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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?
It was a picture you see on postcards or the cover of a chamber of commerce booklet. With the sun rising behind some hazy fog over the eastern shoreline of the Bay of Green Bay, Lake Michigan was as still as a mirror on a wall.
It was an unexpected treat for the 98 anglers who launched out of Green Bay, Wis., today for the opening day of the Lake Michigan Bassmaster Elite Series. As expected, many of them took full advantage of the slick, calm conditions to run to the northern edge of the fishable portion of the Bay.
Aaron Martens, on a recent surge up the Toyota Tundra B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year (AOY) standings, has set the early pace with a 20-00 stringer. He holds a slim lead over Dean Rojas, who caught 19-14.
Aaron Martens of Leeds, Alabama hauled in 20 pounds of fish and sits atop the leaderboard going in to competition Friday. Martens said it felt good to be in the lead, but was cautious not to celebrate too early.
“It feels good, this is first day though,” Martens said. “I like Wisconsin a lot, I like the fishing up here, it suits my style well. I love the clear water, I love small mouth fish and I love the way the weather was today. We didn’t have any wind and I’m hoping we get two days like that.”
Aaron Martens stroked 20 pounds of smallmouth bass today (June 28) to take the first-day lead in the Bassmaster Elite Series stop on Lake Michigan.
Only 2 ounces back is Dean Rojas, and Martens said the lake is fishing small.
“Everyone’s basically fishing in the same area,” Martens said, describing a three- or four-mile stretch of Lake Michigan on the west side of the lake, not far from Green Bay’s Sand Bay. “I’m concerned that all the fishing pressure might affect the bite and make things tough tomorrow.”
The primary reason for the anglers knotting up is a ruling by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that pros were limited to fishing a maximum of 20 miles from launch.
David Walker, currently sixth with 17-13, estimated that there were as many 80 boats in a three-mile section of the lake.
“In places, the boats are just 50 feet apart.”
Texas’ Todd Faircloth, fresh off a win during last weekend’s stop on Wisconsin’s Mississippi River was in third with 18-03. Idaho’s Brandon Palaniuk was in fourth with 18 pounds, and Matt Herren of Alabama was in fifth with 17-14.
Gonzales’ Greg Hackney goes into the second day of competition in ninth place with 17 pounds.
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. Faircloth’s big limit allowed him to pass Chapman in the AOY race. He now leads with 572 points to Chapman’s 560.
First prize in the Elite Series event 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 Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
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 Sand Bay. “I’m concerned that all the fishing pressure might affect the bite and make things tough tomorrow.”