National Guard pro mounts last-minute charge to win at Okeechobee
OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – If there is one thing Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., has wanted in his fishing career more than anything else, it’s been to win a major event on his home lake at Lake Okeechobee.
He’s been close. There was a second place finish. A fourth place. A seventh place, eighth place and ninth place – all in FLW or BASS competition – but never a first.
That all changed today when Martin came from behind to take advantage of a major stumble from three-day leader John Cox.
Cox carried nearly an 11-pound lead into the final day. At weigh-in, Martin brought 20 pounds, 3 ounces to the scales for a four-day total of 71-9; Cox brought just 7 pounds, 5 ounces for a four-day total of 69-6. In the end, Martin clipped him by 2-pounds, 3 ounces for victory.
"This is surreal," said Martin, who collected $50,000 for the win. "It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been on Tour 11 years and had plenty of opportunities to win here and could never get it done. To seal it today here in front of all my friends and family is really, really special. This puts me at ease knowing I can compete at this level on this lake."
From the beginning of the event, Martin led his targeted win like a marksman leading a clay pigeon. And today he pulled the trigger to hit his mark.
"One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned here after getting beat in the past is that sight-fishing will eventually burn you in multiple-day events on this lake," Martin said.
Martin contends that sight-fishing is double trouble. For one, it’s way too easy to get bogged down on a big fish or two, wasting a day on fish that just burn up the clock and then leave.
"I made that mistake twice last year and swore I’d never do it again," he explained.
Second, continually taking nest-guarding males from a productive fishing area day after day removes the incentive for new females to move into the area.
"Colonies of nesting males on this lake are the very things that attract females to an area," Martin explained. "Take the males and the females move on elsewhere."
With that knowledge in the back of his mind, Martin set a tournament-winning strategy that revolved around catching big females early in the morning on soft-plastic topwaters and swimbaits.
"For about an hour, right at first light, those big females in those nesting areas will crush anything that comes around them," Martin explained. "But once the sun gets up, they lock on the beds and become uninterested in eating.
"Don’t get me wrong, I did sight-fish some, especially yesterday when I missed a bunch of big bites in my morning feeding window and had to resort to catching males off the bed, but there was a method to my madness – I was very selective in leaving males in certain places with hopes that they would keep pulling in females."
When today dawned cloudy and windy with an approaching front, Martin’s long-term strategy finally paid off. While other sight-fishing pros were running out of fish and had the "lights" turned off from dark clouds and wind, Martin’s big females were thrashing his topwater plastics reeled over the surface. He had led his target perfectly.
All week Martin focused on the West and East Walls of Okeechobee and the Rita Island area. He targeted the thickest Kissimmee grass he could find knowing that the more open fields would get depleted by other competitors.
His main weapons were both a Lake Fork Live Magic Shad (watermelon red) and a Reaction Innovations Trixie Shark (junebug). Both soft plastics were impaled on a large 7/0 Trokar hook, tied to 65-pound test Lake Fork Hybrid Braid and cast on a 7-foot, 6-inch Kistler Helium extra heavy action rod.
When he did sight fish, Martin used a Lake Fork Baby Hyperfreak creature bait (white) teamed with a tungsten ½-ounce weight. He tied it to 20-pound test Lake Fork FHP (Fluoro-Hybrid Pro).
Martin also credited his double Power-Pole system for his success this week.
"There’s no way I would have won without the twin Power-Poles," he said. "Being able to stop your boat and hold its position at any angle in any wind is an advantage that’s unbeatable. I can’t tell you how many more fish I catch because I can stop on dime and fish a hole, or a bed or where a fish just blew up without drifting all on top of the spot or having to blow the area out with my trolling motor and spook the fish. Power-Poles are a must have in my book."
In all this is Martin’s fourth major FLW title. His other wins include two FLW Tour titles on Lake Champlain and one on the Mobile Delta.