By Walker Smith

At tournament time, tight territory and too many anglers put extra pressure on the bass and on you as angler, but one professional angler has learned hard lessons on how to make the most fishing in crowds.

Professional anglers are the best in the world when it comes to overcoming adverse fishing conditions. Whether they are facing torrential winds, 6-foot swells or brutal cold fronts, these guys will put fish in the boat when many anglers will want to go to the house. There is one condition, however, that even the most accomplished professionals loathe: fishing in big crowds.

These anglers spend countless hours searching for bass fishing nirvana – perfect structure, great water conditions and limited fishing pressure. However, circumstances and, lately, restrictive tournament boundaries sometimes force the pros to get up close and personal with each other.

Megabass pro Aaron Martens is known for his ability to fish effectively in crowded areas. We all remember watching him battle it out with KVD in the 2011 Classic and most recently in the 2012 Green Bay Challenge, sharing water with the likes of Ott DeFoe, Terry Scroggins and Mark Davis. Martens believes that four key elements enable him to catch more bass in crowded areas.

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By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

Aside from winner Jonathon VanDam and a handful of other anglers, the Lake Michigan Elite Series was the first time many Elite pros had launched their boat at that particular Great Lake.

Once they all got their bearings on the big water, an old-fashioned clear-water smallmouth derby broke out with pros relying on the dropshot to catch a good portion of their fish. Other typical smallie techniques played as well, such as jerkbaits (both soft and hard) and topwaters. One angler even went the hair-jig route.

A commonality among the top finishers was most of their fish came out of less than 20 feet of water and in most cases, less than 10, as they found the fish either heading up to spawn or on their way out to the first deeper water after their annual ritual.

Here’s an overview of how the rest of the Top-5 finishers put fish in the boat.

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By Steve Wright

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Brandon Palaniuk appears to be the favorite going into the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Green Bay Challenge. Not only did he catch the biggest bag of the tournament so far, with 21 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday, he found a new hot spot at the end of the day.

And it’s not like Palaniuk needed it. He had about 20 pounds in the boat when he left the place he’d found late on the last day of practice and has expanded upon every day since. His three-day total is 56 pounds, 2 ounces.

“I ended up finding another spot,” said the 24-year-old Palaniuk, who is from Rathdrum, Idaho. “On my second cast there, I caught a four-pounder and I left, so whether or not there are any more fish there, I don’t know. But it’s definitely a spot I will hit tomorrow.”

Palaniuk led the youth movement that flipped the top four Saturday: Veterans Dean Rojas and Aaron Martens fell from first and second, respectively, to fourth and third. Youngsters Palaniuk and 23-year-old Jonathan VanDam jumped from fourth and third, respectively, to first and second.

In an event that due to limited tournament waters has made Lake Michigan fish incredibly small, Palaniuk and VanDam, the nephew of Kevin VanDam, have found areas that they’ve had virtually to themselves for three straight days.

Rojas and Martens, on the other hand, have caught their fish from the heavily pressured waters right at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ inexplicable boundary established north of Little Sturgeon Bay.

“I don’t know what to think anymore,” said 37-year-old Rojas, who led going into the day thanks to some help Friday from his friend Terry Scroggins. “I knew I could catch them the first day, but after what happened yesterday and what happened today, I don’t have any preconceived notion of what could happen tomorrow.”

Rojas, a 10-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, had only two bass in the boat about 1 p.m. Saturday when he resorted to some fish he had been able to see on Thursday.

“I had sight-fish leftover from the first day,” Rojas said. “I knew I could go to them.”

Rojas weighed, by far, his lightest limit of the tournament – 13-8 – Saturday. But he felt lucky to have that.

Martens also weighed his smallest limit of the tournament on Saturday – 16-1 – but it wasn’t that far off his 16-5 the day before. Martens had the only 20-pound bag of the event until Palaniuk and VanDam (20-12) came charging Saturday.

Martens, at least, sounds a bit more confident than Rojas.

“It’s possible their fish could move,” said the 39-year-old Martens, who has qualified for the Bassmaster Classic 13 times. “My fish could move, too. But I’ve got a ton of spots.”

The margin is miniscule between Palaniuk and VanDam – only four ounces. Martens is 3 pounds, 2 ounces behind Palaniuk and Rojas is 4-12 back.

VanDam should be considered a co-favorite going into Sunday, now that the only other angler in his area – his uncle – isn’t part of the final day field. Kevin VanDam, the seven-time Bassmaster Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year, finished 19th.

“I really only have one area,” Jonathan said. “But it’s a good-sized area and there are a lot of fish there.”

Outside of the top four, everyone else in the final 12 anglers is a long-shot Sunday. Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., is fifth, almost nine pounds behind Palaniuk, and he’s fishing in the Fox River, where a 20-pound-bag may be out of the question.

“If the wind came up, where they had a hard time fishing, or couldn’t get there, I’d have a real good shot,” Biffle said. “But other than that, I’m not catching the 20-pound stringers that they are.”

Amazingly, for the fourth straight day the wind isn’t predicted to blow Sunday on Lake Michigan.

It looks like two youngsters vs. two veterans for the $100,000 top prize in the Green Bay Challenge.

Bass Fishing Latest Sport to Join Sporting Trend

Dateline – Friday June 29, 2012 – Green Bay, Wis – After three events of the eight-event season Bassmaster Elite Series Angler AaronMartens was off to his worst season in his career. With finishes outside of the money in three consecutive events, the normally ultra-consistent Martens was in a tail spin and sat in 79th place in the season standings. That’s when it started. The normally baby-faced Martens showed up to the fourth event, Douglas Lake, with a new look – facial stubble.

