John Murray heads into the final event of the Toyota Series Central Division in fourth place in overall points. Photo by Phoenix Moore.

It may be the MLF offseason for pro John Murray, but that doesn’t mean he’s putting the cover on his boat until February. The Tennessee pro has been hard at work fishing in the Central Division of the FLW Toyota Series, and is preparing for his third and final event of the Central Division calendar.

Not Searching for Smallmouth

Murray enters the final event on Dale Hollow Lake (October 29-31) in fourth place in the Central Division points standings thanks to a 15th-place finish on Lake Chickamauga in February, and an eighth-place finish on Pickwick Lake in May.

When he saw Dale Hollow on the schedule for the final event, Murray started to feel some excitement.

“One of the lakes I wanted to fish when I moved out to Tennessee from Arizona was Dale Hollow,” Murray said. “It’s home to the world record smallmouth at 11 pounds, 15 ounces, so I know there’s massive smallmouth to be caught there. However, I’ve fished a few BFLs here, and I realized that smallmouth really don’t play in a five-fish tournament on Dale Hollow.”

Murray cites the smallmouth slot limit as the main reason for steering clear of smallmouth. Anglers are only allowed two smallmouth per bag—one over 21 inches in length and one under 16 inches. Consequently, Murray will focus his tournament time on largemouth.

“I’m going into this event with a two-pronged approach: I’m either going to be really shallow or I’m going to be really deep,” he said. “I’m going to fish Dale Hollow a lot like a lake out in the western part of the country, because I’ve found bass at spots both deep and shallow. It’s going to be tough and I will probably head to some places that won’t be as crowded to try and re-invent the wheel.”

AOY Within Reach

With two solid finishes under his belt and sitting pretty in the points standings, a trip to the Toyota Series Championship on Lake Cumberland in December seems likely. That’s an attainable goal to be sure, but Murray has his sights set a little higher.

“There’s a ton of good anglers in this circuit, so to have a chance to win an Angler of the Year title is amazing,” Murray expressed. “It’s been nice to be able to fish Tennessee lakes and not have to travel too far from my home on Watts Bar. An AOY and/or a trip to the Toyota Series Championship would be awesome, and such an accomplishment.”

The Arizona native says he already has a solid idea of what baits he thinks give him the best chance.

“I’m thinking when I’m up shallow that a topwater bait will be the way to go,” Murray predicted. “When I’m out deep, I’ll go more finesse with jigs, drop-shots, and spoons. If I can catch five, I’m going to be in a good position each day. The fishery is pretty stingy right now, so this week is all about staying in contention and not zeroing any day.”