Florida-strain bass bending rods at Lake Atkins
Lake Atkins in Pope County has been one of the top lakes to watch for the possibility of a new state record largemouth bass for the last decade. That search for massive bass intensified last week, when two largemouth in excess of 11 pounds were caught from the same fishing pier only a week apart.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission lake is responsible for a few double-digit-pound fish each year, but the last few weeks have seen more trophy-class bass pulled from the water than usual. Sharon Vinson, owner of Lucky Landing Bait Shop, said the last month or so has been a bit of a phenomenon.
“The fishing reports haven’t been that great, but all of the sudden the bass went crazy,” Vinson said. “You don’t even need a boat. Almost all of the action has been right here by the pier.”
Vinson says most of the successful anglers have been using shad netted from the lake to catch their fish. Those that can’t catch their own shad still do pretty well with bass minnows purchased at the bait shop, right next to the pier.
“The crappie usually come to the cove next to the pier when the shad come in,” Vinson said. “But this year they didn’t. Instead, these bass have shown up.”
The action really cranked up Monday, Jan. 23, when one angler wrestled an 11.7-pound fish to the public fishing pier next to the boat ramp. Over the next week, the action was slow, but the size of the fish caught more than made up for it. Then things opened up again on Friday.
“Last Friday was really, really good. Several fish over 5 pounds were caught and that second 11-pounder. I’ve already weighed in a 10-pounder and a few smaller ones that were over 5 pounds Monday, too,” Vinson said.
At 752 acres, Atkins doesn’t appeal to many anglers used to chasing bass on the giant U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs in The Natural State. It isn’t large enough to host large-scale fishing tournaments, and the flooded timber that’s still standing just under the lake’s surface can be a hazard to boats running fast outside of the boating lanes. But the lake is ideal for anyone looking for a good fishing experience complete with a chance at trophy bass and a guaranteed good meal and hospitality at Lucky Landing Bait Shop. Pulling into the launch, you’re just as likely to see a kayak or johnboat launching into the water as you are a 20-foot fiberglass bass boat. With fishing piers, accesses and jetties placed around the lake, bank angling is an excellent option as well.