Big bass of Lake Murray Elite 2024

Patrick Walters posted a dominating wire-to-wire victory on a home-state fishery.

Anglers came into the Minn Kota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray expecting weights to be lower than last year’s event there. Patrick Walters didn’t get that note. The sixth-year Elite from Eutaville, S.C., weighed the two biggest bags in totaling 93-15 for his third blue trophy. Check out the big bass that impacted the anglers in the event that was pushed back a day due to weather.
Mike Iaconelli, who said something just clicks for him on the fishery, got off to a great start with 19 pounds, 5 ounces on Day 1. With a solid 18-4 on Day 3, the veteran from Pitts Grove, N.J., finished 18th. That pushed him up 20 spots to 64th in the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings after five up-and-down events, giving him hope to climb into Classic contention in the final four tournaments.
Reeling from a 100th-place finish at the St. Johns River that knocked him 22 spots down the AOY standings, Austin Felix started well with 19-8. Following it with 18-3, the Minnesota pro was ninth after Day 2 and missed Championship Monday by 2 ounces. His 11th-place finish garnered 93 points and lifted him 28 spots to just inside the mark to qualify for the Classic in 38th.
Mike Huff of London, Ky., stood fifth after his Day 1 bag of 21-5, one of 13 topping 20 pounds in the opening round. Only eight of the 102 Elites didn’t catch a limit on the day, with the average fish weighing 3-5. With Day 2’s bluebird skies, Huff only managed 12-8 then finished with 15-10 to take 25th.
Hunter Shryock, who almost won at Murray last year, started hot by matching Huff’s 21-5, aided by a 6-pounder. Shyrock made the cut but one fish on Day 3 saw him fall to 50th. However, he remained in good Classic position by only dropping four spots to 23rd in points.
Drew Cook, who took seventh at Murray in 2023, was the lowest angler with more than 20 pounds. Standing 13th with 20-2, Cook caught just over 12 pounds the next two rounds to finish 42nd. The 2019 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year improved his Classic hopes by jumping up 10 places to 46th in AOY.
Will Davis Jr. was 2 ounces shy of 20 pounds in standing 15th after Day 1. He topped 17 pounds the next two days to make Championship Monday, where he settled for ninth. The two-time B.A.S.S. Nation champ earned 95 points to move up 18 AOY spots to 29th.
Rookie JT Thompkins was among the most consistent. Fishing his home state, the pro from Myrtle Beach started seventh with 21-1 then added 19-5, 18-9 and 18-14 to finish third with 77-13. He earned 101 points at Murray to jump from 16th to eighth in AOY. Thompkins, who won a close race with John Garrett and Trey McKinney for the 2023 Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifier overall title, trails McKinney in the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings by 100 points.
Matt Robertson, who led the 2023 Lake Murray event after Day 1, caught the second-biggest bass (6-2) to help him start 12th this time with 20-8. Only two fish totaling 4-1 on Day 2 had the Kuttawa, Ky., pro plummet to 87th. Saturday’s conditions made it rougher for a lot of Elites, with only 85 landing limits and the average catch dropping to under 3 pounds.
Joseph Webster of Hamilton, Ala., earned the Phoenix Boats Big Bass bonus of $1,000 on Day 1 with this 6-6. It was more than a third of his 15-9 that put him 61st. With 14-12, Webster just slipped inside the 50 cut and finished 48th. He has ground to make up in AOY, standing 66th.
Walters averaged more than 5 pounds per fish in his leading bag of 25-8. His Day 1 lead of 3-2 grew to 4-15 after 19-13 on Day 2, his only limit under 20 pounds. After 21-14 on Semifinal Sunday, Walters held a lead of 8-4 going into the final round.
In his 501st event, 77-year-old Rick Clunn of Ava., Mo., had a 4-14 on Day 2 that helped him earn his 317th check with B.A.S.S. Clunn stood 47th with 16-12 and his Day 2 kicker gave him 14-9. With two fish on Day 3, he fell to 49th. Clunn is unlikely to add to his record 32 Classic appearances, but at 86th in points, he is ahead of three previous AOYs.
Canada’s Chris Johnston came into Murray third in AOY after a Top 10 at St. Johns. He lost ground in the race by starting 39th, but he rallied on Day 2 with 18-7 to gain 22 places. Johnston finished 23rd and remains third with 423 points, 55 off McKinney’s AOY pace.
Coming off a victory at the St. Johns, Cory Johnston dug a deeper hole on Day 1. With the best bag of Day 2 (21-0), Johnston jumped from 60th to 11th. He wound up a spot back of younger brother Chris in 24th, but he salvaged a lot of points. Cory is fourth in AOY, 63 from the lead. Both Johnstons hope to survive the next two events in Alabama and have a shot at AOY when the tour heads north to Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River, their home pond where they’ve both won Bassmaster tournaments.
Despite drawing the No. 2 spot to launch on Day 1, Brandon Lester didn’t capitalize on the shad and blueback herring spawns like many others. Lester was 75th after Day 1, but behind this late catch, entered as a 5-0, he catapulted well inside the cut with 18-3 on Day 2. Lester finished 35th and dropped two AOY positions to 19th, inside the top 40 who receive berths to the 2025 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors.