The New York Islanders are credited for starting the hockey trend of growing beards during the playoffs.  Hall of Famer Denis Potvin says that the Islanders of the 1980s would “play four games in five nights in the first round and it was just something that kind of happened.” (a)

The hockey player facial hair trend is now practiced universally by hockey players from the high school ranks on up.

In late 1990’s the Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston and Larry Johnson led New York Knicks joined the beard hype. The beards led to several good playoff runs, but no world titles.

Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, in his first season, rallied his team from an average start of 7-5 and into the playoffs.  Sporting his playoff beard the second year pro secured pittsburgh’s fifth Superbowl victory. Following the game Roethlisberger was clean shaven by David Letterman on the late show.

In 2010, the San Francisco Giants were led by powerhouse closer Brian Wilson, who sported a deep black ZZ-Topstyle beard on the way to their World Series Championship.  Other players joined their “Fear the Beard” campaign during their playoff by also growing beards.

“It wasn’t in my mind to copy the hockey guys, the San Francisco Giants or any other athlete. It was more from my busy schedule and just not really taking the time to shave,” explained Martens.

Martens got off to a fantastic start on Douglas Lake. Holding the lead on day one and eventually finishing back in form in third place.

“After Douglas Lake everyone kept telling me, ‘It’s the beard’ and ‘it look’s good, keep it. So I kept it for the next event on Toledo Bend.”

Following the Douglas Lake event Martens continued on his move up the season standing with a solid 28th place finish on Toledo Bend.  “Two for two checks with facial hair, so I figured ‘if its not broken, why fix it.’”

Next up was the Mississippi River and a fifth place finish.

One week later, Green Bay, and Martens set the day one pace with 20 pounds of bass on a tough tight fishing event. “I don’t think I will be shaving the beard anytime soon,” Martens giggled.

It looks as though the latest trend in fishing isn’t the Alabama Rig, long lining or any other new technique – its facial hair.  Who’s next KVD, Skeet, Ike or Brody Broderick.

Trend setter or not, one thing is for sure, as Martens’ beard grows longer his season standings get higher. Currently he’s jumped to 14th for the 2012 season and is in solid position to make his fourteenth Bassmaster Classic.

a. Ian Walker, Montreal Gazette (2011-04-13). “The Playoff Beard Mystique”

By True Image Promotions

Will King Kong be next?

Story by Ken Duke, Bass Communications

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Bassmaster Elite Series event that was billed for months as the “Mystery Lake” tournament is still something of a mystery to many of the best bass anglers in the world. The 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Aaron Martens, leads the way at the Green Bay Challenge with a five-bass limit of smallmouth that weighed 20 pounds. His closest competition, Dean Rojas, is just two ounces back, but a third of the field is knotted between 11 and 14 pounds.

“Everyone’s basically fishing in the same area,” Martens said, describing a 3 or 4 mile stretch of Lake Michigan on the east side of the lake, not far from Little Sturgeon Bay. “I’m concerned that all the fishing pressure might affect the bite and make things tough tomorrow.”

David Walker, currently sixth with 17-13, estimated that there were as many 80 boats in a 3-mile section of the lake. “In places, the boats are just 50 feet apart.”

Though the anglers are customarily closed-mouthed in the early stages of a tournament, several commented that many of the bass being caught are bedding smallmouth between 5 and 10-feet deep. Soft plastic baits fished on jigheads and drop shots are doing most of the work, though jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are also accounting for some bass.

Apart from concerns about the action holding up under such intense fishing pressure, there are concerns about the weather. A change in wind direction on a massive water body like Lake Michigan can turn a pleasant boat ride into an unpleasant journey and a challenging ride into one you just can’t risk. With conflicting and frequently changing weather reports, it’ll be a game-time decision for each angler as to whether or not he can get back to his fish on Friday.

Japan’s Morizo Shimizu had the Carhartt big bass of the day, a 5-pound smallmouth. Unfortunately for the pro, it was one of just three keeper bass he scored today. His total catch weighed 12-12 and put him in 47th place.

In the Angler of the Year race, pre-tournament leader Brent Chapman weighed in 13-14 and ended the day in 33rd place. Todd Faircloth sacked a big limit weighing 18-3 and passed Chapman in the AOY race. He now leads with 572 points to Chapman’s 560.

First prize in the Green Bay Challenge is $100,000 and a berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. The pros also are fighting for points to earn a qualification for the 2013 Classic. Those near the top of the points standings are in contention for a postseason entry and the 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.

The Challenge will continue through Sunday at Metro Boat Launch in Green Bay. Takeoff is set for 6:15 a.m., and weigh-ins will begin at 3:15 p.m. The Bassmaster Elite Series Family Festival will open at noon on Saturday and Sunday.

All Bassmaster fan activities are free and open to the public.
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive daily coverage, including daily streaming of the weigh-ins as they happen, real-time leaderboards, photo galleries, results and standings. Saturday and Sunday, the Bassmaster Elite Series War Room will present updates from BASSTrakk, a catch reporting system relayed from the water, plus in-depth interviews and analysis.Hooked Up! segments will be presented Saturday and Sunday. Access is free to all Bassmaster.com pages and features.

Coverage of the Green Bay Challenge will air on ESPN2 on July 14 and on Aug. 5 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.