When he isn’t fishing Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open tournaments, Texan Justin Margraves earns his living as a bass guide at Lake Fork, one of the country’s premier trophy fisheries. His occupation helps him stay sharp for tournament fishing. It also gives his clients an opportunity to hook a heavyweight largemouth on any cast.
Margraves’s best Lake Fork bass weighed 10.50 pounds. Two of his clients have caught bass of more than 10 pounds and other clients have hooked bass of more than 10 pounds but failed to get them in the boat.
“We catch lots of 8- and 9-pound bass, but it’s hard to break 10 pounds, even on Fork,” Margraves said. “The best time for the biggest bass is February and early March, but they show up all year long.”
Guiding at Lake Fork provided another benefit for Margraves: a tournament sponsor. On his very first guide trip in November of 2013 his client, Jerry Cobb, was the lead salesman for Yellow Jacket Oil Tools in Houston. They got along so well that Cobb offered to pay Margraves’ entry fees and expenses to fish the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens.
This opportunity came too late in 2014 for Margraves to enter all three Central Opens that year, but he did compete in the final event, which took place on the Arkansas River at Muskogee, Okla., in mid-September. The result was a 10th place finish.
“The Arkansas River has been good to me,” Margraves said. “I’ve fished three Bassmaster Central Open tournaments there and made the Top 12 cut every time.”
That includes finishing second at the Arkansas River Open in April of 2018 and sixth there in June of 2016. Margraves believes the Arkansas River sets up well for him because he is a power fisherman who likes to fish fast.
Then again, the Arkansas River fishes shallow and Margraves prefers to fish offshore structure with deep crankbaits and football jigs. He has proven to be a versatile angler.
“Yellow Jacket Oil Tools had to drop my sponsorship after the 2015 season because the oil fields took a fall,” Margraves said.
Margraves topped off his 2015 season by finishing fifth in early October at Table Rock Lake, the final Bassmaster Central Open that year. He has picked up other sponsors continues his quest to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series.
His best finish in the final AOY standings thus far has been 20th place, which is where he currently sits in the 2018 AOY standings after the first two Central Open tournaments. If he qualifies for the Elites, the amount of sponsorship support he garners will determine if he takes the plunge.
Margraves credits his uncle, Joe Mauldin, for getting him hooked on bass fishing. They began fishing tournaments together when Margraves was a teen living in Henderson, Texas.
“He was my mentor growing up,” Margraves said. “After my uncle got me started, I spent countless hours on the water by myself learning as much as I could.”
Uncle Mauldin is a well-known and highly regarded Mercury Mechanic with 30 years experience. He owns his own shop, Town and Country Marine in Hallsville, Texas. Margraves worked for his uncle for three years at the shop and is a “die hard Mercury man.”
Margraves lives in Diana, Texas, with his wife, Natalie, and his two girls, Madison, 7, and Ava, 5.
“I couldn’t do this with out the support that my wife and children give me,” Margraves said. “Diana is the one who supported me to become a guide and to try to qualify for the Elite Series.”
Margrave’s sponsors include Santone Lures, Shimano, G Loomis, Seaguar, Phoenix Boats, Power-Pole, Mercury Marine, Humminbird, Minn Kota and Big Bite Baits.