Despite being less than 3 pounds off the lead entering the final day of the Logan Martin Central Open on Saturday, Justin Atkins had pretty low expectations.
“I really thought I was going to catch 7 pounds a day and go on to the house,” Atkins said.
He nearly doubled his prediction with a 13-11 stringer, his biggest of the tournament and enough to carry him to the victory with a three-day total of 38-03. It's the first B.A.S.S. victory for the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup champion.
Atkins worked the same pattern he fished the latter half of day 1 and all of day 2. He started the first day by targeting big fish in shallow water around the Interstate 20 bridge crossing the lake and caught a key 3-pounder that anchored his 11-11 bag.
After checking several of the offshore schools he had located, Atkins realized he wasn’t upgrading his weight, so he ran upriver to an area within about 12 miles of the Neely Henry Dam and spotted a row of rocks with fish set up perfectly for the current situation.
A furious rally completed his limit and prompted Atkins to spend that evening studying his Lakemaster mapping chip to identify similar areas. He ended up locating several between 8 and 15 miles from the dam, in depths of 10 to 15 feet.
“I noticed how much rock was out in the river, so the second day, once the water came on, I went up there and started idling,” he said. “I wouldn’t even fish until I saw them. I found a spot that ended up being really key. I caught all of my fish there today and most of them yesterday.
“I started every morning on those shallow schools and would catch between 10 and 12 pounds and then went up there to make some key culls. It was just a one-two combination that worked out pretty good.”
Atkins caught his morning fish on a 1/4-ounce shaky head with a green pumpkin Berkley Bottom Hopper worm. On the river rocks, he used the shaky head in slower current and then switched to a Berkley PowerBait Rib Shad on a 1/2-ounce swimbait head in swifter water.
Mark Rose, the 2018 FLW Tour Angler of the Year who held the lead entering the final day, finished 2nd with 37-5. Joshua Stracner took 3rd with 37-02.
Here's a recap of how the top 12 finished up:
1. Justin Atkins: 38-03
2. Mark Rose: 37-05
3. Joshua Stracner: 37-02
4. Frank Talley: 36-08
5. Keith Poche: 35-11
6. Scott Canterbury: 35-00
7. Brady Vernon: 34-10
8. Dustin Connell: 34-09
9. Josh Butler: 33-14
10. Joey Nania: 33-00
11. Tim Hurst: 32-10
12. Kyle Dorsett: 31-14