The Thoughts of Roland Martin, 40 Years Ago

Roland Martin. Fishing Facts, December 1973.

Roland Martin. Fishing Facts, December 1973.

No doubt he’s one of the greatest bass anglers to have set foot in a boat. Was already recognized as one of the best 40 years ago, just 5 years into the new B.A.S.S. circuit, and still a formidable angler today, even. This weekend I was reading an interview he did while in Milwaukee back in 1973 with George Pazik and Spence Petros. I find it really interesting to see just what was already thought in terms of location and patterns that we still read and speak of, even accept, today, along with some of his thoughts on bass spawning and populations, subjects which are still debated to this day.

I’ve assembled a few excerpts from that interview on a variety of subjects covered to share with readers below.

EDITOR’S COMMENT: “A Roland Martin with a 10 horsepower motor will still knock the tail off the vast majority of fishermen.”

ON WINTERTIME: “The big problem in finding fish in the wintertime is that you have no lake stratification as far as temperature, so the only thing governing how deep they’ll go is water clarity and not temperature.”

ON STAGING AREAS: “The first place they’ll move to is the point nearest the spawning water.”

Roland on the front deck. Fishing Facts, 1973.

Roland on the front deck. Fishing Facts, 1973.

ON MOON PHASE & SPAWNING: “They’ll move in first on the full moon in January, and then on the new moon there’ll be some bass; on the full moon in February, the new moon in March, etc. It’s just like clockwork.”

ON FISHING FOR SPAWNERS: “Well, from my own experience I’ve not been able to catch but a very few percent of the fish that I have observed spawning.”

ON FISHING PRESSURE & BASS POPULATIONS: “Mother Nature does do a far more effective job on the balancing and eliminating of the bass population because we’re talking in the millions and billions here of bass. I don’t personally think that you can hurt a lake by fishing pressure.”

ON SMALLER MALE BASS: “There’s another thing that’s been kicked around by many biologists. Some people think these bass are hermaphroditic and that these little males that you see guarding the nest, actually have a change of sex after they get to about three pounds. This is all theory, but some people say they’ve proven it, but the fact is you’ve never seen a male bass over three pounds.”

ON KEEPING BIG BASS: “The most important thing is the female is not very fertile. She doesn’t have much time left so you’re really not hurting the bass population when you take a big lunker out in the spring.”

ON PATTERNS: “Well, first just a brief definition of a ‘pattern’. It’s a term that I coined about three years ago. It’s just a kind of catchall term that just for better clarification is, “the exact set of water and cover conditions which attract at least a certain percentage of the bass to that one spot…I’d say that on the average reservoir there’s probably 5-6 or so patterns each day that exist.”

ON SONAR: “Yes, the depth meter is the fisherman’s number one tool because it’s his eyes for seeing the underwater structure and cover. There’s one cardinal rule I follow every day that I fish, and that is to turn on the depth meter at the start of the day and to leave it run continuously all day long. Don’t ever turn it off…”

  • Harold Sharp

    I spend two years traveling with Roland Martin on the BASS Seminar Trail, we fished anytime we could along that trail. I can tell you that Roland spent little time talking about anything beside Bass fishing. He is one of the great ones and won his share of tournaments when the money was not there in the early days.

    • Harold, I did an analysis a few years back comparing the money won back then to today’s payouts (2005 I think) and if the payouts were the same then as today Roland would be the highest paid angler. Again that was as of 2005 before VanDam went on his tear.

  • Yep, we smile knowingly about some of Roland’s remarks from yesteryear, but I promise you, we discuss these topics 40 years hence and we’ll see it has always been a matter of continuing education. True, we know more now, but we even don’t know it all.

    • George, I agree 100% on that. At the same time Roland was probably the most advanced angler of the time with respect to the science end of things. I was blon away in 1982 when I bought his book. It’s still very relevant today.

  • Ralph Manns

    I came back to the state from Nam in 1969 and found that B.A.S.S. has started -up. My first B.A.S.S. seminar (in Maryland) had Roland as one of the speakers. I bought his Santee Cooper map and scheduled my first trip to S. Carolina. The experience made me a bass angler for life, though nowhere near Roland’s ability.

    His only overt bassing drawback seems to be inability to correctly estimate the weights of LMB on television.

    The citations above are good evidence of why, over many years I’ve found it necessary to remind readers that bass pros are excellent fishermen, but not necessarily good biologists. Perhaps over the 40+years since, he has learned differently but: scientific records include males up to 7#s and I have watched several 5-pounders spawn in our local pond Eggs verified their partners were smaller females. There has been no evidence reported of sex change by LMB, although changes in ocean groupers make the idea interesting.

    Roland was grossly in error about whether bass could be ‘hurt by fishing pressure.” While he was correct if he meant that angling alone can’t totally eliminate a bass fishery, scientific population studies proved moderate to heavy angler harvest could and did eliminate most of the larger bass, resulting in fishing of poorer quality. That reality has mostly been reversed by the wide practice of C&R. Unfortunately excessive release of undersized/small bass has created similar populations with too many small bass and slower growth. Bigger bass should be released in healthy condition to sustain fishery quality. They are always rare regardless of the time-of-year they are caught.

    Although biological science still doesn’t back Roland’s observations about spawning and the full moon, my observations ( and those of many other anglers at L.. Fork) coincide with his.

    I proved to my own satisfaction on Fayette County L. that experienced bass can hear sonars and stop biting. My advice — keep sonars off unless actually scouting bottom terrain.or vertical jig/DS fishing for observed echos.

    • Ralph, absolutely. I think in Roland’s defense, though, he didn’t and maybee the biologists (other than you) didn’t realize at the time how bad fishing pressure could affect bass populations. And yes, we all snicker when he calls a 2lb fish a 5-pounder. lol

  • Harold Sharp

    Did you ever wonder how much time fishing biologist spend fishing ? I know that Roland could not carry on a decent conservation on anything but Bass fishing, that’s all he thought about. I also believe that the reason Roland never won a BASS Classic was because the Classics in the early days were secret and the anglers only got a few hours of practice on the Classic waters. Some like Bobby Murray were the best at finding a quick pattern on Bass, but Roland took more time, most were happy with 2 or 3 good locations, Roland always wanted 10 to 12, so he was handicapped in the Classic by not having time to scout the waters. I would take advise from Roland on how to Bass fish long before I would listen to a fishery biologist about how to locate and catch Bass.
    During my years at BASS I got to watch the worlds best Bass anglers and I would put my money on Roland and Bill Dance against any of the others. They were both too early in the game, today they would be rolling in money.