Watching John Murray on Lake Erie

Bassmaster Elite Series pro John Murray was born and raised in Phoenix, Ariz.; he calls himself a “desert rat.” And that’s precisely why he’s competing this week in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on Lake Erie out of Sandusky, Ohio.

“I know to get out of Phoenix in the summer.”

Murray was joking, but it’s his Western roots that make him a serious threat on Lake Erie. He’s already proved he can parlay his experience on deep lakes like Mead and Roosevelt into success on Lake Erie. In Elite Series events there, he finished third in 2007 and fourth in 2008. Last week, he landed a Top-10 finish in an FLW tournament on Erie out of Buffalo.

“I know what to look for on Erie. I feel at home out in the middle of any big lake, looking for open-water fish,” he said.

“But will I have enough time to find them? That’s what I’m hoping for,” he said Monday evening, just a few days away from the Thursday start of the second Northern Open of the season.

Murray was short on practice time because of supercharger trouble on the last day of the FLW tournament. After making the final-day cut in seventh place, the motor glitch rendered him dead in the water and he finished in 10th place. After traveling west to Sandusky for the Bassmaster event, he had the problem fixed and was back in business Monday.

If the winds don’t kick up hard, he said, he’ll still have enough practice time. A productive practice depends on the wind — or, rather, lack of high winds.

His knowledge of Western reservoirs will help him in the clutch. But his time on Lake Erie near Buffalo will prove to be useless, if what the Ohio locals say is true.

“I’ve been on Erie for a week, but on the other end, and they say that’s not really going to help me. They say it’s a different lake, even though it’s just 165 miles away,” Murray said.

He is not letting such dock talk wear down his confidence. He’s at Sandusky only to win and claim what he regards as the tournament’s biggest prize: a 2012 Bassmaster Classic entry. He missed a Classic berth by 43 points in the 2011 Elite Series season, and the Open is a second chance.

Murray said he is breaking out of his normally conservative approach to competition. That means all his eggs are in the “big ones” basket.

“The guy who is going to win here will have all big smallmouth. That’s what I’m out for; I’m hunting the big ones.”

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