Scouting Lake Murray

The Forrest Wood Cup is the biggest tournament in bass fishing, and you’ve likely heard a lot of chatter about the anglers in the field, the fishing techniques and all the events that surround the tournament. But how much do you know about Lake Murray itself?

We got into town early, and, rather than work, we decided to head out on the water for a tour of the lake. Here’s what we found.

Dreher Island Takeoff Site

The takeoff site at Dreher Island State Park in Prosperity, S.C., is situated, more or less, smack-dab in the center of Lake Murray. That pretty well makes it an ideal takeoff point for a tournament. On opening morning this Thursday, fans will quickly be able to see who goes up the lake to fish the stained rivers and who goes down the lake to fish the clear, deep lower end. We chose to go upstream first on our scouting trip and pulled out at around 8:30. Weather conditions included a light breeze, mid-70s air temperatures and a soft gray haze that seemed to hang around the treetops.

The Saluda River

Our first point of interest after leaving Dreher Island was the Saluda River, the main tributary of Lake Murray. Where “river” begins and “lake” ends was quickly noticeable when the steep shoreline common to the middle and lower sections shifted to flatter, bottomland contours. The water gradually took on a stain the farther we traveled from takeoff. Channel depth also decreased, from 60 to 80 feet down to 20 to 30 feet – even shallower than that in some areas.

The 391 Bridge

The Little Saluda River flows into the Saluda on the far western end of the lake, and just upstream from the confluence is the bridge where 391/Prosperity Highway crosses both rivers. It’s a good reference point for anglers making the run upstream. When we reached the bridge in the “big” Saluda arm, we saw a couple of anglers practicing nearby.

Water Clarity and Wood

We continued up the Saluda, passed under a large power line and began exploring a section of Lake Murray that really feels like a different fishery than the lower end. Water visibility was nil, though that’s at least partially the result of more than 4 inches of rain soaking the region over the last week. We idled over shallow flats, photographed several miles of shoreline and island timber fields (yes, a flipping stick would have been handy), and eventually came to a far upriver boat access where the lake narrowed into a classic Southern river. Probably a few pros put in up there during their practice sessions. Our upstream expedition ended when we reached the bridge on 395/Kempson Bridge Road.

Mid-Lake Docks

On the way back to the mid-lake area, we stopped at a few choice docks. Most of the docks in the middle part of the lake are the floating variety and are accessed by long wooden “boardwalk” walkways built on fixed wooden posts. This type of access is required where the shoreline is flat, if the owner wants his floating dock to be in deep enough water to tie off a boat. It also makes for fantastic shallow cover. For the dock fishermen in the field, Murray at least looks like the ultimate dock-fishing playground.

Islands

On the way back past Dreher Island, we stopped to chat with a couple more anglers who were chucking topwaters and soft jerkbaits, and we photographed a few of the many mid-lake islands. Several islands were actually used as bombing ranges during World War II. Training missions were launched from the Columbia Army Air Base, which is now a local airport. Dozens more sunken islands and humps could provide schooling fish with a little structure for their foraging. Islands also make good hiding spaces for anglers to escape the watchful eye of our media crew. Good thing we brought binoculars.

Green Water and Water Temperature

The best way to describe the water in the mid-lake area is “green.” It has just a bit of stain to it, with clarity of 2 to 3 feet at the surface. Water temperature seemed to consistently measure in the low 80s from one end of the lake to the other. According to early practice reports, that’s several degrees below the water temperature anglers found when they came to Murray for pre-practice.

Opening Up

After rounding the islands near the tournament takeoff site, we arrived at the stereotypical Lake Murray scene: a wide-open expanse of clear, deep water. The lower end of the lake is vast, but it’s lined with miles of jagged shoreline, with thousands of dock-lined coves and cuts to hide anglers. There’s a lot of water to be fished down there.

The Dam

We ran straight to the Dreher Shoals Dam to check out the plug that keeps Lake Murray full of water. This sucker is massive. A walking path along the dam stretches 1.7 miles. Talk about a workout. We marked a healthy school of bait near the dam and watched a few striper anglers who were fishing nearby. Water clarity near the dam is about 4 feet.

