 2003), he was an odds-on favorite to winin virtually every one for which he qualified. He’s a member of theProfessional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Freshwater Fishing Hallof Fame. Last year, bass tournament fans selected Roland as the second greatestbass professional of all time, behind Rick Clunn.


Through the years,Roland racked up his impressive tournament record while traveling around thecountry to and from events, filming a television series and keeping sponsorshappy by appearing in hundreds of fishing seminars.

I believe that hisability to maintain a winning edge despite all the distractions in his life canbe summed up under three headings.

MOTIVATION “I love fishing, whether I’m in a tournament or just fishing for the heckof it,” says Roland. Don’t we know it. Every time he utters an excited”Aww, SON, it’s a MONSTER!” when he hooks a bass during his televisionprogram, his enthusiasm is evident.

DETERMINATION “Everything I’ve ever tried, whether it’s hunting or fishing, I’ve willedmyself to do the best I could and not quit until time runs out. The next castis the one that counts.” As Gayle and I discovered many years ago, Roland’sdetermination to reach a goal sets him apart from most.

OBSERVATION “I pay attention to everything when I’m on the water: temperature, waveaction, light, water clarity, cover, structure. I’ve trained my self to reallyfocus on the surroundings.” A student of fish and fishing, Rolandtranslated what he saw and learned into a system we call “patternfishing” today. What it means is that if you can catch bass on a certainlure at a place where a variety of environmental conditions are prevalent, youshould be able to catch bass anywhere else on the river or lake that fits thesame pattern.

Motivation,determination and the ability to draw the right conclusions from what youobserve–many anglers share those traits, but something in Roland’s personamagnified them and elevated his skills to a higher level.

So now Roland isriding off into the sunset, though in a bass boat instead of astride a horse.But what a run he had.

Don’t expectRoland to sit on a porch somewhere, kicking back in a rocking chair. He willstill find time for his favorite hobbies–turkey hunting, tarpon fishing anddesigning fishing tackle among them. Doubtless Roland will remain a key figurein the fishing industry, as well as serve as an example to anglers who want toexcel, whether they’re fishing for fun or fame.

MARTIN BY THENUMBERS $225K in Merchandise Winnings 9 Angler of the Year Titles 279 Events Finished $785,000 in Cash Awards 185 Times In the Money 19 First-Place Finishes $54,000 in Tournament Bonus Cash 19 Second-Place Finishes 25 Times in Bassmaster Classic

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RolandMartin proved that some fishing approaches will work wherever the same set ofenviron men tal conditions prevails. Today, we know this technique as”pattern fishing.”