PROSPERITY, S.C. – February is an excellent month to find a bass in excess of 7 pounds at Lake Murray, site of the season-opener in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine South Carolina Division. This year, the water has been drawn down for various reasons and may impact the fishery, but competitors will have multiple good options available to them come Feb. 11.
Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine South Carolina Division
Prosperity, South Carolina
Feb. 11, 2023
Lake Murray covers approximately 50,000 surface acres with an estimated 650 miles of shoreline. Fed by the Saluda River, which flows from upstate South Carolina near the North Carolina state line, Murray stretches 41 miles long and 14 miles wide at its widest point. The lake offers a variety of bass holding cover, though much less grass exists than in years past. Docks, brush, submerged brushpiles, and rocks constitute much of the classic cover that exists in Murray.
Shallow-water anglers will likely converge on the upper end of the lake where the water is historically more stained or dirty. Anglers who excel in clearer water should prosper on lower half of the lake.
Bass Pro Tour angler and Lake Murray sharpie Anthony Gagliardi predicts that the Feb. 11 timing of the first event of the South Carolina Division season will produce excellent fishing and some big bags.
“I believe it will take at least 20 pounds for a top-five finish,” Gagliardi said. “The winning weight is likely to be 22 to 26 pounds. A 7-pounder is a big fish here, and there are a lot of 5- and 6-pound fish in the lake. This is the time of year when catching an 8-pounder is a real possibility, though.”
Low water levels may impact anglers during the tournament. If the water remains lower than usual, much of the well-known cover could be sitting high and dry.
“We’ve had a unique situation with water levels this year on Murray; the lake has been drawn down 8 feet from normal, and it’s 10 feet below full pool,” Gagliardi said. “I think this happened for a combination of reasons – vegetation control and possibly for some work on the dam. But the fishing has been pretty good (this winter). Guys will catch some good weights at that BFL.”
Gagliardi believes that anglers can/should be rewarded for fishing their strengths at the Feb. 11 event, and that fish can be found almost everywhere on the lake in February.
“It could be really good fishing deep, but historically the shallow bite is good this time of the year, too,” he said. “With the water drawn down all winter, it could be filling back up during the tournament. If the water is coming up, there could be some more color to the water, which will make the shallow bite more productive.
“There are lots of variables this year due to the water levels. Shallow water anglers can rely on whatever they can visually see like docks, brush, rock – all of that classic stuff will be good. Deeper brushpiles and rock can be good in creek channel bottoms. Also, if you’re a guy who likes to fish rivers, the two rivers could play. Just move around and fish your strengths.”
Gagliardi expects the most successful anglers to lean heavily on power techniques.
“A drop-shot probably isn’t going to be what wins it,” Gagliardi said. “It’ll likely take some type of power fishing, whether with a squarebill crankbait, jig or a spinnerbait. Especially fishing in the dirtier water. You just need to be able to pick up your trolling motor every 15 minutes running stained water and flip a ½-ounce jig at cover. A jerkbait is a good option. In my mind, all options are on the table at Murray to fish your strengths.”