TAVARES, Fla. -- As the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series kicks off, some of its major players are suffering from injuries.
Bassmaster Classic runner-up Aaron Martens, past Classic Champ Takahiro Omori and longtime contender Stephen Browning all entered today's opening day hurting. Omori and Browning have been battling their ailments for a while, while Martens is trying to heal from a post-Classic trauma or two.
After finishing second in the world championship of bass fishing for a record fourth time, Martens decided to blow off some steam on New Orleans' Bourbon Street following the final weigh-in.
"Me, VanDam, and a couple other guys went to a bar called Bourbon Cowboy," Martens explained. "They had a mechanical bull there and I figured I should ride it. I had just been beaten by VanDam at the Classic. so I refused to let that freakin' bull beat me!"
In his attempt to best the steel beast, the Alabama pro held on for an estimated 20 minutes. In doing so, he sprained his wrist and damaged his left pinky finger. It's been numb ever since.
"I'm not really sure what I did, but I know it's not good. My hands are pretty important when fishing," laughed the pro.
To add injury to insult, Martens also twisted his ankle badly last week when walking up his driveway.
"My kids had been playing with rocks and I didn't see one laying in the driveway when I stepped on it. I twisted my ankle pretty badly," he said. "I couldn't put weight on it for a couple of days."
Although his wrist, finger and ankle are feeling better, he is far from 100 percent going in to the season opener.
Also hobbling into this year's first event is Omori. The past Classic champ is suffering from severe tendonitis in his left hand.
"I've been taking steroid pills for a week now, but they are not helping much," he said.
Gripping his reel and setting the hook are incredibly painful, but Omori is trying to work through it.
Browning knows all too well the pain of tendonitis, but has declared he is now 80 percent better than he was last year at this time.
"I received platelet shots in both my elbows and they are much better now," he said. "Instead of an incredible pain every time I set the hook, it simply feels like a sore muscle. Although I'm not 100 percent starting off the year, I feel a heck of a lot better than I did at the end of last year."
After today's weigh-in, we'll see how much an injury affects some of bass fishing's best players.