Aaron Martens joins the elite ranks of three-time WON BASS U.S. Open winners
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Until this U.S. Open officially ended on Wednesday evening, there had only been one legendary angler who had ever managed to win not one, not two, but three Open tournaments over the course of his fishing career, and that man was none other than Mike Folkestad. After this week's tournament, however, Folkestad isn't the only member of the three-peat club, as Aaron Martens emerged victorious in this year's Open; besting a large field of 224 anglers.
It was almost as if it was a foregone conclusion, with Martens bringing the biggest bag of the three-day tournament - 12.89 pounds - to the scales during the first day of competition. Even Pro John Morrow said, "You watch... This will be Martens' tournament."
As it turns out, Morrow couldn't have been more accurate in his assessment, as Martens took the trophy, $39,000-plus in cash, and a brand-new, fully-rigged Nitro Z-8 for bringing a combined 33.11 pounds of fish to the scales over the course of the grueling three-day event.
Martens' victory was no doubt aided significantly by his day-one partner, 13-year-old Carson Sims of Texas. Carson not only had a 4.4-pound fish, but he also caught a 3 1/2 pounder to supplement the quality limit. In fact, he was partnered up with third-place finisher Shawn Lee on day one, and thanks to another heavy bag, Carson rested comfortably in fourth place amongst his fellow AAA's going into the third, and final fishing day.
Unfortunately, there were some boat problems on day three and things didn't go as well as they might have gone for Sims. Carson only got one bite for the day, dropping him out of the money. But as a testament to the character of the young (yet unbelievably mature) angler, the $1,000 check he was given at the awards show for his day-one big fish was donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, which was also the beneficiary of an ongoing raffle during the event, raising $2,800 (plus Carson's $1,000) for the organization. In short, if all anglers, all people for that matter, could act in such a benevolent fashion, the world would be a better place.
In terms of the top finishers at this year's Open, it was a true nail-biter. Martens, of course, took the win; however, there were indeed a few heavy hitters nipping at his heels. David Peltier took second with 31.26 pounds, Shawn Lee landed in third with 30.51 pounds; longtime WON BASS angler and supporter, Boris Antolos, secured a fourth-place slot with 30.09 pounds; and rounding out the top five was none other than Gary Klein with 29.85 pounds.
On the AAA side, Ryan Yamagata took first for his 32.92 pounds, Tyler Vanderhorst finished in second for 30.62 pounds, Paul Hemsley landed in third with 28.12 pounds, fourth went to Joe Gunnells with 26.99 pounds, and Roger Cummings took fifth with 26.69 pounds.
It was arguably one of the best U.S. Opens in the history of the event, as anglers couldn't stop complimenting Egan and his staff for executing a smooth, trouble-free tournament. There wasn't a single instance during the course of the three-day event when more than two or three anglers were ever waiting in line to weigh their fish; and the high release rates certainly reflected the efficiency of the process.
Everyone arrived and left with a smile on his or her face, and even Carson Sims (despite enduring a sub-par finish due to circumstances well beyond his control) assured everyone at the awards ceremony that both he and his father would be back for next year's event. The same could be said for most everyone fishing this year's Open, and WON BASS looks forward to seeing some familiar faces in 2012.