Marc Frazier’s climb was even more impressive. Starting 90th, Frazier brought in one of Day 2’s four 20-pound bags and rose to 32nd. The Newnan, Ga., pro added 19-13 to finish 15th, which pushed him up 21 spots to 52nd in AOY.
Only three fish on Day 1 had Bernie Schultz a disappointing 99th in the standings – he had finished eighth at Murray in 2023. A 5-11 helped him weigh 20-8 on Day 2 and rise to 71st. Last year, Matt Arey’s 7-11 took Phoenix Boats Big Bass at Murray, with 6-14s winning the other three daily bonuses.
Jay Przekurat started with 19-11 and topped it by an ounce on Day 2 to rise to third. The Plover, Wis., pro, fell back to fifth on Semifinal Sunday and finished there after another 19-11. He earned $20,000 and 99 points, which gained him 13 AOY spots to 17th.
Jordan Lee of Cullman, Ala., came into Murray five points out of the AOY lead, but he lost 31 points on Day 1. His 20-5 on Day 2, behind a 5-0, regained all but one point, then the two-time Classic champ dropped back with only 10-14 to take 31st. Lee, who will be sleeping in his own bed for next two Alabama tournaments on Wheeler and Smith lakes, still stands second in AOY. He is now 30 points back, but his drop could have been much worse.
Brock Mosley kicked off Day 2 with a 5-pounder that gave him his best bag of 19-12. Combined with 19-7, he stood fourth after two days and made Championship Monday, his first since winning last year on the Sabine River. The only finalist without a limit, the Collinsville, Miss., pro finished 10th, but that had him rise 13 spots in AOY to 23rd.
Bryan Schmitt caught Day 2’s Phoenix Boats Big Bass, a 6-3 in a limit of 19-15. That put the Deale, Md., pro 10th, but Day 3 was not as fruitful and he fell to 19th, which provided a 24-place climb in AOY to 39th.
On Day 3, 47 of the 50 remaining Elites brought in limits. John Crews of Salem, Va., caught a 5-13 that made up more than a third of his 16-4. Crews posted a 17th-place finish but has an uphill climb from 94th in AOY if he hopes to qualify for his 14th Classic.
Rookie Trey McKinney, the record-setting winner at Lake Fork in March, held the AOY lead for the fourth consecutive event. With 21-9, 16-13, 20-7 (one of three 20-pound limits on Semifinal Sunday) and 17-12, the 19-year-old from Carbondale, Ill., finished sixth at Murray, his third Top 10 finish. McKinney, who has accumulated 478 points in five events, increased his lead to 30 points over Lee. He joins Walters in 2019 as rookies to lead AOY this deep in the season.
Cody Huff was third with 22-1 on Day 1 but slipped to 12th with 13-13. Behind a 6-1, the Ava, Mo., pro weighed 20-3 on Day 3 to reach the Championship Monday in seventh place. Bigger things were to come.
Luke Palmer, who eked into the Top 50 after two 15-pound days, brought in the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of Day 3. His 7-4 kicker helped him weigh 19-1 and finish 26th. The Coalgate, Okla., angler put himself back in the Classic hunt, jumping up 20 spots to 44th in AOY.
Ed Loughran III had a steady climb from 24th, moving to 19th before getting into Championship Monday in 10th. Matching his Day 1 weight of 19-0, the barrister from Richmond, Va., totaled 72-9 to finish seventh. It gave the 53-year-old hope of making his second Classic as he moved up 25 spots to 53rd in AOY.
Rookie John Garrett, who won at the Harris Chain in April, made his second Top 10 behind strong first (21-1) and third rounds (19-4). Garrett, of Union City, Tenn., finished eighth to gain 10 spots in AOY to 12th, which puts him fifth in the ROY race. Eight rookies are inside Classic qualification.
Lee Livesay started Murray in second place with 22-5 and never dropped out of the top five, weighing 16-2, 18-15 and 19-7 to take fourth. The Longview, Texas, pro continued his climb after a dismal 82nd on his home fishery of Lake Fork, where he won two Elites. Livesay moved up 14 spots in AOY to 25th.
Cody Huff went into Championship Monday in seventh place, 11-2 off Walters’ lead. Behind a 7-6, the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the event worth $3,000 in bonuses, Huff weighed the third largest bag at Murray. His 25-3 gave him 81-4 and the runner-up finish. Huff has been on quite a run, making the cut at eight consecutive Elites and taking third at the Grand Lake Classic. He stands fifth in AOY, 65 points from the lead.
Hoping to just catch 17 pounds on the final day, Walters found big bass almost everywhere. A 6-7 topped off his Championship Monday, when he blew away the field with 26-12, the Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag of the tournament. With 93-15, Walters won his third Elite by a margin of 12-11, not that big considering his record 29-10 margin of victory at Lake Fork in 2020.
“What an amazing week; I don’t even know where to start,” said Walters, who with his fifth B.A.S.S. title before turning 30 in August ties him for seventh among active Bassmaster anglers. “I did not think I was going to catch 25 or 26 pounds this week. To do that on the final day … that’s how you get it done.” Adding 103 points, Walters moves up 13 spots to 11th in AOY.