Anglers prepare for third stop on Wal-Mart FLW Tour
The third stop of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour on Lake Murray is shaping up to be the kind of event that bass anglers dream about. Warming weather and low lake levels are playing to the anglers’ advantage to make the Lake Murray event a big-bass showdown.
A long, cold winter has finally loosened its grip in the Carolinas, and trees are budding on the banks of Lake Murray. The practice rounds of Sunday and Monday brought clear, sunny skies and temperatures near 70 degrees with little wind. Those kinds of days in the spring are a cue to bass to leave their deep-water haunts and head for the shallows.
As bass come out of their winter hibernation, they move into the creeks and pockets to spawn, scarfing up little critters that get in their way, which is what Lake Murray bass are doing right now.
With the warm days, water temperatures are peaking into the low 60s in the creek pockets. Yet this event will not likely be like the sight-fishing fest of the 2000 Lake Murray FLW. Instead, anglers will be trying to intercept bass as they move into the shallows before they spawn.
However, there are not as many shallows on Lake Murray this year. Lake officials are holding the lake 13 feet below normal pool while a reinforcement dam is being constructed. As a result, Murray looks like a different lake.
Around the lake, docks, floating piers and even boats sit high and dry on the lake bottom. Some docks are 50 yards from the water. In the middle of the lake, large humps and ridges lined with stumps and rock formations stick up out of the water.
In addition to pulling the water down, ample rainfall over the last couple of weeks has made Lake Murray muddier than usual. The Saluda River portion of the lake is orange with mud. There is still a zone of clear water down near the dam, but the clear water is not as prevalent as normal. Limited visibility is another factor that will inhibit sight-fishing this week.
What is prevalent on Murray this year is underwater vegetation. Large beds of hydrilla and elodea are growing out on the main lake, giving anglers plenty of fishing options.
In terms of patterns, anglers are having to decide between fishing out deep in the main lake grass beds or moving up shallow and fishing the pockets. Grass fish hold more promise for quality while smaller buck bass inundating the pockets are more numerous.
The underwater vegetation grows out to about 12 to 15 feet and is about 5 to 8 feet tall. Bass hang around the tops of the vegetation waiting to ambush an easy meal. The top lures for anglers choosing to probe the grass beds will be big spinner baits and crankbaits. The object is to slow-roll a heavy spinner bait or crank a crankbait through the tops of the grass, hoping that a big bass will mistake the lure for an easy meal.
Anglers probing the shallower pockets will be using a myriad of lures, including crankbaits, spinner baits, jigs and worms. Since the water is low, cover in the pockets is limited to rocks, stumps and brushpiles.
FLW Tour pro Skeet Reese says he is going to blend the two patterns. “I’ll probably start out in the deep grass in the morning when it’s cool and then move back into the pockets as the day warms up,” said Reese on Monday.
Given the impending weather and the low water, Lake Murray should be a high-weight event. New bass, which are usually hungrier and therefore naïve, will be moving shallow every day.
No major fronts are expected during competition. Weather forecasts are calling for highs in the 70s and lows in the mid-40s. Lake Murray is shaping up to be springtime reservoir fishing at its finest.