Sept 15th - Driving to Lake Murray gives time to think about a game plan. It has rained the entire trip. Having done some research and thru past knowledge of the lake, I'm thinking it will be a tough tournament. Lake Murray is down 6 feet from the summer drought. Throw in a planned SC project to work on the dam for new earthquake safety standards, the lake if projected to fall 5" a day. The project requires lowering the lake 15' to 25 feet to complete, forecast completion is 2006. Lake Murray has also seen a explosion of grass growth in the lower to mid lake area. Some of the worst conditions for fishing, for me anyway, is falling water, grass and clear water. Falling water will just about eliminate the shallow water pattern and any cover.
After a couple phone calls for directions, I arrive to the house I and a couple other pros will call home for the week. We always try and find a house when possible for tournaments, instead of the crowded hotels. Its more comfortable, less parking hassles, and we can cook. After securing my gear into house, my first task is to walk out to the water edge, mark a spot for reference to the falling water. One of my roommates stacks two rocks at the water mark.
A quick run into town to grocery store for provisions, a few last minute tackle changes, check of the all important weather forecast, its in the sack. Forecast is for continued rain.
Sept 16th - First day of practice awakes to scattered showers. There is a private ramp at the rental house, but with the water low, the end of the ramp is just barely in water. One of my roommates decided to try and launch his boat there. It would be alot easier if we can. It turns out to be a bad move. He backs down to the point that his front wheels fall off the ramp, he is stuck. Now, its not a great situation, but we just can't help but get a big laugh from it. Well, least he has his boat in the water, he can go fish, we will worry later about the truck. We go to a nearby marina.
I decide to spend the morning down the lake, in the clearer water, fishing grass. Not my favorite thing to do, but history tells me that schooling activity and topwater will play a major factor. The amount of grass in Murray is overwhelming, its everywhere! I begin with a Lunker Lure buzzbait, running the deeper edges. Immediately I get results, just wrong species. The gar find my buzzbait to be a dinner bell, making big wakes as they zero in. I switch to a spook, and it too also produces; stripers, the lake is full of them as well. If there is a striper within 30 yard of my spook, he will eat it. It makes for some exciting fishing, but not what I'm after. I spend most of the day throwing the spook until a big largemouth takes it from me. I also flip the grass edges with a 1 oz jig, but no takers. I call it a day around 6, sit down to a hot meal after a wet day. We as a group discuss the tough conditions and figure it will take around 8 lbs a day to make cut. One bite on a spook.
Sept 17th - Second day of practice begins about the same, light rain. Today, I will fish the midlake area, run some shallow stuff. Docks, wood, rock, anything in the water. By end of the day,. I have managed a few small keepers. I have eliminated water, but no real pattern. During supper, we lower our weights for making cuts, maybe less than 7 lbs will be good. We check the rocks for water level, the water has not fallen as expected or planned.
Sept 18th - Thunder awakes us instead of an alarm clock. A bad electrical storm has me second guessing being on the water by daybreak. We wait it out, it passes, hit the lake. Its the last day of practice, need all the time I can get. By mid morning, another storm hits, its raining buckets. I have gone back down lake to test my topwater bite. The stripers are schooling everywhere. Though its fun, not getting it done. The stripers become more of a nuisance as the day progresses. Murray is a great striper lake, but as for largemouth, they are off. Its a short day, have registration and pairings at 6. Its a hour drive to meeting. Its long, as is most first day meetings. I meet my amatuer partner for next day, set a meeting place and time.
Preparing my tackle and game plan that nite, I am torn between running the lower lake, going for 1-3 topwater bites that potentially can be big, or hitting another area for a limit of just keepers. We again have downed our predictions for cut, word around meeting is that it is tough for most. Figure 5 lbs a day, one fish on the lower end. Forecast is for more rain. Check our rock, the water as actually risen 4 inches, covering the rock. News says received over 7 inches of rain in last days.
Sept 19th - I have decided to run the topwater bite with the cloud cover. I know I am fishing for maybe 1 or 2, perhaps 3 bites, but they will be good ones. The pattern will be slow, but hopefully productive. Its hard staying focused fishing for one bite about every hour or three. After a mixed bag of stripers, gar, but no bass, I abandon it. I run to my little area I felt I could catch a limit late in day, managing one small keeper, losing one, in that short time. The bite was off for most as expected. Really more than expected, 5 lbs was in the money. I should have went for the small limit, then hunted for a big fish. Good news is, no one is out of it. We check the rock back at house, the water is up more, the rock is under water.
Sept 20 - Today, I will go to the plan I should have day before. Work on getting my limit, then a big fish. I tie on a Hawg Caller spinnerbait, and start running and gunning. Its not fast and furious, but it producing keepers. The lake is fishing tough as well as small. I have a limit by noon, a small limit, maybe 4 lbs. Now time to go get the big bite, do I go to the grass, chunck that spook, or start flipping a jig? The sun pops out and decides that, its go to the jig. I do manage to cull 3 times, but just never get that bite needed. I weigh in limit just less than 6 lbs, missing the cut by a few pounds.
Sept 21 - The drive home always gives time to reflect. I should have gone for the small limit each day, instead of one or two big grass bites on top.