Very few bass tournaments are won with topwater lures, but it might happen at Lake Murray when the Elite pros compete in the Carolina Clash, the sixth event of the 2008 season. The reason? It's postspawn for largemouth, but the lake's blueback herring and bream are spawning on the flat, shallow points and that means easy meals for the now-hungry bass.
The pros hit Falcon during perfect postspawn conditions where the bass were ravenous and grouped, but they missed the timing by a week or so at Clarks Hill. At Murray it could be dead-on again.
Even more encouraging about Murray is that the topwater bite will continue even during bad weather. In fact, clouds and choppy water would make it better. The only thing the pros wouldn't want to see would be calm water and bright skies, and there hasn't been a lot of either this spring.
My two favorite choices to take home the victory hardware have to be Davy Hite and Casey Ashley, both of whom have extensive experience on Murray. Hite finished second at Clarks Hill but he knows Murray even better, since he lived at the lake for 30 years. Ashley finished fifth at the "Hill," and told me he simply couldn't wait to get to Murray. He thinks it will take 20 pounds a day to get to the winner's stand.
Don't look now, but reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Skeet Reese is now third in this year's AOY race. After what many would consider a slow start for him, Reese finished ninth at Clarks Hill so, like Hite and Ashley, he's tuned in to current conditions, and I think he'll do well at Murray. Besides, he's very good with topwaters.
Todd Faircloth is obviously having a wonderful season, and as the current AOY points leader he's fishing very consistently, adeptly mixing his presentations between swimbaits and Senkos. At the same time, the Texas pro is not worrying about winning the title. He's fishing each event as it comes, and that's a good strategy now, since we're only at the mid-point of the season. With both stickworms and swimbaits as alternatives to topwaters, Faircloth should do well here.
Another pro I love to watch is Peter Thliveros, and he could do well at Murray simply because of his style of fishing, which is always very open-minded. For example, at the Bassmaster Southern Open on Santee Cooper immediately preceding Murray, Peter T had a miserable practice so he started over from scratch on the first tournament day — and promptly brought in a 20-pound catch. I've seen him do this for years.
Ashley told me that if the topwater bite does fall apart on Murray, one alternative would be jig fishing the same five-foot flats. That scenario could open the door for two of the Elite's best jig fishermen, Denny Brauer and Mike McClelland. Brauer is coming off two Top 10 Elite finishes and appears totally recovered from his knee replacement surgery in December. Just visiting with him you can tell he's feeling much better physically, and it shows in his fishing. McClelland won the Elite opener at the Harris Chain and led AOY until Clarks Hill, and I know from our earlier conversations that he wants that title very badly this year.