Mark Martin Proves that Hard Work Pays

Category: article

 Apr 6th, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Apr 6th, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Walleye professional Mark Martin is celebrating a significant fishing industry milestone this season.  He has been making a living exclusively by fishing for 30 years, and is proud of this anniversary.  “People tell me I work too hard, but that will be the case again this year,” he said.

Actually, fishing for Mark is only part of the “living,” because he is busy every week with sponsor and outdoor writer fishing events, photo missions, popular ice fishing and open water schools, writing books, seminars, making dealer calls, doing TV shows, attending sport shows, testing products, and competing and winning tournaments.  One of the most asked questions after explaining his job duties, “You don’t just fish?”

Mark Marin with his winning fish at the 2007 PWT Mobridge event. (Photo: WalleyeFIRST)

It all started with a strong work ethic, a love of fishing, guiding and always doing more than expected.  He became the “Original Champ” by winning the first PWT season-ending Championship.  “It was huge; my turning point,” he said.  “I never looked back at my old day job after that.”  An aspect of the business that has changed since winning on Rainy Lake in the fall of 1990, “Getting sponsors was easier in that era.  They called me.”

His initial sponsors were Rapala, Lund and Mariner outboards (later Mercury made by the same company).  Mark has remained with most of his marketing partners through the decades.  The 10 years prior to being named the “Original Champ” probably prepared him for the arduous life on the road as a pro angler.

He was working 40 hours a week in the tool and die business, while guiding what could best be described as a “crazy” schedule.  He began his factory shift at 2 p.m.; picked up his guide clients at midnight, and fished through the night.  “I was in bed by 7 or 8, and did this for nine straight years,” he said.  “I had two full-time jobs, guiding and working in the factory.”  When the walleye tournaments began, Mark added another full-time job, and used all his sick time and vacation time to compete.  “I was making more money guiding than I was at my regular job, but I kept both until I became established,” he said.  

“I really loved to fish, and until those first MWC tournaments, I didn’t realize I knew as much as I did.  Guiding forced me to always be a thinker, trying to maximize catches for clients.  The more successful I was on the water, the more repeat and new business I had.  My strategic thinking continued on the tournament trail,” Mark said. 

In the early 1980’s, Mark met pro Gary Roach at a Michigan sportshow.  “This was before I ever fished a tournament,” he said.  “I was doing shows as the local expert, and also to keep my guide-name out there.  Gary and I came from the same mold.”

Mark won the original PWT Championship in 1990 and continued to fish every PWT event until the last PWT Championship in 2008. (Photo: WalleyeFIRST)

At that first meeting, Gary inquired about Mark’s home waters near Twin Lake, Michigan, fishing methods and success. Mark showed him a large binder with published newspaper articles, magazine photos, letters from outdoor writers and notes from customers.  Gary immediately offered him a position with his promotional team.  Mark did not join due to a contract with another tackle company, but that company changed policies, and the two soon joined forces.  “Gary kept me on the straight and narrow.  I learned fishing is a little piece of the total pie, and that promoting fishing and products is a much bigger element of getting paid to fish,” Mark said.  They fished the MWC together, made all the Championships and scored many top 10 finishes.  When the PWT tour started, he jumped, and said, “I needed to get in the saddle more because it was critical to fish against the best to remain competitive.”

Mark’s foundation with Gary paved the way, and after striking out on his own, he looks back with fondness at all the learned from the master.  That included bringing sponsors and outdoor writers to fish with him during tournament practice periods.  It meant doing TV shows while at tournaments.  It meant stopping at dealerships whenever on the road.  “Mostly, I learned that instead of waiting for sponsors to tell me what to do, I had to be creative by offering them plans.  I fulfilled the programs when they agreed to fund them.  This worked back then, and it still does today,” he said.

An idea that has worked for many years continues its popularity.  Mark pools his talents with fellow pros Mark Brumbaugh, Mike Gofron, Ross Grothe and a few others to conduct open water and ice fishing schools.  These are ranked among the best educational fishing programs in the country.  A recent ice fishing school and outdoor writer event on Saginaw Bay resulted in a one-day catch of 329 walleyes; 30 lake trout to 15 pounds; 29 smallmouth to 22 inches; numerous whitefish and catfish.  “It was hard to see the bottom because of all the fish.” Mark said.

The Number One ice lesson learned had to do with jigging spoons.  Mark said, “Bottom contact is the key to catching walleyes.  The more often the spoon hits bottom, the better.  Dropping it, flopping it around and quivering it while the treble hook maintained contact with the bottom – jig the spoon, but don’t pull it off the bottom — worked best.  If they don’t hit the spoon on bottom, slowly lift it a few inches.  If a walleye strikes the lure, but misses, repeat these steps, and the fish usually comes back.”

A winning fist pump after winning the 2007 PWT Mobridge event. (Photo: WalleyeFIRST)

Several open water schools are being planned for 2010, most in conjunction with AIM tournaments, including Saginaw Bay and perhaps after South Dakota, Green Bay and in the Upper Peninsula.  The schools start Sunday noon with a review of boats and gear.  The students fish in their own boats, and also step into the instructor’s boats.  “They learn more about how to set-up their boats and the details of boat control, how to fine-tune their electronics and use the newest Lowrance units, experience the latest tactics, get boat driving lessons and have fun,” Mark said.  “We share our secrets.”

School information is posted at fishingvacationschool.com, or 231-744-0330.    

Mark won the PWT Championship in 1990, nailed down PWT victories at Chamberlain and Mobridge, and after fishing the MWC, RCL, PWT, AIM, many Governor’s Cups and team events, has scored 41 top 10 finishes, and with one extra pound he would have beat Mike Gofron in the Angler of the Year race.  “At 53, I feel I have many more competitive years in me,” he said.  Mark will fish the entire AIM circuit this season.

Fishing taught him many “Life Lessons,” which he shared, hoping it could help the young guys getting started enjoy a successful future.  Mark’s list of Life Lessons:

         1. Success only comes with lots of hard work.
         2. Add lots of phone calls to that list.
         3. Always, always make good first impressions.
         4. Be ready for any opportunity.
         5. Hand something to every person you know, so they remember you.
         6. Look good at all times.
         7. Be professional at all times.  Someone is always watching.
         8. Expect disappointments and learn from those times.
         9. Be persistent when you want something.  Never quit.
        10. Working as your own boss requires you to be the thinker and the “doer.”
        11. People may not believe it, but everything about fishing is in my books.
        12. Do “extra” activities not expected by sponsors.
        13. Report at least quarterly to sponsors what you’re going to do and report
              again after doing it.
        14. The most important rule: Be honest and truthful.

His current marketing partners include Lund, Mercury, Pure Fishing brands, Lowrance, Normark/Rapala, Northland Tackle, Plano, Strike Master augers, TruTurn hooks, Trail Master trailers, MotorGuide, Scent-Lock clothing, Gage Motor Mall, Matteson Marine, Church Tackle, Navionics, Walleyes, Inc., and Green Stone Farm Credit Services.

Mark also prides himself in taking time with each person who stops him on the street, on the water, at the gas station or at a sportshow.  “If they have questions, I try my best to answer them,” he said.

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