Roland Martin Receives BASS Outstanding Achievement Award
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Since 2002, the Bassmaster Classic has provided the stage for BASS to present the BASS Outstanding Achievement Award. The crystal-and-gold trophy is awarded based on a member of the bass-fishing community's dedication and excellence in service to the sport.
This year, BASS legend and record holder Roland Martin received the award before thousands of cheering fans prior to the final day's weigh-in at the Classic. He joins Rick Clunn, who earned the first award in 2002, and BASS founder Ray Scott, who was recognized in 2003.
"I'm really overwhelmed to be in the company of Rick Clunn, one of the greatest fishermen and my all-time hero, and Ray Scott, the founder of BASS. I'll tell you what," Martin said, pointing out to the crowd, "I owe it to you and you and you."
The Florida pro has been making history since his first event, over 35 years ago, and continues to wow fans and fellow pros to this day. He is not unaware of the charmed quality of his career, which includes work as a television host and speaking and educational engagements around the world.
"How can this be?" he asked from the weigh-in stage. "It's such a perfect life."
He owns the record for most BASS victories – 19 – and Angler of the Year titles – nine. He has qualified for the Classic 25 times - second only to Clunn's record, 28 - but has not claimed the world championship of fishing. Martin fished 269 BASS events and, at age 64, shows no signs of slowing down.
"I have never met a man that was a credit to the BASS shield more than Roland Martin," said Scott. "He was a life member of BASS right out of the box. Roland is very dedicated to the sport and to BASS."
More than two decades ago, he received his first career achievement award, an induction into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. In recent years he has been inducted into the Pro Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame.
"I'd like to maybe win the Classic," he said, smiling.
Close friend and three-time Angler of the Year, Kevin VanDam has a lot of respect for the living legend.
"Roland has had one of the greatest careers in professional bass fishing," VanDam said. "Nine Angler of the Years is unprecedented. I've never met anyone that burns and has more passion and drive like Roland Martin. He is a competitor and is still doing it. He just burns to win. He's still like a kid about it."
Martin retired in 1992, but made his triumphant return only a year and a half later. He since has broken the $1 million mark in career BASS earnings and still fishes very competitively. He racked up a fourth-place finish in the 2003 Classic and finished second in the 2004 Tour event on Table Rock Lake.
Mercury's Verado outboard takes center stage
With each of the 53 Classic contenders' Triton boats equipped with a Verado outboard, Mercury is "seeing" its motor sponsorship rewarded.
"That is the single-biggest exposure, if you will, because it's on ESPN television and viewers are going to see these Mercury engines every day," said Jack Litjens, technical advisor and competitive intelligence manager for the Fond du Lac, Wis.-based motor company. "You really can't buy that kind of advertising.
"It's a big deal for us. We invested a lot of effort and money into this project."
The Verado, a supercharged four-stroke engine, is billed as the world's first fully integrated outboard-propulsion system.
"Verado is not just an outboard; it's a total system," Litjens said. "The steering is integrated to the engine. You have to purchase a special power-steering system for it. The shift and throttle are electronic, they're digital. So when you push down on the throttle, the response is instantaneous. There is no lag time."
If that all sounds confusing, Mercury offers a system deal, which includes a mini-laptop that is installed in the dash of the bass boat and "tells everything about that system you want to know," said Litjens, 57, an employee of Mercury - the official motor of BASS - for 34 years. Introduced in February, the Verado will be sold commercially soon.
"We have trained just about all boat builders to install them," Litjens said. "And now we're training all the dealers, because the dealers will be getting the engines sometime probably in the next month.
"It sounds difficult to install, but it's quite easy. In fact, the people who have rigged it say it is a lot easier to rig these than a conventional outboard." Since the Classic will be the first time many of its qualifiers will have used the Verado, Litjens agrees it may well be the most ideal testing he could ask for.
"We basically get their reaction from time to time ... and we write all this stuff down," he said. "When they pull up on the trailer, there's a guy standing there from Mercury with a clipboard saying, 'How did it perform?' There is a running checklist of each boat - the trolling motor, electronics, live well, even the bowline."
And with this kind of audience paying so much attention to the Verado, Litjens has one big wish: "A Mercury guy standing up there with the trophy at the end of the Classic saying, 'It was all because of that motor.'"
Dial in 'Legendary Lunkers' from Bassmaster Mobile
As Charlotte holds court as the epicenter of the bass fishing world this weekend, the first Bassmaster Mobile game, "Legendary Lunkers," was in the hands of fans at the Classic Expo - the annual industry exposition co-located each year with the Bassmaster Classic.
The bass-fishing game for wireless phones is currently available on Nextel phones and will be available on Alltel and Verizon within the next few weeks.
The first game developed as part of Mobile by BASS, ESPN Wireless and Dwango, "Legendary Lunkers" challenges virtual anglers to catch fish by actual tournament locales such as California's Clear Lake, South Carolina's Santee Cooper Reservoir and seven other blue-ribbon bodies of water. To create additional realism, the game downloads real-time weather conditions for the locale at the time of play.
"It's an enthralling game," said Nicole Knowles, vice president of communications and investor relations for Dwango. "Fans have been picking it up and playing it here at the expo, and they don't want to put it down. We're really proud that bass fishing fans are enjoying it."
In addition, the game features the "Cast 'n' Wait" system, a mobile gameplay breakthrough. "Cast 'n' Wait" emulates real fishing, surprising the player with a call back when a fish is biting. Players compete against other players' top scores in tournament mode or simply fish for fun in the recreational mode.
Fans looking to try their hand at wireless virtual angling can download "Legendary Lunkers" on Nextel for $5.99 and keep the game as long as they keep their phone. Prices will vary from carrier to carrier, but they will be similar to the $5.99 price point.