Lake Murray is shaping up to be a shallow-water slugfest for Bass Pro Tour Stage Three - Major League Fishing
Lake Murray is shaping up to be a shallow-water slugfest for Bass Pro Tour Stage Three
2m • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour
BRITT MYERS: ‘If you don’t take that chance, it’s never going to happen’
19h • Bass Pro Tour
JACOB WHEELER: The Freeloader made Guntersville a special win
1d • Jacob Wheeler • Angler Columns
Early June on Cayuga puts both largemouth and smallmouth spawners in play for Stage Five
1d • Mason Prince • Bass Pro Tour
Cayuga Lake staged for an ‘epic’ event as Bass Pro Tour heads north
3d • Bass Pro Tour
Major League Fishing combines technology and conservation to host Bass Pro Tour on Cayuga Lake prior to fishing season start
4d • MLF • Press Releases
Strader dusting off the drop-shot for smallmouth as Bass Pro Tour northern swing approaches
4d • Bass Pro Tour
FANTASYFISHING.COM INSIDER: Must-have picks for your Cayuga roster
4d • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour
The most important fishing tip of the year: learn how to back your boat
6d • Bass Pro Tour
A behind-the-scenes look at Team Kubota’s strategy session
1w • Bass Pro Tour
TOP 10 BAITS & PATTERNS: How the best caught ‘em on Lake Guntersville
1w • Joel Shangle • Bass Pro Tour
PATTERN INSIDE THE PATTERN: Wheeler’s Guntersville win started with some home-lake learnings on Lake Chickamauga
1w • Dave Landahl • Bass Pro Tour
Wheeler ‘freeloads’ his way to another TVA victory
1w • Bass Pro Tour
GALLERY: Fans gather to meet the pros at Guntersville
1w • Rachel Dubrovin • Bass Pro Tour
Wheeler earns sixth Bass Pro Tour win at Guntersville
1w • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

Lake Murray is shaping up to be a shallow-water slugfest for Bass Pro Tour Stage Three

Image for Lake Murray is shaping up to be a shallow-water slugfest for Bass Pro Tour Stage Three
Lake Murray should produce a six-day battle royal for Bass Pro Tour Stage Three. Photo by Charles Waldorf. Angler: Matt Becker.
April 1, 2023 • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

COLUMBIA, S.C. – It’s spring and Fox Rent A Car Stage Three Presented by Mercury on Lake Murray is set up to be a shallow-water slugfest. The lake is in great shape according to those who fish it regularly, and Murray’s largemouth should be shallow and in all stages of the spawn when Stage Three kicks off Sunday, April 2.

We can fully expect SCORETRACKER® to go bonkers in this event if everything goes as predicted.

About the fishery

Lake Murray was formed in 1930 after the Dreher Shoals Dam was constructed. It’s a big lake formed by the Saluda River (it covers nearly 50,000 acres), which should give the field plenty of room to roam in search of their daily limits.

Docks are a common sight on the bank and should attract the bulk of attention from anglers, but there definitely are more options. Aquatic vegetation is limited, but can produce fish for those who find it – namely pondweed, water willows, and some eelgrass.

Murray is a typical highland reservoir with clear water on the lower half and stained to dirty water as you move up and into the Saluda and Little Saluda rivers. Most fishing this time of year will likely be done near the bank, but offshore cane piles and brush are prevalent in deeper water.

A possibly diminished home-field advantage for Gagliardi

South Carolina pro Anthony Gagliardi can look out the windows of his home and see Lake Murray. He’s as local as it gets here, and has fared exceptionally well on his home pond. With Major League Fishing alone, he’s won a 2006 FLW Tour stop and the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup on these waters. He also took second in a 2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit stop won by Matt Becker.

Even with that track record, though, Gagliardi believes that it’s anybody’s game at Stage Three, since he believe that everyone will be catching them.

