LAKE FORK, Texas – Records are made to be broken. We just didn’t know how quickly they would be broken.
Less than 24 hours after Jason Christie set the MLF record for the biggest bass ever caught in an MLF competition with a 10-pound, 4-ounce largemouth, Justin Atkins topped it with a 10-pounder of his own, a 10-8.
One of the last things that Christie mentioned was that he would be shocked if his new MLF record stood for more than a day. Atkins echoed that same point, but that doesn’t mean he wants the record to be broken.
“I sure hope it lasts a little while,” Atkins said. “This place just has gigantic fish and they are moving up to spawn by the minute. I hope the record holds up for more than just a day.”
Atkins found the 10-8 monster lurking in the back of a small pocket. The Alabama pro figured out a pattern in practice that he thought could get him some big bites on Lake Fork.
“I noticed that in the back of pockets where I’m fishing, these fish are either on a bush or a green clump of reeds,” Atkins dissected. “I knew I was going to try and look for them but I also was casting to where they are supposed to be. Today, it was bright enough to where I could see the fish using Sunrise Silver Costas before I even made a cast, so that helped a lot.”
The Berkley pro went with a power-finesse technique during Qualifying Day 2 of the General Tire Stage Three Presented by TrueTimber. He had a 7-foot Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier medium spinning rod paired with an Abu Garcia Revo Premier spinning reel. He decided to go with lighter line, 8-pound Berkley Fireline Ultra and a 10-pound fluorocarbon leader to present his Berkley Bottom Hopper.
He decided to go with a more finesse approach because of the sheer amount of pressure Lake Fork receives, especially in the spring.
“These fish just get so pressured out here that if you try to pitch a big piece of plastic at them, like a craw, it will spook them,” Atkins explained. “By using that Berkley Bottom Hopper, I’m able to make a really good cast, slide it up there in the bushes and be accurate. Those fish are aggressive and want to keep baits out of their bed, but not spooking them on the initial cast is key.”
Atkins cast his worm into a bush, knowing that a hog was lurking just beneath the surface. He patiently waited for the bass to take the bait, let his line get tight, and then set the hook.
Atkins fought the fish for three minutes. During that time, he says that he was just trying to keep his cool, fighting through jumps and navigating around a maze of flooded timber. He knew he had little room for error because of his lighter setup.
“Catching fish on light line like that, you have to be patient with them,” Atkins advised. “You can’t horse those fish out of there. I spotted that 10-pounder in a bush, made a perfect cast to it and it bit. After I set the hook, the biggest key was to get it out in open water and let it fight. Sometimes it may take two or three minutes, but I knew she would eventually tire down.”
Once the fish got close enough to the boat, Atkins quickly grabbed the mouth that was bigger than his forearm and pulled it in the boat. When the official said, “10 pounds, 8 ounces,” Atkins was overcome with excitement. It was the biggest fish of his career, and the biggest catch in MLF history.
By the way, just like Christie added a 9-2 after his 10-4, Atkins too wasn’t done with his big bites after his record-breaker.
Using the same setup, Atkins found himself an 8-7. But this one didn’t come without its challenges as well.
“I saw that 8-pounder in a bush and I had actually missed it earlier in the day,” Atkins recalled. “I think I spooked it when I missed it so I left, gave it about an hour, came back and it was still there. I made another perfect cast and I knew I had it as soon as it bit. I wasn’t going to miss it again.”
Atkins finished his day with nine bass for 51 pounds, good enough for third place in Group B heading into Qualifying Day 4. The record remains his … at the moment.