It’s no secret that sport fishing is big business in Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the industry has an $8.7 billion impact on the economy and supports more than 80,000 jobs. It’s also a business that relies heavily on the environment. Enthusiasts like Roland Martin know their passion depends on a healthy ecosystem, which is why he has long been an advocate for catch-and-release. “I don’t keep trophy fish for the simple reason that you don’t want to eliminate them from the ecosystem,” he says.
We spent a day with Martin out in his natural habitat. Click here to read about the legendary fisherman’s life on the water.
Most fishermen today are conservationists who understand this reasoning, but back in 1971, Martin made waves with his beliefs. He was a guest on The Fishin’ Hole—the television show of fellow fishing legend Jerry McKinnis—when the two caught, and then released, two 10-pound lunkers. Some viewers were incensed, while others applauded the move. Martin simply chalked it up to common sense—and shortly after, B.A.S.S. held its first-ever catch-and-release tournament, the 1972 Florida National on Lake Kissimmee, instilling a doctrine that nearly every bass fisherman follows to this day.
Fishing with the President
Over the years, Martin has been honored with the opportunity to fish with a number of the nation’s top office holder, the President of the United States. “One time I was invited to come film a segment at President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford just before his last election. It was a way to show the American public that he’s a sportsman, that he likes to fish,” said Martin.
Filming the segment over three days on the ranch’s lake, they targeted man-made structures called FAD (fish aggregating devices) that the president and his ranch manager created to attract fish. “President Bush is quite a good fisherman,” said Martin. “He says ‘we got these FADs in the Southeast Sector, lets go over there.’ Sure enough there are a bunch of fish, so we’re catching them, filming, and talking about the FADs. It was a good film; he catches about a five-pound bass.”
Later that year, Martin and his wife Judy was invited to President’s annual holiday party—the film sessions were done in April. In the meantime, the president had landed a real lunker on the lake. “So I’m standing in line waiting to say hello and shake the president’s hand; there are like 300 people in line. When I get up, I said your ranch manager said you caught a big giant bass. And he said, ‘Yeah, it was 8 14. I caught on a FAD in the Southwest Sector. I got it on a Senko, about 8 to 12 foot…’” Martin laughs. “And all these people in the line are like, what the hell are they talking about. Southwest Sector and FAD, they’re talking about some important secret missile talk.”
Pattern Fishing & Crankbait
Martin made a career utilizing pattern fishing, a technique that recognizes the pattern of water conditions that attracts fish to particular spots in a body of water. This keen perceptiveness led Martin to take risks where many fisherman wouldn’t dare in those heady days of Bassmaster. On the tour, he was known for shallow cranking technique, a technique that takes skill, targeting shallow water that is often rife with debris and structure. He helped pioneer the technique on the tour in the 1970s, even helping design lures sold on the market, a practice that he still continues, with lures like SPRO’s Aruku Shad designed to his specs.
Using crankbaits to catch big bass from coast to coast, north and south, Martin points to their versatility as the reason to use these lures, which dive and mimic a baitfish’s natural tendencies. Here are some of Martin’s tips to properly crankbait fish:
- Keep an eye on water temperature. Martin says bass tend to be more aggressive in warmer water, especially during pre-spawn as female bass began to migrate toward spawning areas. Bass feed heavily before spawning, and as the water temperatures warm, bass began targeting more protein rich foods, i.e. baitfish. During pre-spawn, target ledges, shallow timber, and brushy areas.
- Crankbait work best in slightly turbid water, where clarity is a bit limited. Bass rely on instinct when the water is not crystal clear.
- The longer the poll, the longer the cast. The bigger pole allows the fisherman to get to deeper water, covering more ground, targeting more fish. The heavier pole, and heavier line, also allows the fisherman to set the hook a bit better at a longer distance.
The Plastic Worm
You’ve seen them; those wriggly little plastic lures that resemble worms. Among the most versatile lures in the bass bait world, Martin points to their “weedless and snagless” qualities as to why they catch so many lunkers. Fished at depth and in the shallows, at high speed or low, and jigged, cast, trolled, or floated, the fishing opportunities are endless. Martin’s go-to bait, Gary Yamamoto’s Senko; seen above, the 3.5″ through 5.5″ Swimming Senko.
A tackle box must, fishing with a jig is one of the best ways to land a fish, in both fresh and salt water. While they come in all shapes and sizes, Martin is pretty specific when it comes to his pick:
“The easiest way to catch a fish is with a jig. Everything will bite a jig,” he says. “Any color will work, as long as it’s white. I like white.”
Want to go pro? The pro of pros, Roland Martin, has two bits of advice for aspiring pro fishermen out there:
“One is you guide. You are on chopping block everyday, you have to produce to make it. If you aren’t catching anything and your clients aren’t happy, you’re done.
The other way to really learn about fishing, is fishing freshwater bass tournaments. There are 200 to 300 guys fishing the same area, so you really have to be the best to catch the most fish and the biggest fish. It’s the most intensive thing you can possibly do.”