In the Beginning – Mother and SonIn the Beginning – Mother and Son Learn how Aaron Martens got into tournament fishing....from his MOM!
By Carol Martens
The question I’m asked most often by people is, “How did you and Aaron get started fishing?” That question is not easily answered in a few sentences. When I do share our story, I always hope it inspires family members to take their kids fishing and grow our sport.
As a native Californian, I grew up a surfer girl (without a board) and spent most of my free time at Santa Monica and Malibu Beach. Some of my part time jobs while in high school were working part-time at a cafeteria, a department store and modeling wedding dresses on the sidewalk in Santa Monica. It was at the cafeteria where I picked up (I mean met) my husband, Jerry.
We were married after I graduated high school. Jerry came to California from Chicago on a vacation but fell in love with me and the great state of California. He stayed. We had two boys, Brian and Chris, in the early 60’s. Aaron came along in the 70’s. Because our family always preferred being in the outdoors, we took hiking and camping trips every year. The only fishing we ever did was trout fishing in the Sierras. That was usually just to past time while Jerry was solo hiking for a day or two. In those days we didn’t really have the fishing equipment needed for back packing like what is available now!
In the mid 80’s the boys discovered fishing on Malibu Pier while I enjoyed sunbathing below on the beach. One day after a long afternoon on the beach, I picked up my things and headed for the end of the pier to get the boys. They wouldn’t budge. The bite was on and nothing I said would get them to stop reeling in the mackerel.
Aaron hooked another one and asked me to reel it in and I exclaimed, “No!” In spite of my protests, he insisted, and after I brought in the fish I thought that fishing was a lot of fun. We fished that evening until they threw us off the pier. I was officially hooked on the fun of fishing.
From that day forward, motto has been Keep Fishing Fun. I like to think that’s where the term Holy Mackerel came from because that one fish changed my life. From then on we fished everything we could find like golf course ponds, private lakes, rivers, aqueducts and bank fishing on local lakes. We were so addicted we imagined there were bass in mud puddles! We eventually rented boats on our local lakes so we could improve our fish catching odds and not be land locked.
We fished both freshwater and saltwater locations for years. There were many mornings Aaron and I took off for Malibu in the early morning and fished on shore for halibut and corbinas. Sometimes the halibut were all around our feet and it was a bite every cast. We even bought a two man rubber boat and went out in the kelp beds in Santa Barbara to catch calico bass. One of the greatest memories was late 80’s when Aaron and I took my Toyota Supra, rubber boat tied on top, our Maltese dog Eddie and went car camping for ten days. We fished every river, stream and lake from one end of the Sierras to the other. We waded, floated and rock hopped for 10 days catching and releasing everything except dinner. I’m sure that trip helped improve our skills.
We had to locate the fish and figure out how to catch them. Our casting and finesse fish-fighting skills greatly improved along with our patience. Patience played a large part in our early fishing experiences. It’s common to get your lines tangled together by casting over each other, especially when there’s a current. Getting snagged and breaking off is a regular occurrence and some people just can’t handle it.
One early morning in the mid 80’s, we rented a small boat on Lake Casitas. We were just getting ready to take off when a bunch of fancy bass boats took off leaving us in their wake! While our boat was still rocking, Aaron looked at me with the rising sun behind him and said, “Mom, that’s what I want to do!” I didn’t realize the magnitude of what he said, but soon after that we decided we needed our own boat.
We convinced my husband we needed our own boat because the rentals were too expensive and dangerous when the winds and waves came up. Besides, the bite would always get good when we had to take the rental back! We promised it could be a cheap boat. Ha! So in ’87, the three of us went to the Fred Hall show in Long Beach and the first boat I saw was a brand new 18-foot Ranger/Mercury package with black gel coat, silver flake and candy apple red pin stripe. I walked around it and ran my hand down the gunnel and said to my husband, “I want this boat.” He said, “You can’t have it.” A 3-hour battle ensued while we walked around the show.
Aaron silently followed us with his hands mostly in a prayer position. His prayers were answered when we returned to the dealership and bought the boat! That was almost 30 years ago! Short story: While I was at the Bassmaster Classic in March, I interviewed Bassmaster Elite angler John Crews. John informed me that Rick Hawkins is one of his best friends. Rick sold us our first boat in Long Beach. He went out with us the first day and taught us what we needed to know about towing, launching and driving the boat! It’s a day Aaron and I will never forget.
One of the first things we did with our new boat was go to a tournament and observe how they work. We also joined a local bass club and fished tournaments with them for a few years. Aaron was the captain of our boat and I always drove the car. He didn’t want or have a driver’s license until he was 18. He had me convinced it was harder to do the boat. Ya sure! Around 1990 we joined a couple of team circuits and began getting trophies and checks most of the time. Soon we were fishing up to three circuits at once and even got Anglers of the Year three times in one year. We won our first boat in the Tri States on Lake Mead in 1994. By 2000, we had so many trophies and plaques in our home that it looked like a shrine. When Aaron decided to go pro around 1995 with his own new boat, I went pro as well and eventually got a new boat of my own. It's still in our family.
From the beginning, we always took care of our boats and equipment, and we took our fishing seriously. We watched all the fishing shows and many times Aaron would say things like, “I want to be the youngest angler to win the Classic!”
To date, he has fished 17 Bassmaster Classics and holds the record for four second place finishes and got a third place finish this year. Winning the Classic is the one thing he hasn’t achieved yet. When he wins the Classic, he won’t be the youngest and hopefully he won’t be the oldest!
In future articles, I’ll give you more details on how we secured sponsorships, handled finances and shared tackle recommendations. I also like to share funny, weird and meaningful stories about the anglers that will help you know them better and what makes them tick. My ultimate goal is to “Keep fishing fun!”
Grow your fishing skills and improve your angling effectiveness.
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