Open spotlight: Michael Murphy

South Carolina’s Michael Murphy has packed two lifetimes of bass fishing into his 33 years. He currently competes in the Southern and Northern Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens with the goal of qualifying for the Elite Series.

Murphy’s third place finish at the recent Smith Lake Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open demonstrates that he has what it takes to succeed.

Murphy’s parents, Rick and Nancy, got their youngster hooked on fishing early in life while he was growing up near Indianapolis, Indiana.

“I come from a fishing family,” Murphy said. “My dad is a bass fisherman and my mom is from Alaska where she fished for salmon.”

While Murphy was a tad, his family went on regular camping vacations, which included his older sister Karen. Casting for bass and bluegill highlighted these outings. When Murphy was 10 years old, his father began competing in bass tournaments.

“I started fishing local team tournaments with my dad when I was 12,” Murphy said. “That got me on the path I’m on now.”

Murphy expanded his fishing knowledge exponentially at age 15 when he joined a B.A.S.S. affiliated club that had 60 members. He didn’t have a boat, so he always drew anglers that did have boats.

“I learned a lot by fishing with so many different guys,” Murphy said. “Most of them where good at one thing and they fished that way all day rain or shine.”

Murphy fished with club members that would relentlessly fish a jig, or a worm or a crankbait or a Carolina rig and so on. When conditions were right for their favorite technique, they did well. Otherwise, they struggled to get bites. 

Did this frustrate Murphy? Not in the least. He was happy just to be fishing. Murphy also believes these experiences taught him when a given technique works and, just as importantly, when it does not.

“Those guys helped me become the fisherman I am today,” Murphy said. “They really took me in. It was like I had a bunch of uncles.”

Young Murphy always paid his share of the gas and any other expenses when he fished a tournament with a club member. He earned this money by mowing grass and working as a busboy in a restaurant.

Murphy once finished among the Top 20 in the point standings and qualified to fish the club’s championship event. He did so out of his grandfather’s 12-foot aluminum V-bottom powered by a 20-hp tiller outboard.

“That was the first tournament I ever fished where I controlled the boat,” Murphy said.

For a young Murphy, it was heady stuff.

After graduating from high school, Murphy attended Purdue University where he competed in a collegiate bass fishing series. This provided another quantum leap in fishing knowledge for him. 

“My teammates became lifelong friends,” Murphy said. “I still talk to them on the phone regularly.” 

Michael Murphy waits in line to weigh his bass at the Smith Lake Open.Competing in the college series also provided an opportunity for Murphy to make contacts in the fishing industry. This included SPRO, the company that hired him after he graduated from Purdue with a degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences. 

Although his education didn’t groom him for marketing and sales, Murphy has excelled in this role. He also believes that his scientific education has made him a better bass fisherman. One of his college projects was a yearlong crawfish study. 

“It helped me understand the food relationship to bass,” Murphy said. 

However, Murphy has learned that it is detrimental to get too deep into the woods scientifically while bass fishing. 

“At the end of the day, it’s about getting around bass and throwing the right bait in the right place,” Murphy said. “If you think too much about the scientific aspects, you lose focus.” 

 Murphy moved to Georgia when he took the job with SPRO. Two years later, he was working for Shakespeare. Today, he lives near Lake Murray and does contract sales for Optimum Baits, Ima, Reins and Toray line while pursuing his professional bass career. 

In 2007 Murphy started fishing some of the major bass events. He stepped up to the Bassmaster Northern Opens in 2011. He finished 11th in point standings that year despite a boating accident that caused major damage to his right shoulder. 

The following year he had three surgeries to repair tears and reconnect muscles and ligaments. It took months of rehab before he could make an overhand cast. For several tournaments after the surgery he was limited to pitching, underhand roll casts and drop shotting. 

 “I can pretty much do everything now,” Murphy said. “But if I’m throwing a big crankbait or an A-rig, I have to put it down for a little while.”

 Murray married Kristie, his college sweetheart, and they are raising two children, Karina 3 1/2 years old, and Lucas who is 2 1/2. 

 “Kristie keeps on me about my shoulder rehab and is very supportive of my tournament fishing,” Murphy said. “I’m blessed to have her. I definitely married up.”