Finesse tactics at the Bassmaster Classic, according to Aaron Martens

In the minds of many anglers, the Red River that courses across northwestern Louisiana isn't a finesse-angler's venue. Instead, it's touted as a waterway suited for anglers who flip jigs and soft-plastic baits, or wield spinnerbaits and a variety of crankbaits.

But during the recent Bassmaster Classic at Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana, Aaron Martens of Leeds, Alabama, spent most of his time afloat brandishing  a finesse outfit.

In fact, one of Martens' fellow competitors, Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Oklahoma, said it was both a stellar and amazing sight to watch Martens allure an array of largemouth bass on February 25 in a backwater area called McDade. Roumbanis also confessed that he was somewhat distraught and depressed by watching Martens' wizardry with finesse tackle, and the reason for that was Roumbanis didn't have any finesse tackle in his boat. Thus he couldn't emulate Martens' methods.

The catch that Roumbanis watched Martens amass weighed 15 pounds, 11 ounces, and it propelled Martens' name from fourteenth to eighth place on the leader board. It put him five pounds, 13 ounces behind Chris Lane of Guntersville, Alabama, who was in first place.  What's more, Martens failed to boat a lunker that looked to weigh five pounds or more. If Martens had been able to boat that brute, he and Lane might have been neck-and-neck going into the third and last day of the event.

On the last day of the Classic, Martens  spent a lot of time  plying areas other than McDade. He was hoping to catch 20 pounds of largemouth bass that where in the midst or about to be in the midst of their spawning rituals and that hadn't been harassed by scores of other anglers. But to his dismay, those four-pound bass eluded him. His catch weighed only 11 pounds, one ounce, causing his name on the leader board to plummet to twelfth place. His total three-day catch weighed 40 pounds, 12 ounces, and Lane's winning three-day catch weighed 51 pounds, six ounces.

Travis Perret of Overland Park, Kansas, who was a member of the press corps at the Classic representing the Felix Fishing website and Finesse News Network, interviewed Martens after the final weigh in.

Martens told Perret that he worked with a drop-shot rig ninety percent of the time during all three days of the Classic, and all of the bass that he caught were allured on a drop-shot rig.

He wielded it on a Megabass Orochi F3-610DGS spinning rod. It's a six-foot, 10-inch rod, which Megabass created for Martens' many endeavors with a drop-shot rig and shaky-head jig. It's a medium-light power rod that exhibits what Martens calls astonishing sensitivity, allowing him to detect even the most tentative and subtle bites. It also allows him to determine the composition of the terrain or bottom that he is fishing, such as wood, sand, gravel, rocks or mud.

His spinning reel was a Shimano C3000 Stella that was spooled with eight-pound-test Sunline Super FC Sniper Fluorocarbon.

Martens used a double uni-knot to attach a 3/0 Roboworm Rebarb Gamakatsu hook to the line.  This hook has an O'Shaughnessy bend, which, according to Martens, does a better job of penetrating the flesh in a bass' mouth.

The sinker was situated five to six inches below the hook.  When the wind blew, which it did often, Martens used a 3/16-ounce tungsten, teardrop-shaped sinker, switching to an 1/8-ounce sinker when the wind wasn't blowing.

He affixed a  six-inch Straight Tail Roboworm in the Margarita Mutilator hue (SR-B296) to the 3/0 hook. It is a four-color worm: purple, black grape, blue neon and brown. It was rigged Texas-style.

Martens' primary focused was on stumps in two to eight feet of water.

He presented the drop-shot rig  by casting it adjacent to a stump. Once it settled on the bottom, he would shake the worm without moving the sinker, which was accomplished by working with the slack line between the tip of the rod and the surface of the river.  After he shook it for five to 10 seconds, he moved it by dragging the sinker across the bottom. Once it was in place after the drag, he began the slack-line shake without moving the sinker. He continued the shake-and-drag motif at each stump until the drop-shot rig was outside what he determined was a bass' strike zone

Three factors caused Martens to opt for a drop-shot rig. One was the water was relatively clear in the river's backwater areas where he was fishing. The second revolved around the fact that the backwater areas were being pummeled by scores of power anglers. The third was that the bass were starting to spawn.

In his mind, the drop-shot rig was  the most effective way to catch bass in situations like that, noting that it allowed him to entice the bass that other competitors were incapable of alluring with their power tactics.

Even though he used the drop-shot rig exclusively during the tournament, Martens thought that he and other competitors could have caught a goodly number of bass on a shaky-head jig, too.

Martens said that he saw only five of the 49 Classic participants wielding spinning rods. As he reflected upon the three days of competition, he surmised that more bass would have been caught if more anglers had utilized finesse methods rather than power tactics.  He also realized that he should have spent all three days in McDade, using a drop-shot rig.  He noted that he spent only half of his time in McDade, and when wasn't there, he struggled.

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