The Teacher, The Angler, The Legend
The Great American Fisherman
by Nichole Delio
Roland Martin is “The Great American Fisherman.” There is no contest in that, just look at his competition track record! He’s a constant source of education and inspiration and a true fishing idol for anglers, many who grew up watching his TV Show, “Fishing with Roland Martin.” He is an absolute fishing legend and I received the amazing opportunity to interview him and discover the man behind the legend.
When we connect, I’m immediately greeted with a man who is personable and down to earth. He’s funny with a great sense of humour and most of all- passionate about fishing. I want to know when he first starting fishing, before the TV show, before he was “The Great American Fisherman.”
“When the you first realise that you wanted to fish?” I asked him.
“Well it’s kinda funny. My father did not fish. He was not a fisherman. But I had these neighborhood friends we would all fish. When I was seven, I had broken my leg. It was in a cast. I hobbled down this little spot called Mystic Lake. There was a little culvert. I seen some bluegill, I fished it and caught my first fish, blue gill. I was so excited. I hobbled back up on my crutches to show my mom and dad. With a broken leg and all, my first fish.”
Roland went on to tell me about the man who helped to influence the beginning of his career, Jason Lucas. “Before electronics, before modern bass boats. We would take a row boat and he would do this thing where he would countdown to figure out the water depth. He would throw the lure and when it would stop sinking he would know the depth of the water. Even though it was a really basic, it was really practical. It helped me out as a fisherman.”
Roland also mentioned mentors such as Bill Dance and Bill Curtis, who he became friends with when he started fishing tournaments.
As the winner of 19 Professional Bass Tournaments, Roland is no stranger to competitive fishing. He can claim 100 top ten finishes, 24 appearances in the Bass Fishing World Championship, and holds 9 B.A.S.S Angler of the Year Titles. Roland was also the first professional bass fisherman to be inducted into all three angling Hall of Fames. No easy feat!
I want to know more, so I ask, “Which personal best was your favourite or most memorable?”
I can hear the smile in his voice as he explains, “I always talk about this giant fish I lost. The biggest bass I have ever hooked in my life. It weight 15 pounds and 12 ounces. I was fishing with my wife and another fellow. I had the monster bass on the line, but it got hung up around a log. I want to dive in and free it up, but my wife refused. I finally broke the line. Later that night, my fishing companion came running over and was yelling about this big bass he caught. It was 15 pounds and 12 ounces. That was my bass!” Roland is good-natured about his loss.
When talking about his favourite fish to catch and the most challenging fish to catch, Roland treats the subject with a lot of reverence, “Well, bass is absolutely the most important fish, with all my respect. But the most glamorous fish I’ve fished is tarpon fishing. Particularly with a fly rod!”
He also goes onto tell tales of catching yellow fin tuna, “I take these long range trips out of San Diego, down to the Mexico coast,” his voice grows excited, “The only problem with tuna fishing is there are sharks! They come in and get your tuna before you reel it in” he exclaims.
I then turn the conversation onto something that a lot of anglers might worry about- keeping the passion for angling alive. I wonder, has he always been passionate about fishing? Does he worry about losing his passion? His answer is simple. “No.” But he goes on to say, “I can tell you how to fix that. You have to keep new perspectives. Try to fish with different people. Fish in different areas- don’t get in a rut and fish in the same place all the time! And try different things. There are so many different techniques to try in fishing. It will make you a better fisherman to challenge yourself."
Since Social Media is king for communication these days, I ask Roland about his perspective on the modern angler and how they should approach new angling sources, such as Fishbrain. “I think it’s a great concept! I like Fishbrain but the average fisherman is selfish. They are secretive about where they catch their fish, but when I’m Fishbrain I post everything. I post where I caught the fish, how I caught it, and what I used to catch it on. So I’m trying to set an example, I want everyone to be more open about their catches. What a great source of information that will be!”
Roland has always been a teacher, he even taught at a school back in the 60s. “It’s the same format when I take people fishing or do a television show. I’m always educating and teaching.” Across various forms of media and even from this interview, I could sense just how truly he loved teaching people how to fish and to share his knowledge of fishing. The wealth of knowledge that a legend like Roland Martin has access to is invaluable to anglers. If I’ve learned anything from talking to Roland it’s to share the information and work on creating and educating the angling community. To teach and to keep those lines tight!