“I haven’t been looking forward to this one as much, to be honest,” he admitted. “The fish will be shallow and everyone is going to see them and they’ll be able to catch them 100 different ways. If it was February or later in the year, that’d be a different story, and I might have a bigger advantage. With bass spawning, all bets are off.”

Anthony Gagliardi will look to add to his already-impressive resume on Lake Murray.

Tactics in play

As Gagliardi mentioned, there will be many techniques in play. He said having top anglers from across the county visit his home lake will likely show him a few new tricks when he reviews the coverage after the event.

“Obviously, sight fishing will be a big deal, but there should be fish that have already spawned and more that are still waiting to move up,” he said. “I expect most of the guys to catch them around docks, but we’ll also see frogs and topwaters coming into play. It still might be a little early for the herring-spawn stuff, but if that happens, a big walking topwater will be a good way to catch them.”

During the 2021 Pro Circuit stop, Gagliardi recalls third-place finisher Michael Neal catching his fish up the river with a vibrating jig.

“That’s not something the locals do very much here and it worked well for him,” Gagliardi said. “That’s what happens when you have a big tournament on your home lake; you learn about all kinds of random stuff that works. There will be a ton of different baits that will catch fish this week.”

Another angler who fishes Murray regularly is Pure Fishing’s Nathan Ragsdale. The company’s headquarters is in Columbia and Ragsdale works as the Associate Category Manager for Bass Baits – he believes that fishing will be excellent.

“I was just out there this week and there’s certainly a bunch of fish spawning, some that are postspawn, and some waiting to come up,” Ragsdale said. “You’re going to have fish coming and going and there will be many ways to catch them. Things are a little early this year because we had a big warming trend at the beginning of March and the herring spawn is already getting started.”

As a result of fish in all stages of the spawn, Ragsdale feels that multiple different techniques will be in play.

“Obviously, the bedding fish will be a big player and there will be several ways to catch them,” he said. “Around the docks, guys will find success with swimbaits and glide baits for pre-spawners. It could also be won on a wacky rig just as easily. It will be an event where a guy can fish however he wants to.”

Lake Murray will be a little more stained than it was when several Bass Pro Tour pros competed there during the 2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit.

Current conditions

Murray is slightly higher than usual and Gagliardi believes this should make the shallow bite even stronger, especially after a winter drawdown to maintain the dam facilities.

“They had it down around 10 feet and that killed just about any grass left, but it’s come back up and is now over a foot higher than normal,” he said. “When it started rising, the water was slightly more stained than usual.”

Ragsdale confirmed the current state of Murray and said it’s slightly dirtier than usual.

“Generally, it’s a really clear lake but is a little more stained lately,” Ragsdale said. “The water still hasn’t cleared up completely since they started bringing it up in January and we’ve had some rain recently.”

With the lake a little ahead of schedule, Ragsdale plans to keep an eye out for the herring spawn and anglers looking for that bite.

“The problem is, there are only so many areas that it’s happening and could be a ring-around-the-rosie thing with guys trying to fish the same points,” he said. “It will group them up in small areas, but that’s a good way to catch a big bag quickly. They’ll also have to deal with the stripers competing for the same food and Murray is full of big stripers.”

Bold predictions for fireworks

According to Gagliardi, Murray is fishing exceptionally well the past two years. He has not been on the water due to the off-limits rules, but says tournament weights have been off the charts this year and last.

“There have been two 30-pound bags that I know of and a couple 29s, but just about everything takes 25 or more pounds to win here lately,” Gagliardi said. “It’s been fishing very good and in some events, 19 pounds won’t even get you a check. The lake is full of 4- and 5-pound fish right now, with some bigger ones mixed in. It takes about 25 pounds to win every single weekend out here.”

Ragsdale echoed those statements and expects some fireworks with monster bags of fish.

“Every tournament around here has been taking mid-20s to win, minimum,” he said. “The lake is full of fat, healthy bass right now.”