Aaron Martens said he's exhausted after averaging only four hours of sleep a night since the tournament began, and he's lost at least four good-size bass this week.
But through it all, he's put himself in position to score a rare wire-to-wire victory at the Huk Performance Fishing Bassmaster Elite at Chesapeake Bay.
Martens caught five bass that weighed 16 pounds, 5 ounces Saturday in waters off North East in Cecil County and held on to his lead for the third straight day with a total of 48-13.
After entering Saturday's semifinal round with a lead of only 11 ounces, Martens will begin Championship Sunday with nearly a 5-pound cushion over Indiana angler Bill Lowen (43-14). Russ Lane (41-12) and Gerald Swindle (39-15) of Alabama are next, followed by South Carolina pro Davy Hite (39-13).
"I was panicking a little bit [Saturday], all day until the end," said Martens, who stretched his lead in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings to 69 points over Justin Lucas. "Every day has been like that. It was a nerve-racking day, to say the least."
Martens caught two "good fish" (any bass weighing 3 pounds or better is considered "good" in this event) early and then pushed closer to a limit with one that weighed only about a pound. Then he lost four heavy bass before finally putting his fourth fish in the boat.
"That makes you kind of jittery," Martens said. "But once I caught another one, I settled down and started thinking again."
The razor-sharp barnacles that have been such a problem for the anglers who are fishing dock pilings this week were to blame for some of Martens' Saturday mishaps. He said he might switch to a bigger line size or even a bigger bait Sunday, but sometimes it's just can't be avoided.
"It's hard to make decisions in the moment when you have a fish yanking on your line," Martens said. "You want to set the hook hard, but sometimes that just won't work in these conditions.
"Every day, I try to figure it out a little better. I'll probably go up on the line I'm using from 10-pound to 12-or 14-pound."
Though a 5-pound cushion seems comfortable for a professional angler who has been as consistent as Martens this week, he said he plans to make changes today if the fish don't cooperate during the first couple of hours. One reason he's nervous is the consistency of Lowen, who weighed 15-11 Saturday after catching 15-13 Friday.
Lowen said the key to his consistency has been his ability to catch fish on any tide.
"I found a little deal with a boat-lane ditch that's a little deeper than everything else, and it's got milfoil on it that's matted out," Lowen said. "At high tide, I can catch them over that.
"The area is full of bait, and it's got stripers and catfish. It's the cycle of life that's going on in there. I'm just going through there and picking off the bass I can catch."
After catching 10 keepers Saturday, Lowen believes there are still plenty of fish in his area.
"I bounced around a lot in there today, just trying to find new areas and let some areas rest for tomorrow," Lowen said. "I haven't had any real big bites in there, but hopefully we can get them tomorrow."
The two Alabama anglers in the top five have also been consistent during a week of fishing when five-bass limits have been hard for many to find.
Lane, who caught 14-15 Friday and 14-13 Saturday, said he's been fishing an area he found during practice. It's helped that he's been fishing it all alone.
"I started off strong and caught them steady all day," Lane said. "I probably caught 20 fish today. I don't know if there are any giants in there, like I'm going to need to win, but I think there's definitely the potential for another 14- or 15-pound bag.
"I've got it all to myself. I haven't seen another boat in there all week."
Swindle caught 14-12 Saturday — his biggest catch of the week — and credited his success to "not thinking too much."
"When it comes to running the tides and figuring out the tides, I just don't have time for it," Swindle said. "That stuff gets in people's heads. If you were in a place where there was a good pattern you could run, it would be different. But here, there's just too much dead water in between the good areas."
So he's just been fishing anything that looks good.
"I just quit thinking about it," Swindle said. "If a tree's sticking up, I flip it. If a tree's under water, I flip over it."
The other anglers in the final Top 12 were Chad Pipkens (39-8), Carl Jocumsen (37-15), Greg Hackney (37-9), Brent Chapman (37-9), Mark Menendez (36-3), Andy Montgomery (35-14) and Bernie Schultz (35-9).
The Elite anglers will take off at 6:15 a.m. Sunday from Anchor Marina and North East Community Park. The weigh-in will be held back at the park at 3 p.m. with a $100,000 first-place prize on the line.
Ambrose generally pleased by first scrimmage of year
The Towson football team held its first scrimmage of the preseason, running more than 100 plays and working on situations and special teams. "Overall, it was probably what I expected," coach Rob Ambrose said. "It was probably the hottest day of camp so far. It was the first real 11-on-11 that wasn't play-by-play, it was situation-by-situation. There is a ton to learn from. I am sure if I took a flash picture of this time a year ago, I would probably be a lot happier today. But then again, I am not happy unless we are ready to win a national championship tomorrow." Defensive end D'Sean Cummings had sacks on back-to-back plays to end a drive and finished the day with three sacks. Tungie Coke also ended a drive with a sack. Jacquille Veii, a transfer from Maryland, returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown. Long snapper Will Hayes forced a fumble while covering a punt. The Tigers will be off today before returning to the field twice Monday.
Whittenburg 2nd entering final day of gymnastics
Seeking a third straight national title, Sam Mikulak scored a 92.000 in the all-around and led the U.S. men's gymnastics championships Friday night in Indianapolis. Donnell Whittenburg of Baltimore was second with an 89.650. Kyle Zemeir of Ellicott City was 17th with an 85.050. Whittenburg was first in still rings with a 15.900. The final day of competition will begin today at 1:30 p.m.
Auto racing: Sprint car driver James Campbell Jr. was killed Friday night in a crash at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. The Cumberland County coroner's office said Campbell, from Feasterville, Pa., died after striking the wall on the half-mile banked clay oval. The accident occurred during warmup laps.
Minor league basketball: The Bay Area Shuckers signed Jermaine Bolden (Morgan State, Douglass), who averaged 12.5 points and a team-leading 5.25 assists last year in his pro debut with the American Professional Basketball League team.
Canoeing and kayaking: Fabien Lefevre of Bethesda, the 2015 world champion and a two-time Olympic medalist in the C1 men's category, finished 10th in C1 at the CF Canoe Slalom World Cup Final in Pau, France. Two-time Olympian Casey Eichfeld of the Potomac Whitewater Racing Club finished 22nd. Eichfeld teamed with Devin McEwan of Salisbury, Conn., to finish 29th in C2. Ashley Nee of Darnestown was 38th in the K1 women.
Major League Soccer: Clarence Goodson (Maryland) scored on a header early in the second half and the San Jose Earthquakes (8-10-5) ended a six-game winless streak with a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids (5-9-9) on Friday night. Quincy Amarikwa chipped the ball high on net in the 53rd minute, with Goodson getting his head on it from point-blank range and putting it into the upper corner for his second goal of the season.
WNBA: Maya Moore scored 22 of her season-high 36 points in the second half and the visiting Minnesota Lynx (18-6) overcame a 16-point deficit to earn an 84-82 victory Friday night over the Atlanta Dream (8-15), which got 32 points from Angel McCoughtry (St. Frances).