5 Questions With Bass Fishing Legend Roland Martin: Tips, Favorite Lure, One That Got Away & More

by Jim Casey
photo by Outsider

If Bill Dance made bass fishing friendly and Jimmy Houston made bass fishing fun, Roland Martin made bass fishing about fulfillment. And nothing says “fulfillment” like winning. Roland has done plenty of that over his 82 years on earth water. In 15 seasons, between 1971 and 1985, he won nine Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles.

For decades, his Fishing With Roland Martin TV show has helped folks improve their fishing performance—with Roland’s knowledgeable, dependable delivery. Just like his legendary angling pals Bill Dance and Jimmy Houston, Roland is a member of the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, and the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. And, if you want the truth, Roland was the first pro fisherman inducted into all three.

Outsider caught up with Roland Martin at the World’s Fishing Fair in Springfield, MO, to ask him 5 Questions about Bass Pro Shops founder/CEO Johnny Morris, tips for catching big bass, his must-have lure, the one that got away, and more.

1. You just turned 82 years old in March. How many days did you fish last month?

Roland Martin: I tell you what. I’m hardcore. I really fished hard. I had 22 guide trips last month and another four or five just days on the water. So I fished all but three days.

2. What does it mean to you to be a part of Bass Pro Shops 50th anniversary celebration with CEO Johnny Morris?

Roland Martin: People don’t realize what a great fisherman John Morris is. His first tournament that he came to was down on the Table Rock Lake, and that’s where he met Bill Dance and I. And this was November of 1970, so it’s really going back. And so he fished for a couple years, just trying to qualify for the Classic, which he did. People don’t realize John Morris qualified for five Bassmaster Classics in those early years. That’s really, really an accomplishment. Very, very competitive fisherman.

But along the way, he’d say, “You know, Roland, I got an idea.” I said, “What’s that, Johnny?” He said, “Well, my father has a bunch of liquor stores. I think I’m going to sell a bunch of tackle at the back of his liquor store.” And I said, “That doesn’t sound like a very good idea. I don’t think that’s going to work at all.” He said, “Well, I’m going to try it.” Now, it’s a billion-dollar business [laughing].

But what Johnny Morris has really brought to the table is the better conservation. We’re all seeing it. He’s raising this money, millions and millions and millions of dollars. He’s the modern-day Teddy Roosevelt. But he’s instituted the catch-and-release in so many places. He’s got the habitat restoration in so many places. Johnny has donated to all the big conservation groups. He’s the greatest contributor to conservation ever. Well, in the process, we have better fishing. And in the future, what we’re going to have, folks, we’re going to have better fishing because of Johnny Morris. We’re already getting it.

3. Can you give us a few tips for catching bigger bass this spring and summer?

Roland Martin: Go early and stay late. That’s one little thing. But in the early morning, I do think that that’s a big deal. Getting up early, before the sun gets up, and really getting a good head-start of the summer fishing. That’s probably the best part of the day, before the sun actually gets up, and that’s a perfect opportunity for good top-water fishing. It’s a good opportunity to use swim baits and stuff. And as the sun gets up, and it’s all bright, then you can go to the worms and your deeper water, and you can work on some different deep-water patterns.

But I like to fish shallow, to start with. That’s just one of my deals. In fact, last week, I do a lot of shiner fishing down at Headwaters [in Florida], but a guy said, “I want to do top water.” I said, “Okay, it’s a cloudy day. It’s calm. It’s early in the morning. Let’s take a Devil’s Horse [lure].” He catches an 11.25-pounder on a Devil’s Horse. So they’re the kind of moments that I cherish, and of course, that same fish was released, and I’m going to be fishing again, try to catch it again.

4. What’s the one that got away?

Roland Martin: Okay, here’s the funniest thing. My first wife, Mary Ann, and I were fishing at Rodman Reservoir, and I was fishing big shiners, with big, heavy 40-pound tackle. And all of a sudden, this monster bass comes up. It was a long story, because she was mad at me. The rods were all in different order a couple hours earlier, and I said, “Take this. There’s a big fish on this rod. Mary Ann, take this fish.” And she said, “Oh, you’re trying to trick me.” And so she reeled in the little fish, and I reeled in this big, giant fish. And she’s mad at me. So she said, “You’re trying to trick me.” I said, “No, I told you to take the other rod.” So anyway, I finally hooked this 15-pound, 12-ounce bass.

Now, why I say it’s 15 pounds, 12 ounces, I lost the fish. It finally got into the logs, and she wouldn’t hold onto the log and help me. And I was going to dive in and get it. But anyway, I broke the fish off. But I had a hook in its mouth that I’d tied up, a special weedless hook. And I told [my friend] the next day. I said, “The biggest fish I ever had on in my life was over there by that log. See if you can’t catch it.” Well, he goes over there, and he catches it. And it weighed 15 pounds and 12 ounces, and it had my hook in its mouth.

5. What’s the one lure that’s always in your tackle box?

Roland Martin: You’d have to say the number-one lure in the country right now is probably a Senko five-inch, 297 Green-Pumpkin worm. It’s a foolproof lure. You can catch fish on it almost all year-round and almost all depths of water, almost every lake in the whole world. You can throw a Senko and catch a bass, and occasionally, you’ll catch a real big one.