Lunker Lessons: Lake Murray

It was around 11:30 in the morning. I didn’t have a fish. That’s trouble on Murray. The morning bite is critical if you want to do well. I’d developed a pretty good pattern in practice, but it wasn’t working for me that first morning. Panic was starting to set in.

My practice pattern was to fish docks with 5 to 7 feet of water in front of them about half-way back in the bays where the water started to have a little color. I caught a small keeper every time I saw a ball of fry around the dock.

I’m guessing I was catching males. I say that because if there was water-willow on the bank near the dock, I didn’t catch anything. The only thing I can figure is the fry were hiding in the grass. They didn’t need the males for protection.

Out of desperation, I started fishing a point I knew held a couple of keepers. No luck, but I did see some docks that met my standards behind the point. I skipped my bait under a pontoon boat on one of them and caught a 4-pounder.

As I continued to fish the docks, I saw a big fish suspended under one of the floats on another pontoon boat. I thought it was a gar, but, hey, I was desperate. I turned around and skipped my bait under the float hoping for the best. She hit almost immediately.

When I saw her roll, I thought she was a giant — maybe around 10 pounds. She had a big head and was in the 25- to 26-inch range. When I got her to the boat, however, I realized she had a skinny body and didn’t have that kind of weight. Regardless, she was big to me and turned out to be the biggest bass of the tournament.

My bait was a green pumpkin candy, 4-inch V&M Chopstick weighted with a 3/8-ounce Bass Pro Shops tungsten sinker (pegged). My hook was a Gamakatsu 5/0 worm hook. I fished with a 7 foot, medium-heavy action Airrus rod and an Ardent XS1000 reel (6.3:1 gear ratio) spooled with 14-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon.

The lesson for all of us is to be patient with our patterns and pay attention to the details.

Every productive dock I fished had 5-7 feet of water in front of it, some stain to the water and no water-willow. The first day every fish came from under a float on a pontoon boat. On the second day they all bit under the floats on the docks. On the third day, I caught them at the spot where the back of the walkway hits the float. Come Sunday, I couldn’t figure them out. You see what that got me.

Catch enough fish and one of them might be big.