An Offshore Afternoon with John Murray - Major League Fishing
An Offshore Afternoon with John Murray
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An Offshore Afternoon with John Murray

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John Murray prefers offshore fishing during the fall on Watts Bar Reservoir. Photo by Mason Prince
October 3, 2019 • Mason Prince • Angler News

WATTS BAR RESERVOIR, Tenn. – It’s a beautiful afternoon on Watts Bar Reservoir, a little hot, but that’s just how MLF pro and Watts Bar resident John Murray likes it. He says the heat reminds him of back home in Arizona, where temperatures can soar above 110 degrees during the day.

Luckily for us and my pale complexion, we only see the temperature hover around 90 degrees. I tell Murray that Wesley Strader didn’t have much luck fishing in the hydrilla and boat docks this morning.

“That’s ok,” he says through a grin. “We’re not fishing grass this afternoon.”

4:25 p.m. ET – We set out toward a spot offshore where Murray has fished with his son TJ many times before. We see a paddlefish breach off to our right and he tells me that TJ has been begging him to go fishing for paddlefish for months. Murray says that he’s never caught a paddlefish in his life, but he thinks he could have a go at it soon. He just got his guiding license for Watts Bar, and is looking forward to showing his customers around the 39,000-acre reservoir.

Murray began the afternoon using this blade bait by River2Sea. Photo by Mason Prince

4:30 p.m. ET – Murray pulls out a River2Sea Diver Vibe blade bait to start with. He ties it on his Enigma rod and drops it down to some schooling bass below. He tells me that he loves using this bait because it imitates the shad in the area, and since it is solid lead, it can drop down deep and fast to the fish sitting 15 to 20 feet below us.

4:37 p.m. ET – After a few twitches and jerks of the blade bait, Murray is hooked up. As he’s reeling the fish in he tells me that he’s not sure that he hooked it very well. He’s right. As the bass comes to the surface we see that one little treble hook is all it’s hooked on, but as he begins to surface, he kicks and breaks free of the bait, swimming back down to the school below.

“That’s the problem you can run into with a heavy bait like that,” Murray explains. “Since it’s so heavy and has little hooks, it’s easier for them to shake off once they get to the surface. But I have something to fix that.”

Murray adds a spinning tail to the back end of his blade bait. Photo by Mason Prince

4:52 p.m. ET – Murray reaches for the box that the blade bait came with when he bought it. The bait comes with a spinning blade that you can put on the back instead of the treble hook. He says that this change allows the bait to stay straight while the tail spins instead of getting a rattling motion with two treble hooks.

4:55 p.m. ET – His plan to switch up works to perfection. On only his second cast with the spinning tail, Murray hooks up with a scoreable bass and gets him into the boat.

“This blade bait stays in my rotation year-round,” Murray says as he pries the hook out of the nearly 2-pound largemouth. “The bladed tail just seems to work better this time of year. I love fishing offshore, especially at this time of the year because the fish haven’t headed to the shallows yet.”

Murray releases his catch into Watts Bar Reservoir. Photo by Mason Prince

5:12 p.m. ET – As Murray hooks up with another scoreable bass, he tells me about how he grew up in Arizona, and about winning tournaments out West where he caught fish as deep as 125 feet. He says that he’s looking forward to heading back to the desert in a couple of weeks for the U.S. Open on Lake Mead, where he will compete against MLF pros Roy Hawk and Aaron Martens, just to name a few. He’s won the prestigious tournament two times in his career, the last being nearly 20 years ago.

5:25 p.m. ET – While he’s surrounded by green trees and blue skies, I ask Murray some differences and similarities between Arizona and Tennessee lakes.

“Current is way more important in Tennessee,” Murray replies. “In Arizona, the water is all dead calm. Offshore fishing is the way I learned how to catch fish when I was a kid, and that’s because it was really hard to catch them any other way out there in the desert. While the two places are so different, I think both states have similar fall patterns. Offshore and topwater bites are the way to go in both places during the cooler months.”

6:00 p.m. ET – Our time is up on Watts Bar, and we head back in to try and find some shady oasis to cool down along the banks. With only three bites on the day and two of those fish landed, Murray sarcastically reminds me that his least favorite part about fishing is not being able to catch them. John Murray, the underrated jokester.