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Roland Martin's 101 Bass Catching Secrets

By Joe Cornwall


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Roland Martin is an American angling icon.  Host of the long running television show Fishing with Roland Martin, his record is impressive.  A competitor in more than 260 professional bass fishing tournaments, he’s won 19 and placed in 20 more.  He has nearly 100 top ten finishes and 25 appearances in the prestigious Bass Masters Classic.  He’s been inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.  Martin has been named B.A.S.S. Angler-of-the-Year 9 times and his career tournament winnings exceed a million dollars.  This is a guy who knows about bass; largemouth, smallmouth and Kentucky spots.  Roland Martin isn’t a name many associate with fly fishing, though.  That’s a shame.  He’s got a lot to teach those of us who prowl the warm waters of our nation, long rod in hand.


In 1980 Winchester Press published the book Roland Martin’s 101 Bass-Catching Secrets, edited by Tim Tucker.  The book was updated and published as a second edition in 1988.  By the time you read this the 2008 soft-cover edition will be available.  I strongly suggest that any fly fisherman with a design on catching more bass immediately order a copy.  When a guy with the talent of Roland Martin gather’s all of his observations on bass fishing in one place, only a fool would assume he’s got nothing to learn.  I was almost that fool.  I normally scoff at “fish-catching secrets” style books. They’re rarely well-written and seldom break new ground.  I nearly passed this one by.  Fortunately I was saved by my own curiosity.  A cursory perusal lead to an in-depth read.  And that proved to be an enlightening experience.  There are a small handful of books I keep next to my desk as a reference; this will be one of them!  This book is the exception that proves the rule.


Roland Martin is a fly fisherman.  I suspect he’s not the only star on the B.A.S.S. tour proficient with the long rod.  I’ve often said that the future of fly fishing as a sport is intimately connected to our willingness and ability to communicate with and interest the legions of hardware anglers.  Martin’s comments about fishing with the fly are enlightening.  “The sportsman who is involved in flyrod fishing for bass is the truest form of bass fisherman I’ve ever met.  They’re the finest sportsmen.  They seldom keep their fish, and they’re usually after the aesthetic qualities, the quiet presentation, the strike, the enjoyment of nature, and the challenge of man against fish.  When you hook a bass on a flyrod, all you have between you and the fish is the hook, line and rod, you don’t have the mechanical aid of a spinning or bait-casting reel.  You don’t play the fish with the reel; you battle with him with your hands.  The line and leader you’re using are much more delicate, and the art of flycasting is precisely that – a delicate art.”  No ambassador of the quiet sport has ever put it more succinctly. 


Roland Martin’s 101 Bass Catching Secrets is a 429 page tome of insights that hinge on the concept of fishing “patterns.”  An example of a fishing pattern can be understood in the context of a trout during a Hendrickson hatch. The fishing “pattern” can be described as ‘selective feeding from efficient feeding locations on a temporarily abundant food that’s available on or close to the surface of the stream.’  Martin’s own definition is “A pattern is the exact set of water conditions such as depth, cover, structure, temperature, clarity, currents, etc., which attracts fish to that specific spot and to other similar spots all over the same body of water.”  Martin wrote that description in 1969 when he coined the phrase and brought to the angling community the concept that a population of game fish will behave similarly under similar circumstances in a wide variety of areas.  Bass populations are composed of individuals.  The probability of a certain behavior in an individual animal being exhibited by other individuals becomes statistically significant when viewed in the light of repeating conditions eliciting efficient survival responses.  Find out what one bass wants and you might just know what a lot of bass want - on that day.  Repeat the successful presentation in another spot and you’re fishing a “pattern” of behavior!


Martin’s book is presented in five parts; bass behavior, lures and live bait, tackle and location, shallow-structure fishing and deep-structure fishing.  While most of the content of the book is aimed squarely at the hardware aficionado the fly fisher can gain invaluable knowledge by simply thinking of the fly equivalent of the lure or artificial discussed.  Instead of plastic worm, think bunny leach.  Instead of crank bait, think wool-head streamer.  Instead of jig-and-pig, think Mixed Media.  When you read the book with this in mind a light will come on and you’ll see nearly endless possibilities to apply the fly rod to the technique discussed.  If you want to catch more and bigger bass you need first to find a bass to which you can present the fly.  Martin’s observations will help you to do precisely that.  And once you know how to find a bass, you’ll need to understand how to get an artificial in front of the animal in a way that provokes a strike.  Martin’s advice will certainly help you do that.  And once you’ve found and caught a good ‘un you’ll need to know how to recognize the conditions and characteristics of the presentation that will allow you to do it again.  Only the teachings of a guy who has successfully done that over and over again, under the most demanding of circumstances, will prepare you for regular success.  Roland Martin is that guy.


Roland Martin’s 101 Bass Catching Secrets (ISBN 978-1-60239-207-6) is available for $14.95 from Skyhorse Publishing.

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