CLEWISTON — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Scott Martin’s no weatherman, but his spot-on prediction described a scenario that enabled him to sack up a 31-pound, 7-ounce limit on Feb. 2 and lock up a record-setting wire-to-wire victory at the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Okeechobee presented by SEVIIN.
Martin amassed a three-day winning total of 90 pounds, 6 ounces.
“Whoo! I’ve had to hold it in all week,” said a clearly emotional Martin, who notched his first B.A.S.S. victory. “To win here in front of my mom, in this parking lot where my dad (nine-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Roland Martin) won (the 1991 Bassmaster Florida Invitational) it’s just a blessing.
“To have that come full circle and to stand on this stage in front of my family and friends is just so amazing. I’m beyond appreciative of the sport, beyond appreciative of B.A.S.S. This is just special.”
Taking the early lead with a Day 1 limit of 33-2 — the event’s largest — Martin added a second-round bag that went 25-13 and held on to the top spot. After the Day 2 weigh-in, the hometown favorite said he believed the week’s increasingly stable, warming trend could deliver the opportunity he needed to seal the deal.
With Championship Saturday bringing more calm, sunny conditions and slightly warmer water, Martin slammed the door shut with a Day 3 catch that included a pair of 9-pounders he caught about an hour apart.
“This was just an epic day,” Martin said during the Bassmaster LIVE broadcast. “It was a blessing. Thank you, Jesus.”
With his victory, Martin set the record for the all-time heaviest winning total in a three-day Bassmaster event. Former Elite Series pro Byron Velvick set the previous record in 2000 by catching 83-5 at California’s Clear Lake.
Also, Martin’s Day 1 limit broke the record for the heaviest one-day catch in a Bassmaster Open — a mark previously set by Whitney Stephens’ 32-12 at the 2019 Open on the Harris Chain of Lakes.
“I couldn’t have scripted this any better,” Martin said of his accomplishments. “I just wanted to win a tournament here in front of the hometown crowd at some point in my career. But the records — I had no idea. To win here in front of my mom and dad and to break records, it was just God’s perfect timing.”
Martin edged Tucker Smith of Birmingham, Ala., by a margin of 22-11 and collected the top prize of $50,360. He also qualified for the 2025 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors, assuming he fishes the final two Opens in Division 1.
Martin spent his week in the Harney Pond area on the lake’s west side. Fishing in 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet of water, he targeted the submerged remnants of cattail clumps.
“I was looking for these clumps on my Garmin Panoptix,” Martin said. “They were like brushpiles. I knew it was going to be a tough tournament, so I knew I had to fish as slow and methodically as I could.
“A lot of tournaments, you run around and you try to do this and that to try and keep your energy level up, but I was the opposite today. I was just covering water and fishing slow.”
While ChatterBaits produced some of his keepers the first two days, Martin caught all of his Championship Saturday fish on a Texas-rigged Googan Baits Bandito Bug and a straight-tail worm, along with a wacky-rigged Googan Baits Lunker Log stickworm.
“The key was keeping my bait clean,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of muck on the bottom, but I could feel when my bait came into a clean spot, so I would make repeated casts to that spot.”
Martin enhanced his plastics with Bait Pop, a scented paste with visibility-boosting glitter. Also, the additive gave his baits a more well-defined sonar signature, which helped him monitor the presentation and make any necessary adjustments.
Smith finished second with 68-11. Keeping himself in the hunt, he took second place on Day 1 with 27-6, remained there with a second-round total of 23-12 and concluded with a Day 3 effort of 17-9.
Smith did all of his work in the Rim Canal, where he worked a 7-mile stretch and caught fish in about 8 to 12 feet.
“I side-scanned a lot and found rocks at the mouths of canals and that’s where I caught my fish,” he said.
Smith caught his fish on a Bill Lewis Scope-Stik jerkbait and a Damiki rig comprising a 1/4-ounce Picasso jighead and a 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbait.
“It seemed like it got tougher and tougher, so I had to fish harder and harder every single day,” Smith said.
Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., finished third with 68-8. Tharp turned in daily weights of 22-5, 22-9 and 23-10.
Fishing the lake’s west side, Tharp sacked up all of his weight with his favorite reaction bait — a bladed jig.
“I really like to catch them punching here, but the lake just didn’t set up (for that),” Tharp said. “I figured the tournament was going to be caught winding and that’s what I did.
“I caught every fish on a 1/2-ounce gold ChatterBait JackHammer. The key to it, for me, was a new Zoom trailer called a Shimmer Shad. It looks like a golden shiner. They smoked that thing.”
Tharp won the $750 Big Bass award for the 10-3 he caught on Day 1.
The Division 1 season opener included 175 competitors who have committed to all nine Opens events in the Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifiers division, which will award Bassmaster Elite Series invitations to the top nine finishers in Angler of the Year points standings.
The tournament was hosted by the City of Clewiston.