Lake Murray FLW - March 7 -15
March 7 - It raining again, as usual, as I drive to Murray. I think I will stop washing my boat and truck before I leave for each tournament, it always ends up dirty before I arrive. Its really raining hard. Good news is that Lake Murray will be the shortest drive I have this season, only 4 hours. I will meet one of my roomates, Chris, at the lake. He is already there, and I know the way to the house we have rented for the week. Lake Murray is down 15th feet due to a dam project. It will be a new lake to all. After a quick trip into town and the grocery store, some last minute tackle changes, its in the sack.
March 8 - The first major obstacle this morning is finding a ramp that has enough water to launch our boats. We decide to try the State Park. It is open but very shallow. The weather is calling for a chance of rain with severe thunderstorms. Today, I am going to fish the stained water, then move to grass. The lake is really low. I can see things that I once fished 30 yrds dry. And in the water, there are house foundations, numerous unmarked rock piles, and shallow stumps.
One time while fishing, I notice some white markers in the water, just out in the middle of the lake. I think it is trash that has washed upon a shoal, until I get closer. Its actually a cemetery of all things. I pull up close enough to realize there is 5 or 6 headstones, and even what looks like wooden vaults that the low water levels have exposed. It has to be very old, before the lake was even flooded. Today, I will have caught 5 keeper fish only, but they were good ones, weighing around 18 lbs. I'm excited about tomorrow.
March 9 - I am going to concentrate today on the lower end, in the clear water and some grass. Most tournaments this time of year are won in the lower end grass. I usually avoid it, but since I know there will be no sight fishing, its the only other option. The lake is rising from all the rain, and very muddy from mid-lake up. I manage 5 keepers today, not has heavy as yesterday, but a limit. Chris, one of my roomates is amazed that I have managed a limit again, he has struggled to get bites. Today he had only 3, but one was a 7 lb fish. Bites are few, but good.
March 10 - The weather has cooled off alot, just as the water temps have. The lake is still rising, maybe up 2 ft from when I arrived. I know the dam project will not allow this to stay, so I decide to continue to fish grass. Its windy and cloudy today with the front. I don't seem to be able to get bit in the grass today. I decided to run up river, see if any clear pockets remain. It doesn't take long to realize that this is a waste of time. There is a huge mud line flowing down the river. Debris is everywhere, with huge floating logs and boards and trash. I have to move at a snails pace to even navigate, back to the clearer water. As before, I manage 5 keepers again today, with 2 being over 6 lbs. I remark to Chris today, I will love to have these five bites come tournament day. Chris remarks he did not catch a keeper today.
March 11 - Final practice day. I feel pretty good about my spinnerbait pattern. I think I can catch 5 a day, somewhere between 15 and 20 lbs if I get a big bite. Today, the weather is cold, as is the water temps more. There is a blue bird sky too. It will be a good test to see if my spinnerbait pattern will still work. In the short day because of the pairings meeting to night, I manage to catch 5 keepers again. It was the smallest limit I have caught, maybe 12 lbs, but still I feel pretty good. John at Furnace Bay rods had shipped me some new rods before I left home. I don't know if it was the anticaption of using the new rods, or the fresh out look it gave me since I had gotten into loosing so many fish. But I feel good about tomorrow. At the meeting, we have a hot dog & hamburger cookout. Its not very good, I think the buns were surplus from last month, like rocks. I am boat # 12 in the morning. I had hoped for a late number, since I think the fish are biting better as the day goes. But I have one grass bed that I should be able to get on because of it. The first day practice, I manage a couple really nice fish on a rat-L-trap late in the day.
March 12 - My partner today is from Ga. I told him I thought we could catch a limit, but would have to be patient. Word at the meeting last nite was some were struggling, some were catching them, and some were still practicing. My roomates are not confident about anything. Chris says he just hopes he can catch a fish. My first stop in the grass bed begins slow for me. The water has really cleared up, and dropped 10 degrees. Not good. My partner lands a nice 3 lb fish behind me. Then he catches another flipping a heavy weight worm in the grass. I begin to rethink my game plan. Time to leave the rat-l-trap and go run my Hawg Caller spinnerbait pattern. As each practice day, I manage a limit again today. But for some reason, I never get a big bite. I have the smallest limit I have caught since I have been at Murray, at a little over 9 pounds. They really sack them today, amazing ! I am in 106th place with my bag. Chris manages a limit almost 17 pounds today and is in the money. I kid him about sandbagging on us, he says he just got lucky. I think there was 15 bags over 20 pounds today. What a fish factory. What a huge gap to make up.
March 13 - We wake up to thunder and lightning. During blast off, sharp lightning strikes all around us as thunder booms, scary. It begins to rain hard just as my number is called, I'm next to last out today. I will have a long day. I figure I will need at least 15 lbs to have a shot at a check, 20 plus pounds to have a shot at the top 10. Very possible on this lake. I will start on my spinnerbait pattern, no grass fishing today. The only change I will make is go to a big Hawg Caller spinnerbait, one with a big willow blade and 3/4 oz. I'm after big ones today. My stradegy pays off. I catch a limit today, culling up to over 17 pounds and get a check. What was the difference? I fished the same pattern, the same area's as yesterday, but never got the quality I thought I could every day. Another factor was the new Furnace Bay rods. I did not miss a single fish this tournament, something that had been plaguing me. The rods are so light, I think I did not suffer the fatigue as before with my other rods, keeping me sharp as the week progress. Even more ironic is that Chris has caught over 20 lbs today and made the top 10 cut. Really ironic because he struggles so in practice, while I was stroking them. I still excited for him. Supper is on him tonight!
March 14 - The crowds in the Hellmann's booth today at the Fun Zone are small. I think the drizzle and basketball tournaments has everyone staying at home. I am eager to see what Chris catches today. The wind is really bad, may hurt him. As it turns out, Chris manages a limit, is in 3rd place for the final day. He is within striking distance. Chris mom has drove down to watch and cheer him on, she insist on taking us to supper tonight. It makes for an exciting meal, getting to talk strategy and thoughts with Chris. He seems pretty calm, can't say that for his mom. Tomorrow, Chris' wife will be at the weigh in.
March 15 - The weather is cold and rainy. Glad I can sleep in today, well, not really. I would love to be fishing for $100,000, even in these conditions. The rain is heavy, and we have to move our Hellmanns booth into the main tent because of flooding. The weigh-in will be fun. When Chris arrives on stage, I can tell he has a load in his bag by the way he is straining. But everyone else has on their poker faces too. To make a long story short, Chris goes on to win the tournament by a pound. There is a lesson for all to be learned here: Never give up, even if you have a bad practice. Take each new day fresh, and make the best of it. Congradulations Chris. Supper is on you tonight, tomorrow and next month!!