Staff Picks: Lake Murray - Major League Fishing

Staff Picks: Lake Murray

February 3, 2006 • MLF • Archives

Tournament site

Lake Murray should be a big-fish fest, depending on the conditions. The big South Carolina bass are still in prespawn mode in relatively uncluttered water. So this one is shaping up into a shallow-water crankbaiter’s dream, which leaves the door open for a lot of pros we’ve heard from before. Locals might have an advantage, but they have yet to win an FLW Lake Murray event. Mike Wurm (1999), Clark Wendlandt (2000) and Chris Elliott (2003) all hail from out-of-state. It might be wise, for insurance purposes, to throw an Anthony Gagliardi or Ricky Shumpert into your picks, but don’t be so sure they’ll take victory. The winner’s money for this one, the Chevy Open, is $200,000. That tends to motivate the all top pros from Clewiston to Tokyo and everywhere in between to be their best.


Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop No. 2

Chevy Open

Lake Murray, Columbia, S.C.

Feb. 8-11

Rob Newell
Contributing editor
FLW Outdoors

Record: 1-0
Points: 702

FLW writer Rob Newell
FLW writer Jeff Schroeder Jeff Schroeder

Record: 0-1
Points: 588

1) DAVE LEFEBRE.I’m guessing that shallow crankbaits are going to capture a lion’s share of bass this week. Simply put, I’m going with an all-star shallow-cranking lineup, starting with Mr. Lefebre. He has these really cool handmade crankbaits, and everybody should go buy some before the tournament. The crankbaits are called … Nah, I wouldn’t do it to you, Dave. I want to, but I won’t.
2) LARRY NIXON.Lake Murray is a textbook pattern lake and Larry Nixon helped write the book on pattern fishing. And talk about shallow cranking, you could give Nixon a wine cork with a shallow bill and couple of hooks attached to it, and he’d scare the top 10 with it.
3) CRAIG POWERS.Powers lives for shallow cranking with handmade plugs and he’s got hundreds of them. If Murray does turn into a shallow-cranking battle, it could get ugly among these guys.
4) CLARK WENDLANDT.At some point, Wendlandt will “go Potomac” and cash in a top-five for the year. Murray is the place. He, too, has a tackle box full of those crazy handmade crankbaits, and he loves to use them.
5) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.The last time I fished an FLW tournament on Lake Murray, I caught the biggest stringer of my life: 24 pounds. Okay, so it was in a net for my day-two pro partner Anthony Gagliardi, but it was still an exciting day. I figured Gagliardi’s massive comeback catch would put him in the top 10, but he finished 11th. Indeed, redemption is on Gag’s mind.
1) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.Because he should do well here near home. No pressure, Gags. Just git `er done.
2) MARK DAVIS.He was strong at his last FLW event at Murray, but that was seven years ago. Still, Davis is like a fine wine: He only gets better with age.
3) CLARK WENDLANDT.It’s kind of been feast or famine with the Clean One the last two seasons. Mostly famine. He won this event in 2000, but that year it was a spawning tournament. Not so, for the most part, this time around. For the sake of this pick, let’s just hope Clark’s getting hungry for this one.
4) LARRY NIXON.He hasn’t made the cut, what, since early 2004? That’s way too long a dry spell for the General. The idea of not picking him, especially at Murray, is just scary.
5) ALTON JONES.Points play. He’ll top-30 at the very worst.
Brett Carlson

