In the annals of BASS competition a few accomplishments stand out. Roland Martin's 9 Angler of the Year titles, Rick Clunn's 4 Bassmaster Classic championships and Bryan Kerchal's Classic win coming out of the BASS Federation Nation quickly come to mind.
But if you consider sheer degree of difficulty, it's likely that another feat leaves them all swimming in its wake — Roland Martin's 3 consecutive tournament victories in 1980 and 1981.
Martin's streak began at Florida's Lake Okeechobee in November of 1980 at the Florida Invitational. He cast Mann's Jelly Worms to grasslines for 48 pounds, 2 ounces of bass and the win. It was his 12th BASS victory.
The Martin Express made its next stop at Toledo Bend Reservoir for the Louisiana Invitational in February of 1981. He cast a black jig-and-pig along creek channels and dropoffs in 5 to 10 feet of water to catch daily 7-bass limits weighing 84-11, easily outdistancing the rest of the field for his 13th BASS title.
Of course he wasn't done yet. The Alabama Invitational in March on Lake Eufaula was next, and it must have seemed like coming home to Martin. After all, he had won a BASS event there in 1972. But when he lost a giant as time was running out on the final day, Martin was less than optimistic about his chances. Luckily, his 43-11 held up and he won the tournament, making history in the process.
When asked about his accomplishment of going back-to-back-to-back, Martin explained, "I never take anything for granted. I think maybe the difference is concentration. I've been bearing down hard, really watching my line and staying alert. I may be catching some fish that other fishermen wouldn't know they had on."
In his next tournament, Martin would slip to 25th place at Lake of the Ozarks before bouncing back with fifth- and sixth-place finishes at Lake Ouachita and Albemarle Sound, respectively, on the way to his 7th Angler of the Year title.
To make his accomplishment even more impressive, consider that Martin's last event before starting his string was the 1980 Bassmaster Classic on the St. Lawrence River where he finished second to Bo Dowden. With a break here or there in the Classic, Martin might have made it four in a row!
Of course, Martin is not the only angler in BASS history to win three consecutive tournaments. Kevin VanDam would accomplish the feat 24 years later. And while some may argue that VanDam did it against superior angling talent, certain numbers don't lie.
In his three wins, Martin bested fields totaling 810 anglers, and he won in convincing fashion by margins of 5-10, 10-10 and 6-5, respectively. In contrast, VanDam won two Bassmaster Elite 50 events and the 2005 Bassmaster Classic — impressive tournaments with top-notch fields but only 147 total competitors, less than 20 percent of what Martin faced and defeated.