April 17, 2014 by Jeff Samsel
Editor's note: Veteran outdoor writer Jeff Samsel lives just a short drive from Lake Murray and spent his college years at the University of South Carolina, studying Murray's bass population in lieu of his textbooks. He'll be tracking lake trends and gathering local updates from Murray in the weeks leading up to the Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart and hosted by Capital City Lake Murray Country Aug. 14-17. You can contact him with updates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lake Murray bass have been reading from a different script than normal this year, and the result has been good early season catches by local anglers, according to former Walmart FLW Tour pro Michael Murphy, who lives by Lake Murray.
Murray was drawn down for the first time in four years this winter, and the 10-foot draw caused the fish to congregate.
"When they get grouped up, they get more competitive," Murphy says. "It makes them dumber - easier to catch - in my opinion."
When the lake came back up, it did so all at once via major rains throughout the lake's watershed, and the result was a hard color change that went much farther down the lake than normal.
"Fish that are used to suspending in gin-clear water went straight to the bank to feed," Murphy says.
The result? Outstanding early season fishing, despite unusually cold water that dipped into the 30s this season and has had the spawn behind schedule. Anglers have also seen a parade of big bass.
"There have been more 6- to 8-pound fish caught than I can remember, especially 7s," said Murphy. "There'll be three or four 7s weighed in on a Saturday [at local tournaments], where normally there would be maybe one."
Murphy believes the lake population has been strong all along. Conditions this year are simply making the fish bite and revealing what lake Murray holds.
The water actually has cleared some since those early rains, but the brownish tint that extended well down the lake through the end of March and early April betrayed Murray's normal character. Murphy believes spring's extensive mud will impact the bass' behavior and locations even in August, during the Forrest Wood Cup. Extra color has caused abnormally large numbers of fish to relate to shallow water, and to shad, instead of herring.
For more information about the Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart and hosted by Capital City Lake Murray Country, visit ForrestWoodCup.com.