- Ken Duke
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Roland Martin has nothing to prove. Nevertheless, after nine Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles, 19 career B.A.S.S. wins and more accolades than you could shake a flippin' stick at, the man who finished second in ESPN's Greatest Angler Debate has registered to fish the Bassmaster Southern Opens in 2011.
Martin, who turns 71 in March, hasn't fished a B.A.S.S. event in more than five years but is looking forward to competing next year.
"I have to say that the new Opens format (each tournament winner earns a berth in the Bassmaster Classic) is very appealing to me," Martin said. "I love the competition, and it would be great to get back to the Classic."
Martin is realistic about what it will take to be competitive again.
"Since I retired, I've let a lot of things go," he said. "I haven't always kept up with the latest developments in equipment, but it'll be fun and a challenge to get back up to speed. You have to give 100 percent to compete at the Opens level, and I'm looking forward to giving it that kind of focus."
At 70, the legend will be nearly twice the age of the average Opens competitor. He's realistic about the hurdles he faces.
"My health is good, and mentally I'd say I'm fair," he confessed. "I've definitely slowed down a little, and I'm going to need a lot of practice to get sharp, but I think I can get there."
Martin claimed that one of his greatest strengths in the prime of his career was the ability to make decisions "on the fly" and to capitalize on opportunities other anglers missed. He hopes to get that edge back.
"You've got to have a plan when you fish a tournament, but you also need to be able to roll with the punches, be observant and make the most of things," he said. "That's part of what makes Kevin VanDam so good. He's focused but avoids tunnel vision."
Martin last won a B.A.S.S. tournament in 1997 and fished his most recent Classic in 2003 (finishing fourth on the Louisiana Delta).
Chris Bowes, B.A.S.S. senior tournament manager, is excited about Martin's return to tournament bass fishing. "It's great to have a legend in the sport, like Roland, back where he belongs competing on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail."
Fans interested in having a chance to fish with one of the all-time greats should consider signing up as co-anglers for the Bassmaster Opens. Registration for individual tournaments begins Dec. 14 at 9 a.m. ET. Registration for the full season is already underway. Sign up here or call 1-877-BASS-USA.
21mBy Dan Graziano