Fantasy Fishing: Big bass on a big stage

According to Bassmaster Magazine’s Top 100 Lakes of 2023, Lake Murray ranked number four in the country and number one in the southeast region. It would be hard to argue against those rankings when you consider the vast variety that Lake Murray offers. Just about any type of cover an angler desire can be found at Murray along with an extremely healthy population of big largemouth bass.

This makes Lake Murray an amazing playing field for the Minn Kota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray.

When making Fantasy Fishing picks, it was hard to pick against the Carolinians amongst the field. If last season’s event at Murray was any indication, there is certainly an argument for there being a distinct advantage for locals. There’s always an outlier of two, but with seven Carolinians in the Top 50, there’s strong evidence towards a local advantage.

I typically make a few under the radar type picks, but it was much harder to justify this time around, especially considering I haven’t had the best Fantasy Fishing season to this point.

Let’s get into some picks.


As I’ve mentioned in my last two Fantasy Fishing articles, Matt Arey doesn’t get enough credit for how consistent he is on the Bassmaster Elite Series. The North Carolina pro has a top 50 finish in each Elite event this season besides at the Harris Chain where he finished 54th. Understanding blueback herring fish will be important, and Arey certainly has the experience.

Solid secondary selection: You could justifiably select any of the six rookies in Bucket A, but JT Thompkins seems like a great pick. After a tough event at the St. Johns River, the South Carolina pro looks to bounce back at Murray.


The Florida Swing wasn’t great for Patrick Walters, but there’s no better place for the him to bounce back than Lake Murray, a lake that he has an abundance of experience and success. The South Carolina native finished fourth at Murray just a year ago.

Solid secondary selection: At a much lower player percentage, John Cox feels like a bit of a sneaky pick in Bucket B. There will be a lot of attention on the Herring spawn and offshore fishing in general, but it feels like this could be one of those events where Cox just roams the bank and picks off the bass less anglers are fishing for.


Sticking with the theme of pros from the Carolinas, Shane LeHew is getting the nod in Bucket C. LeHew is another angler that seemingly doesn’t get enough credit for his Elite Series consistency, and Murray sets up right in his wheelhouse. The North Carolina pro finished 14th at Murray in 2023.

Solid secondary selection: The combination of solid history, Carolina roots and a lower player percentage makes Jake Whitaker a great choice in Bucket C.


At this point you’re probably catching on to how chalk my picks are for Lake Murray, but I simply can’t justify leaving Brandon Cobb off the roster. With a sixth-place finish at Murray just a year ago, and a strong history of success in his home state, Cobb checks all the boxes.

Solid secondary selection: Bryan New had a surprisingly poor finish at Lake Murray a year ago, but it’s hard to believe the home lake curse will get him two years in a row.


Finally, an angler not from the Carolinas is making an appearance on my roster. David Mullins tends to excel in offshore, postspawn events, and a solid 34th place finish at Murray in 2023 seems like a great combination.

Solid secondary selection: As Digital Content Editor Tommy Sendek brought to my attention, Mike Iaconelli has really excelled at Lake Murray.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• Brandon Cobb
• Shane LeHew
• Patrick Walters
• Bryan New
• Austin Felix
• Jake Whitaker
• Matt Robertson
• Todd Auten