John Murray has been a constant player at the top level of tournament bass fishing, so much so that he's been called a "lifer" by his friends. Changes in his personal life have thrown him a curve in his career, but he hopes to get back on track in 2011. Here's how Western legend John Murray answered our 20 Questions:
1. Where were you born and raised?
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
My dad took me to a charity pro/am tournament when I was 13 years old. I caught three and my pro caught none, and I've fished pretty much since that day.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Rick Clunn, Gary Klein and a guy named Art Price, who is famous out here in the West. I admired Clunn because he was dominant at that time. I liked Gary because he was a young Western kid who went back East and fished, and Art Price taught me how to fish structure here on the West Coast. He's a legend out here.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
You know, I fished a U.S. Open when I was 20 years old in 1985, and I came in third. I was in college then, so I finished my 2-year degree and went pro full-time from there.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
13-08. I caught it out of Lake Pleasant in Arizona. I caught it during a tournament, which I won by 18 pounds or so. That was in 1994.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
The fact that you can never master it. Regardless of how many years you put in or how much effort you give it, there's always something to improve on.
7. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
I like Lake Erie a lot. I love fishing deep, and that's one of the best deepwater smallmouth fisheries in the world.
8. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
Winning the first Busch Shootout in Virginia in 2004. That was the first one they had. It was one of those mystery lake situations, and there were 12 of us. We each took a few pounds of tackle. It was like one of the old Bassmaster Classics.
9. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
The usual ones. I've never won an Elite Series event, and I also want to win Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and have a shot at winning a Bassmaster Classic. I've got a lot to do!
10. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
Skeet Reese calls me a lifer because I'm a tournament fisherman, and that's what I've always been. I don't get into the business side of it too much; I do it because I love tournament fishing. It's easy for me to get motivated. I have a year-and-a-half-old son, and we're going to go on the road next year, so I want to do really well next year.
11. What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
That's been the past two years. I've gotten married and started a family, and I've never had distractions like that. They're not really distractions, but tournament fishing has always been first and foremost for me, but in the past two years it's been my son and my wife. It shows, too. Last year I had the worst year I've ever had, and I think it's because I wasn't focused 100 percent on fishing. I wanted to be back home with them. But since we're all hitting the road this year, I'm hoping to have a better year.
12. What is your greatest strength as a professional angler?
Fishing deep water. Specifically, water deeper than 30 feet.
13. What is your greatest weakness as a professional angler?
Probably crankbaits — especially shallow running crankbaits.
14. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
Not anymore! We used to have Saturday tournaments, so I'd have to have clam chowder on Friday night. I've gotten away from that since we don't have Saturday tournaments, though.
15. How big a part does luck play in tournament bass fishing?
There are just inches between the top guys and the bottom guys. I roomed with Skeet last year and he had the best year he's ever had, while I had one of my worst. We had the same information. It's just the decisions you make. I don't call it luck, just the confidence in the decisions you make.
16. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
Right now, spending time with my son, watching him grow and playing with trains and reading books.
17. What has been the biggest change you've seen over the course of your career?
The amount of knowledge that's available on your boat. I mean, between the mapping and GPS coordinates, it's much easier to find spots than it was just 10 years ago. When you have built-in mapping, you immediately know what the bottom is like.
18. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
I think I would have been a teacher. Both of my parents were teachers, and I've taught bass fishing classes for years, so I've got a little experience in that. It was never anything I'd pursue, but that's just a what-if.
19. What would you like to say to your fans?
The only thing that I'd say is that I've always prided myself on being consistent, and I hope to get back to being consistent in the next couple of years. I feel like I've sort of slipped, and I want to get back to that.
20. When it's all over, how do you want the bass fishing world to remember you?
I want folks to know that this was my true passion. There is no other motive to fish bass tournaments than the competition. I'm a lifer!