January 13, 2016 by Scott Martin
(This blog is a component of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour Preview. To see the entire preview package, click here.)
(The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)
Winning the Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year award in 2015 has been career-changing. There is a different level of respect for AOY winners. You can hear it in people’s tones. The AOY helped solidify my career, and nobody can take that away from me. But I’m not done. I have a different focus this year. It’s like one weight has been lifted off my shoulders and another has been added. Few anglers have won multiple AOYs; fewer have won two in a row. I want to join that club. I want to set records.
My goal at the beginning of the 2015 season was to win AOY. It was the last major award I hadn’t won in my career. Winning it meant changing up my approach to the tournament season. In past years, I would swing for the fences nearly every tournament. Some risks paid off in tournament wins. Other times, I’d swing and miss my way to a sub-100 finish. I love winning, but my old strategy led to a couple of bad finishes that killed any AOY campaign.
In 2015 my approach to each tournament was to make every top-20 cut. Once there I would try to move up on day three or four. It’s harder to win this way, but my worst finish was 44th. So it paid off in its own way. The plan for 2016 is to implement a strategy similar to that of 2015. The only thing I might change up is taking more chances on the final days.
Winning a second AOY will not be any easier than winning the first, but I can now see the path a little clearer. I understand what it takes to get the job done.
People tell me this year’s schedule sets up well for me. Of course, I’m glad the first event is on my home waters of Lake Okeechobee. Even so, the upcoming season has me a little worried. There are no guarantees in fishing. You have to approach every tournament with a little apprehension. I don’t count my chickens before they hatch – not even on the Big O! I’m going to take it one at a time and not look too far ahead or dwell on any tournament.
Deep down it feels like I haven’t peaked yet. You can’t be complacent in tournament fishing. I still try to learn on the water every day and work at getting better. I’m on a quest. I want to win two AOYs in a row. The only time you can do that is after winning one! That makes this the year. I want to be the first to win two Forrest Wood Cups too. I want to do things nobody else has done.
The right people are around me to do it. I truly believe the best support system in fishing is behind me. I can’t explain how thankful I am for the support my family, friends, fans and sponsors give me. On stage at the Potomac River, when I received the AOY trophy, I said, “We won.” I meant it. It’s that kind of support that keeps me focused and has me excited for the future.