If it appeared that the tails of many of the bass set on the scale at FLW Lake Murray were stumpier than usual, they were. The mid-March tournament was held at the height of spawning season in Lake Murray, meaning many of the males to cross the scale had worn down their tails fanning the beds to make egg nests.
It also meant some big stringers for those anglers who are accomplished sight fishermen. In Lake Murray that week, many big bass were up on the beds near the shoreline.
“I’ve never seen more fish anywhere than are on the bank right now,” said pro winner Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas,
Many competitors were pulling their biggest bass out of 12 to 18 inches of clear water. Scores of fish gathered on point banks, where females lay their eggs and males followed to fertilize the hatch. Anglers needed only to approach quietly, spot them and drop a line in front of them. Over half of the pro field brought in full five-fish stringers on day one of competition. Most of them were sight fishing.
Said fifth-place pro John Sappington of Wyandotte, Okla., “There’s just so many fish biting right now.”
The favorable conditions on Lake Murray in March contrasted greatly with the situation at last year’s Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop there. The 1999 Lake Murray event was held in late February, and it fell victim to cold temperatures and even a little snow.
Mickey Bruce of Buford, Ga., who finished in third place on the pro side, understandably preferred the warmer temperatures and accessibility of the spawning bass at this year’s tourney.
“From last year to this year, it’s been a world of difference,” he said.
The pre-spawn and spawning season tends to run continually for about four to six weeks, driving the fish closer to bass anglers for the duration. Still, spawning bass tend to be a little more jittery than usual, making the hunt even more delicate. For some anglers, even though they can see the fish, it doesn’t mean they’re easier to catch.
Near the end of the tournament, ninth-place pro Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., fished for one six-pound female for about two hours before he had to give up and move on.
“I threw everything at it that Wal-Mart has to sell,” he said.