Bluegills on Beds

Probably the most interesting part of our excursion was a quick stop in a large pocket on the southern side of the lake near the dam. We dropped the trolling motor and went looking for a photo of a dock post that was visible partway under the water, to show off the water clarity. What we found instead was a colony of bluegill beds – massive bluegills beds. Each bed ranged from about 18 inches in diameter to close to 30 inches, and almost every one was tended by a bluegill. Could there be a bluegill bed pattern or wolf-pack bass deal working this week? It’s a story line to watch for.

Heading In

By lunchtime, the sun was up and the temperature had risen into the 80s. We tooled back across Lake Murray’s deep basin with our sun buffs on to block out the rays and opened up the Evinrude E-Tec. Blitzing across the water, it was fun to imagine what it’d be like to point a Ranger back toward Dreher Island with a livewell full of bass on the final day of the Forrest Wood Cup. For those of us here to cover the event in the media, it’s a daydream – a nice wish. But for 45 pros and co-anglers, it’s a real possibility. Luckily, they’ll have a diverse fishery for their playground this week at the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup.

Quick Bites

Tournament takeoff: Dreher Island State Park

Lake type: highland reservoir

Lake size: 50,000 acres

Shoreline: 500 miles

Major tributaries: Saluda River

Average water visibility: 4 feet

Primary species: largemouth bass

Minimum length requirement: 14 inches

Tags: article 

/tips/2015-04-01-kids-get-to-wet-a-line-during-lewis-smith-event

Kids Get to Wet a Line During Lewis Smith Event

The children and their families had plenty of room to spread out around the Smith Lake Dam cove, which proved to be a good place to fish as it was also the site where the FLW release boat unloaded fish caught by the pros during Friday’s round. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-30-high-school-anglers-fish-for-their-future

High School Anglers Fish for Their Future

High school anglers from across the Midwest braved chilly weather at Kentucky Lake Saturday in hopes of finding hot spots that would help advance them to the High School Fishing Southeastern Conference Championship on Lake Lanier this fall as well as help fund their college education. The 150 high school anglers and their coaches awoke to an unusually cold spring morning to compete in the 2015 Murray State High School Fishing Open. Frost-covered decks, gear and tackle, frozen livewells and outboards reluctant to start were among the first challenges those aboard the 75 boats had to deal with at Kentucky Dam Marina. The event honored the memory of Murray State University’s Dr. Jim Carter, one of the earliest proponents of fishing as a state-sanctioned high school sport. Teams competed for a grand prize of $4,000 in scholarships to Murray State. The scholarships were provided by Independence Bank of Murray and FLW in partnership with the Murray State Bass Anglers. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-21-guntersville-midday-update

Guntersville Midday Update

With numerous local boats on the water, a number of the top 10 pros have been unable to fully capitalize – Cameron Gautley didn’t have a limit at noon and Trevor Fitzgerald, Jay Kendrick and Rob Digh had yet to complete theirs as well. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-21-college-open-day-2-midday-update

College Open Day 2 Midday Update

The sun is shining, the weather is warmer and the bass aren’t biting, at least not for most of the first-round leaders here in the FLW College Fishing Kentucky Lake Open. As the second and final day of competition unfolds, the leaders are struggling to maintain their positions. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-19-day-one-midday-update-from-guntersville

Day One Midday Update From Guntersville

With cooler weather blowing in, patches of mist and rain whisking over the lake, and whitecaps in the main channel, day one of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Mercury on Lake Guntersville is proving to be a challenge for the field. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-18-murray-state-high-school-fishing-open

Murray State High School Fishing Open

The Bass Federation (TBF) and FLW, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, will host a Student Angler Federation Murray State High School Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake in Gilbertsville, Kentucky, March 28 with the winning team receiving $4,000 in scholarships to Murray State from Independence Bank and FLW. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-18-walmart-bfl-tournament-preview

