Justin Atkins broke the MLF record for largest bass caught in competition with a 10-8. Photo by Phoenix Moore

March 14, 2020 (Lake Fork, Texas) — Forty pro anglers (Group B) competed on Lake Fork in the Bass Pro Tour General Tire Stage Three Presented by TrueTimber. Justin Atkins broke the record for the largest bass caught in Major League Fishing and Bass Pro Tour history less than 24 hours after Jason Christie set it. Brandon Coulter led the field for much of the day only to slip into second place in the last seven minutes of the day. Michael Neal came from behind in Period 3 with a 35-pound, 10-fish run to end the day in first place. Group A returns to the water Sunday for their second and final day of the Qualifying Round; the bottom 20 will be eliminated. 

Alabama-resident Justin Atkins gave himself a belated 30th-birthday present on Lake Fork today by catching the largest bass in the history of both MLF and the Bass Pro Tour. Weighing in at 10 pounds, 8 ounces — a personal best for Atkins — this fish beat Christie’s catch by 4 ounces, less than 24 hours later.

“Look at this guy,” exclaimed Atkins moments after he calmly set the hook in a fashion resembling the experience of a pro twice his age.

“It will not last a day or two,” said Christie, in an interview late Friday after catching the first record-breaker of this Stage. “I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”

Brandon Coulter took over the lead from Dave Lefebre early in Period 2 thanks to a steady stream of significant catches, including his big bass of the day weighing in at 9 pounds, 5 ounces with 45 minutes left in the second. 49-year-old Coulter looked like he would end the day in first place until fellow Tennessean Michael Neal rallied, rising into the Top 10 with a 10-fish, 35-pound, 10-ounce run in Period 3. With seven minutes remaining on the day, Neal caught a 3-pound, 8-ounce largemouth to take the lead by one pound.

“Sneaky Mikey,” commented Coulter as the clock wound down to lines out for the day. “Congratulations Michael; I wanted to win that round bad. We had a good day and I will be back out on Monday working to win and skip the Knockout Round.”

The Top 10 of Day 1, Qualifying Group B finished as follows:

Place Angler Total Weight Total Fish Largest Fish
1 Michael Neal 57-00 16 6-14
2 Brandon Coulter 56-00 14 9-05
3 Justin Atkins 51-00 9 10-08
4 James Watson 49-12 14 5-10
5 Wesley Strader 43-03 14 4-08
6 Kelly Jordon 42-00 13 4-00
7 Kevin VanDam 39-12 12 5-03
8 Todd Faircloth 39-08 10 5-04
9 Bryan Thrift 38-14 11 5-04
10 Brent Chapman 37-09 10 7-01

For complete results, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com, Bass Pro Tour, Results.

The competition continues Sunday when Group A returns to the water for their final day of the Qualifying Round. Mark Daniels, Jr. is currently in the lead with 84 pounds, 15 ounces. Texas pro Jeff Sprague sits in second place 12 pounds behind Daniels. The angler with the highest two-day cumulative total wins and the bottom 20 anglers will be eliminated. The weather forecast suggests thunderstorms may hinder the competition midday. Bass Pro Tour Tournament Director Aaron Beshears will consider safety over competition every time.

“We continuously monitor weather on the entire body of water to determine the safest situation for the anglers and MLF staff,” said Beshears. 

Pending no weather delays, the day begins with launch at Oak Ridge Marina, Quitman, Texas, 9:15 a.m. CT before lines in at 10:00 a.m. Period 1 ends at 12:30 p.m. Period 2 spans 12:45 p.m. until 3:15 p.m. Period 3 begins at 3:30 p.m. and lasts until day’s end at 6:00 p.m. The General Tire Takeout show airs approximately 6:15–7:15 p.m. as anglers return to the ramp.

Fans can catch all the action every day of competition on MLF NOW! live stream on MajorLeagueFishing.com or download the MLF App for your Apple or GooglePlay device or on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV).

About the Bass Pro Tour

The Bass Pro Tour began in 2019 and features 80 of the best professional anglers in the world, including Kevin VanDam, Edwin Evers, Aaron Martens, Mike Iaconelli, Jordan Lee, and Skeet Reese. Each stage includes six days of competition using the Major League Fishing, catch-weigh-and-immediately-release format, where every bass over a variable minimum weight, which is 2 pounds on Lake Fork for Stage Three, toward a cumulative weight total for the day.  Variable minimum weights are determined by fishery, akin to a golf course handicap. The field of 80 anglers is divided into two groups of 40 (Groups A and B) to compete on days one through four for the Qualifying Round. The winners of each Group earn an automatic berth to the Championship Round. The anglers finishing in places 2-20 from each group in the Qualifying Round (40 total) advance to the Knockout Round on day five (Tuesday), which determines who will compete on that final day, the Championship Round (Wednesday), for the Stage title and $100,000.

Each of Eight Stages of the Bass Pro Tour have the following payout schedule: 1st $100,000; 2nd $42,000; 3rd $30,000; 4th $24,000; 5th $18,000; 6th $16,800; 7th $15,600; 8th $14,400; 9th $13,200; 10th $12,000; 11th – 40th $6,000; Big Bass Daily $1,000; Big Bass Overall $1,000.

Jacob Wheeler won the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One presented by Power-Pole on Lake Eufaula (Ala.) on February 12, 2020. Jacob Powroznik won the Favorite Fishing Stage Two presented by Bass Cat on Lake Okeechobee (Fla.) on February 26, 2020.

In addition to the economic impact on a host community, Major League Fishing showcases the region through their award-winning, live and linear programming. Each Stage of the Bass Pro Tour is broadcast live on the Major League Fishing app, MyOutdoorTV (MOTV), and majorleaguefishing.com, totaling more than 325 hours of original programming. Fans can follow the fast-paced nature of the MLF format as it unfolds on the live leaderboard through “SCORETRACKER® updates.” Highlights from each Stage of the 2020 Bass Pro Tour will air on Discovery Network beginning in July 2020 and Sportsman Channel in early 2021.

“MLF offers the strongest broadcast presence in the industry to fans and sponsors,” said Jim Wilburn, President and CEO of Major League Fishing. “And with these lakes planned for this coming Bass Pro Tour, we know 2020 will be our best year yet as we continue to capture a broad audience of both longtime fishing fans and those new to the sport, thanks to our fast-paced, fan-friendly format,”

About Major League Fishing    

Founded in 2011, Major League Fishing (MLF) brings the high-intensity sport of competitive bass fishing into America’s living rooms on Outdoor Channel, Discovery, CBS, CBS Sports Network, World Fishing Network, Sportsman Channel, and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). The Bass Pro Tour consists of eight events and a championship streamed live on www.MajorLeagueFishing.com and MOTV.

In late 2019 MLF acquired FLW, which expands their portfolio to include the world’s largest grassroots fishing organization, including the strongest five-fish format professional bass fishing tour, the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, as well as the Toyota Series, Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine, and Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI, and High School Fishing presented by Favorite Fishing.

For more information on the league and anglers, visit www.MajorLeagueFishing.com and follow MLF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.