Record: 1-0
Points: 656

FLW editor Brett Carlson
FLW writer Gary Mortenson Gary Mortenson

Record: 0-1
Points: 590

1) GARY YAMAMOTO.The Senkomaestro has been quietly asserting his dominance on the FLW Tour. In his last four tournaments, Yamamoto has finished 18th, eighth, 37th and 11th. His lowest payday in those events was $11,000. I see the Senko getting bit and Mr. Yamamoto cashing a $200,000 check in Columbia.
2) DAN MOREHEAD.The Paducah, Ky., pro took eighth place in 2003 and fifth in 2000. Outside of Kentucky Lake, Murray has got to be his favorite FLW Tour venue. Morehead’s spinnerbait looks especially deadly now that the fish have migrated to deepwater structure.
3) CLARK WENDLANDT.Wendlandt’s too astute an angler to slip into another slump. He won here in 2000 and has fished consistently the other years. I’m not looking for Clean Shoes to top 10, but Wendlandt’s versatility will earn him at least $10,000.
4) LARRY NIXON.With the grass all but gone, I’m predicting Larry Legend will put his many years of experience to work and solve the Murray mystery. In 2003, Nixon led the event after three days before stormy weather moved in and spooked his fish. Much like the Senkomaestro, Bee Branch’s finest is quietly heating up as well. Look for Nixon to get on a steady pattern while the majority of the field struggles.
5) CHAD GRIGSBY.Mr. Grigsby certainly answered all my questions about fishing as a married man. He started out the 2005 season with two awesome tournaments, why can’t history repeat itself? Another noteworthy statistic: The Maple Grove, Minn., resident has notched a top-10 in every tournament he’s fished since moving to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Coincidence? This pundit says no.
1) LARRY NIXON.What can you say about Mr. Nixon? He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He treats his co-anglers with respect, and he’s one of the best anglers to ever suit up for a big-time fishing event. Nixon, one of the true legends of the sport, also boasts a sixth-place finish at Murray in 2003, the last time the FLW Tour visited the mighty waters of Lake Murray. People will call me sentimental with this pick. However, I simply call it genius.
2) DAVE LEFEBRE.The Keebler Kid killed me in last month’s Okeechobee Picks and, because of that, I’ve had to kiss Rob Newell’s shoes all week. Trust me, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Now, normally, I’d penalize Lefebre and not pick him for the entire year (or the remainder of the decade) as a result of that humiliation. However, because I’m a nice guy I’m going to give him a second chance. Shout out to Lefebre: Don’t mess this up.
3) TOMMY BIFFLE.To paraphrase Stuart Scott of Sportscenter fame, “Tommy Biffle, he must be butter because he’s on a roll.” After finishing seventh overall in the 2005 FLW Tour standings, The Wagoner, Okla., native came out of the chute strongly during the 2006 Okeechobee event with a stirring, seventh-place finish. Combine that with a 12th-place finish on Lake Murray in 2003 and you quickly come to the conclusion that Biffle is somebody that the rest of the field needs to watch closely.
4) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.The soft-spoken Gagliardi has been flying under the radar screen for years. While he might not be as flashy as some, he’s quietly become one of the most consistent anglers on the tour. Gagliardi landed in 11th place during the tour’s 2003 visit. And I’m banking on another strong showing once again – not that anybody will notice, of course.
5) SHINICHI FUKAE.Mark my words, Fukae is back. The star of the 2004 FLW Tour season who underwent a sophomore slump in 2005 looks energized and ready to make another strong run at the AOY title. Ironically, while most people would have a distinct disadvantage fishing a lake they’ve never been to before, Fukae treats this handicap as just another challenge. And nobody, I mean nobody, scouts a lake better than Fukae. For that reason alone, he’s worthy of this list.
Keith Lebowitz
“FLW Outdoors” on FSN

Record: 1-0
Points: 611

FLW Associate editor Jason Sealock Jason Sealock
Associate editor
FLW Outdoors

Record: 0-1
Points: 493

1) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.He was my preseason pick for Land O’ Lakes Angler of the Year. Gagliardi placed 11th here back in 2003, and I’m expecting him to hoist the winner’s trophy here in 2006. He’s as consistent as any angler over the last two years on the FLW Tour.
2) LARRY NIXON.He’s the old man of the bunch, but after watching him on the water at Okeechobee, it’s abundantly clear that the Chevy Pro isn’t ready to let all the young bucks take over his tour. He, too, fared well here back in 2003. Wouldn’t it be cool if Nixon won AOY?
3) GARY YAMAMOTO.Flew under the radar all year in 2005 and still made the championship. He’s got so many lures in his arsenal. Got off to a fine start at the Big O and is another angler who’s had success here in past FLW tournaments.
4) CHAD GRIGSBY.He’s no longer a fluke pick. Grigsby’s run over the last year and a half is an eye-opener: six top-30 finishes in last eight events. He’s considered one of the world’s hottest anglers right now, and who am I to doubt it? He will compete for the AOY title this year.
5) DAVE LEFEBRE.He caught a 9-2 kicker here back in 2003. I talked to Dave last week to find out about his mental makeup this time, and he’s fired up for this event. If he wants to make any kind of run at an AOY title, he must fare well this week or his title hopes for this season will be gone.
1) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.He’s great with a crankbait and knows the lake well. He’s due for another big win on the FLW Tour and this type of tournament plays to his strengths.
2) LARRY NIXON.The guy just fishes well here, and the fact that he has a lot of experience on the lake could lead him to the winning bunch of bass.
3) CHAD GRIGSBY.He’s strong with a flipping stick, but he’s also very strong when there is a crankbait bite, like now. He’s got some momentum heading into this event after fishing well on Lake Okeechobee.
4) MIKE HAWKES.He fished real strong on Okeechobee, and this will be a battle of the big limits. When it comes to posting big limits, Hawkes made quite a name for himself in that category last year.
5) TAKAHIRO OMORI.He’s strong with a spinnerbait and a crankbait, two baits working well right now on Murray. He’s done well here before, and barely missing the Classic this year will be the fuel to his fire this season on the FLW Tour.


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