Walmart BFL Tournament Preview

The weekend of March 21 will feature four Walmart BFL tournaments. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-17-college-open-heads-to-kentucky-lake

College Open Heads to Kentucky Lake

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. – FLW College Fishing is headed to Kentucky Lake March 20-21 for the inaugural FLW College Fishing Open tournament. This is the first time FLW has hosted a college tournament that allows open registration from any eligible college teams, regardless of division or location. Anglers who finish within the top 10 automatically qualify for the 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship while the champions take home a Ranger Z117 with a 90-horsepower Mercury or Evinrude outboard. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-17-weekend-wrap-up

Weekend Wrap-Up

A recent warming trend and resulting rising water temperatures across the country had many anglers targeting fish that were moving back into spawning areas. Both the LBL and Okie division tournaments proved that the big girls are moving shallow. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-16-episode-68

Episode 68

READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-12-10-best-shots-from-toho

10 Best Shots from Toho

Photos, photos and more photos. All totaled, FLW's media crew, which is composed of staff and freelance contributors, snapped more than 16,000 photos at the Lake Toho opener of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour. FLW Graphic Designer and Photo Editor D.W. Reed II managed the flow of every photo from the camera, through a review and editing process, and eventually uploaded only the best shots to the website - and he did a fine job of it too. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-12-australian-wins-lake-toho-flw-fantasy-fishing

Australian Wins Lake Toho FLW Fantasy Fishing

FLW Fantasy Fishing player Tom Slater of Indooroopilly, Queensland, Australia, correctly picked four of the top 10 anglers the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury. For his picks, Slater won the season’s first FLW Fantasy Fishing event and its $5,000 top prize. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-11-walmart-bfl-tournament-preview

Walmart BFL Tournament Preview

March 14 will host six different Walmart BFL events around the country. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-10-weekend-wrap-up

Weekend Wrap-up

With the Walmart FLW Tour kicking off on Lake Toho over the weekend, all eyes were on central Florida. Toho didn’t disappoint. The system kicked out numbers of giant bass, which led to a final weigh-in that turned out to be a nail-biter. What you might not have realized is that Lake Guntersville also churned out a plethora of giants in a Walmart Bass Fishing League event held there on Saturday. Here’s a recap of last weekend’s tournament action. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-04-episode-67-shane-lehew-and-jt-kenney

Episode 67 - Shane Lehew and JT Kenney

READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-04-boat-bling-renews-with-flw

Boat Bling Renews with FLW

In conjunction with their FLW sponsorship, Boat Bling recently announced the “2015 Boat Bling Challenge – Beat a Pro, Win a Boat” contest. One lucky winner will win a VIP trip to the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Airfare, hotel and VIP access will be given to the winner, as well as the opportunity to fish against a Boat Bling pro on Monday, August 24th. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-03-weekend-wrap-up-march-2-2015

Weekend Wrap-up – March 2, 2015

This weekend was all about anticipating the Walmart FLW Tour opener on Lake Toho. Though the pros haven’t started competing yet (competition begins Thursday), we’re beginning to see reports of great catches from practice and photos of some beautiful scenery, which has revved up preseason excitement to an all-time high. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-03-easy2hook-s-new-flipping-hook-

Easy2Hook’s New Flipping Hook

This no-knot technology has already converted many professional anglers from traditional, closed-eye circle hooks that you tie your line to. It eliminates the weakness inherent traditional knots, and gives anglers 100 percent true line strength. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-02-pre-tournament-interviews-lake-toho

Pre-Tournament Interviews - Lake Toho

Cody Meyer and David Dudley provide their thoughts on Lake Toho after day two of practice. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-27-flw-launches-new-website

FLW Launches New Website

In conjunction with the start of the 20th-anniversary season of the Walmart FLW Tour, FLW is proud to showcase its newly redesigned website. Located at a new URL, FLWFishing.com features a clean, organized look that is responsive on all viewing platforms and devices. READ MORE »