GAINESVILLE -- Scott Martin likes to joke that he was born in a bass boat. And by the way he's performed as a professional angler -- let alone his family background -- you just about believe him.
Martin is the defending Forrest Wood Cup champion -- a tournament staged by FLW Tour that features many of the nation's top anglers competing at venues throughout the United States -- and the son of former champion angler and television fishing show host Roland Martin.
Beginning at 7 a.m. Thursday, Martin will put his angling instincts and prowess to the test on Lake Lanier as he guns for his second straight Forrest Wood Cup title and a first-place prize of $500,000.
"I'm just excited about it for a lot of reasons," said Martin, a Clewiston, Fla., native. "To try to win this (Forrest Wood Cup) back-to-back would be the first time in history. There's never even been a repeat winner."
Martin will be one of 46 professional anglers taking to the waters of Lanier each morning (Thursday-Sunday) from the boat ramp at Gainesville's Laurel Park. After competitors finish their time on Lanier each day they will present their catches in a live weigh-in presentation -- which is an event in its own right -- at the Gwinnett Convention Center in Duluth, beginning at 5 p.m.
Martin says the passion of north Georgia fishing enthusiasts -- both on the water and at the weigh-in -- will make this year's events one for the memory books.
"There will be a lot of people at the blast-off ceremonies in the mornings and there will be a lot of people on the lake," Martin said. "I expect there to be hundreds of spectators out driving around watching these top FLW Tour anglers compete in this event just to learn and cheer them on at the same time. It's a fun event; it definitely keeps you on your toes. I remember at Lake Ouachita (Ark., where Martin won the 2011 Cup) having a big crowd of people following me each day, so every time I caught a fish I'd hold it up for the spectator boats and they'd hoot and holler, and I'm looking forward to the same thing here on Lake Lanier."
After competing in the last Forrest Wood Cup tournament on Lanier in 2010, Martin hopes to be able to give spectators plenty to cheer.
"I've been very blessed to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup many times in my career, and I'm excited about this one," Martin said. "What I'm most excited about is I learned a lot the last time we were here in 2010. I didn't do well at the event, but that was a good thing. It allowed me to see what I was doing wrong. And now it's put me in a position to want it bad."
Martin believes the key for success this year lies in his ability to fish the lake's deeper waters, angling for spotted bass.
"I'm going to focus more on the deeper water and chasing big spots. They're fun to catch, powerful fish, and when you get them on, boy what a fight. I'm fishing out deep, fishing swim baits, the Sworming Hornet Fish Head Spin is a great lure to fish this time of year on Lanier, then of course your drop shot," said Martin, who has spent the last three days re-familiarizing himself with Lanier.
"The lake's fishing pretty well this year in comparison to 2010," he said. "I think the bite's much better. I think there's going to be a lot of good fish weighed in. I think this event is going to take close to 14-15 pounds a day to win. I think around 60 pounds for four days is going to take the top prize."
Yet Martin also concedes that there may be some surprises in this year's tournament and that shallow
"The wild card is the largemouth. There's a good population of largemouth on this lake and so somebody could stumble on a shallow bite, especially on a blue gill spawning area or some shallow cover up one of these rivers," he said.
Yet Martin says he won't be tempted by that prospect and will stick to his pre-tournament game plan.
"I'm going to fish a lot of different places on the lake. I'm going to probably run 40 or 50 miles total -- even though I'm only fishing one section of the lake, I'm going to fish 50 or 60 places," Martin said. "So having my boat set up right is huge and having an engine like my Evinrude E-Tec that has great fuel efficiency, gets up on the plane quick, has a strong motor is a benefit for me this year on the tournament."
Whatever it takes, Martin is simply looking forward to the challenge, and thrill, of competing in an event that will have the entire angling world's ear.
"We've gone all over the country for the Forrest Wood Cup but right here in the heart of bass fishing country, there couldn't be a better place," Martin said. "I expect there to be huge crowds and a lot of support for this event, and I'm just glad to be here."
-- NOTE: Fans not on the lake may visit the FLW Expo at the Gwinnett Convention Center on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. prior to the weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public. On Saturday 500 free rods and reels will be given away to the first 500 children 14 years and under who are accompanied by an adult. On Sunday 1,000 free rods and reels will be given away to the first 1,000 children 14 years and under who are accompanied by an adult.