The blackballed herring

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Over half the anglers that crossed the stage on Day One of the Carolina Clash presented by Evan Williams talked about needing wind to break up the clear surface of Lake Murray.

The wind was blowing hard — but not too hard — on Friday morning, but still no one would commit to knowing anything about how the bass and Lake Murray's baitfish, the blueback herring, would react.

"Usually, with cloud cover and wind, I'd say this was perfect weather," said Brent Chapman (42nd, 12 pounds, 14 ounces). "But I got what I would consider ideal conditions yesterday afternoon and it was as bad as it's been all week.

"I'd be happy to just survive the 50-cut on this lake and be done with these blueback for a while."

This is the third time some of these anglers have dealt with the blueback herring this season — the Classic on Lake Hartwell, the last Elite tournament on Clarks Hill and now Murray — and no one seems to be able to get a good read on what it takes to consistently catch the bass that chase them.

Chapman said he thinks weights will be down on Friday, because so many anglers are fishing the same areas, but South Carolinian Casey Ashley thinks just the opposite: He said the wind should help the topwater bite, which he found to be nonexistent on Thursday.

"The wind breaks up the surface, so the bass can't see the bait nearly as well," said Ashley, who is tied with Skeet Reese in 35th place. "Everybody throws topwater here, so these fish have been staring at the same bait for about three weeks now.

"It should get a lot better today. A lot of people [22] didn't have limits yesterday, including myself. We'll see a lot more limits today."

But Ashley was quick to qualify his prediction, claiming the wind is nice, but he'd like to have sunshine with it.

"If some of these storms roll in, it could hurt pretty bad," he said. "They won't touch the topwater when it starts thundering and lightning. I guess they just get scared and won't come up."

Mike McCelland, who has seen all kinds of success on blueback-driven lakes, including a win on Clarks Hill in 2007, said he doesn't think anyone knows exactly how the herring make bass react.

"I don't think we'll ever figure them out completely," McClelland said. "It's just matter of getting lucky and being there while their feeding."

Dean Rojas (36th, 13-4) is one of the few anglers who talked about trying something different on Friday. He said he threw his trademark frog quite a bit in practice, but couldn't get anything to take it. But Thursday afternoon, when the conditions became overcast and cloudy (like they were to start Friday), he got three quality bites in less than five minutes.

"I'm going to start off early hitting points, but I'm definitely going to throw the frog a lot today," Rojas said. "And if they're on it, it happens fast."

Preston Clark and Kataro Kiriyama are tied on Friday's cut line in 50th place with 11-11, which would traditionally put the cut at around 22 pounds. But with the blueback herring shaking things up, history doesn't always serve as a proper example.

"The rules of the game say they should bite really well today," Chapman said. "But on these lakes anymore, I just don't know."