By Doug Grassian

LAKE GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Despite nearly relinquishing a 6-pound plus margin, Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., held on Sunday to score his fifth BASS victory — his first outside of the state of the California — at the Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville.

James Overstreet

Aaron Martens (1st, 107-8)

The 36-year-old West Coast product, who totaled 107 pounds, 8 ounces, nearly let victory slip away to hard-charging Skeet Reese, but in the end, his versatility brought home the $100,000 top prize.

The day started inauspiciously enough for Martens as his first spot — roughly a 10-foot area — was filled by a local boat. The 2005 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year ran to his next spot, only to encounter the same boat, which Martens said intentionally stirred up his area to make it virtually unfishable.

To boot, Martens struggled through the morning and wasn’t connecting with the same class of fish he had the first three days of competition. But Martens had developed two distinctly different patterns. His best, a Lucky Craft RC 2.5 deep-diving crankbait, was paired with a worm and provided Martens the one-two punch necessary to win a Bassmaster Elite Series event.

“I was tense all day. It was horrible,” said Martens, who has accumulated nearly $1.5 million in BASS career earnings. “I had to work really hard today. But this feels really good.”