MLF Records and Rallies on Lake Fork: Atkins Breaks Christie’s Record; Neal Rallies in the Third to Sneak into First Place
March 14, 2020 (Lake Fork, Texas) 40 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 histories 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 Three 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, eight 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.”
Atkins won the Berkley Big Bass of the Day for Saturday and receives $1,000.
Brandon Coulter took over the lead from Dave Lefebre early in Period Two thanks to a steady stream of significant catches, including his big bass of the day weighing in at nine pounds, five 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 Ten with a 10-fish, 35-pound-10-ounce run in Period Three. With seven minutes remaining on the day, Neal caught a three-pound-eight-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 Ten of Day One, 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 MLFNOW! livestream on MajorLeagueFishing.com or download the MLF App for your Apple or GooglePlay device or on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV).