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AHQ INSIDER Lake Murray (SC) Spring 2020 Fishing Report - Updated May 20

  • by Jay

May 20

Lake Murray water levels are at 358.04 (full pool is 360.00). Before the heavy rains began water temperatures had reached the upper 70s in many places, but they have fallen at least five degrees. Clarity was very good at the beginning of the weak, but creeks are becoming stained with a mud line coming. 

Weird spring weather continues, and veteran tournament bass angler Captain Doug Lown reports that all this rain and current will have an effect on the fish. Among other things the current should set fish on the bottom as they try to escape it, and it will make them less likely to suspend. 

Basically all the bass are in a post-spawn pattern now, and the few fish that may still be spawning are probably so deep that it’s impossible to see them. There are some fish shallow guarding fry, and by now both the blueback herring spawn and the threadfin shad spawn are both going on. The herring spawn has basically progressed out towards the main lake.

Threadfin shad will only spawn for the first couple of hours each day, and in addition to a points they will be found around riprap banks and even sometimes back in pockets off of ditches. Most any shallow banks could have them. 

A buzzbait is a good bait to target the shallows in the morning, as whether fish are shallow guarding fry or eating shad they will take it. After the morning bite then dragging a Carolina rig or shakey head further out off points can work, especially as fish relate to the bottom after the rain. You can also fish docks after the morning bite. 

The striped bass bite has definitely picked up this week, even as Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that overall the fish have moved deeper. Early in the morning a few fish can still be caught pulling free-lines shallow, but from what Brad has seen these fish are targeting threadfin shad and not herring (which seem to have pulled out deeper). 

The two best patterns this week have actually been pursuing schooling fish and down-lining, and Brad has seen striper up top eating threadfin shad early all over the place. Yesterday morning he found schooling over 30-40 feet of water. The other productive pattern has been down-lines in 40-50 feet of water. When water temperatures warmed quickly the fish moved deeper.

The best action has been in the main lake. 

A nice striper caught with Captain Brad Taylor
A nice striper caught with Captain Brad Taylor

The crappie bite has been very good the last few days, and Captain Brad reports that they are still catching fish around mid-depth brush and docks.  The best depth has been 8-10 feet down over 15-20 feet of water, and while Brad has been fishing more up the lake this pattern has been reproduced in the mid-lake as well. Both minnows and jigs are working, and while fish are still creek-oriented they are making their way out of the creeks and are not in the backs. 

The catfish bite has been a little tricky on Lake Murray for the last week, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that it’s not altogether clear why.  The best numbers of fish seem to be in about 10 feet of water, but getting them to bite has been difficult.  The action has been a little better at night, and right now fish are not showing a clear preference for any type of bait.

May 12

Lake Murray water levels are at 358.03 (full pool is 360.00) and visibility is stained mid-lake and clearing down the lake. Morning surface temperatures remains in the upper 60s.

Water temperatures have continued to hold steady or even drop, and as a result Lake Murray bass fishing patterns have not changed very much. The fish have, however, been a little finicky.  Veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that in the mornings you can still find spawning herring shallow over the whole lake around shallow points, blow-throughs and more. Even though the bass are feeding on them, the fish still do not seem to be taking topwater lures most of the time. Subsurface lures like crankbaits and even jigs and soft plastics are working better in areas where you can fish the bottom, and spinnerbaits are also good in dirtier water or when there is wind.  

There is also a threadfin shad spawn in certain areas.

The bite is definitely better in the morning, and after the sun gets up anglers generally need to find something else to do. They can either fish the bottom in the same areas a little deeper or target docks.

B.A.S.S. angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria concurs that the herring spawn is definitely still going on everywhere, and he also agrees that the bass just don’t seem to be eating them that well.  The cold snaps don’t seem to be helping, and the bite is really hit-or-miss and day-to-day. He agrees that subsurface baits are working better than topwaters, and the only time they can get fish to hit on the surface is when they are actively schooling. 

While the bass bite has been a little tough, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striped bass fishing has been pretty exceptional. He has been catching lots of really big fish the past few days.

In the mornings fish are up on the flat points chasing herring in less than 10 feet of water, and anglers are catching them on free-lines and planer boards.  You can also catch them casting flukes or other lures, and often they are busting the surface.  

Once the sun gets up Brad is finding the best action fishing in 20-40 feet off main points and ridges in the same areas where they were up shallow early. Generally he is fishing down-lines, but cut bait has also been good in 20-30 feet. 

The Ballentine area has been fishing well, and generally Brad has found the best action in the middle sections of major creeks.

One interesting note is that Brad has caught a large number of 3-8 pound largemouth on free-lines and planer boards in the past few days.

The crappie bite continues to improve, and Captain Brad reports that they are catching fish around deep docks and bridges as well as relatively shallow brush. Fish are suspended in 8-15 feet of water up the river, and dark colored jigs have been working well as have small toughies. 

 Captain Brad Taylor with a nice Murray crappie
Captain Brad Taylor with a nice Murray crappie

The catfish bite has gotten pretty strong on Lake Murray, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fish are moving shallower as they get further into the pre-spawn period.  The best depth is 10-12 feet of water, and they can be found from the bank out to no deeper than about 25 feet. Humps and buoy markers showing depth changes are good places to look.

For now dip baits as well as cut herring will work, but soon William will just be fishing dip baits.  Assuming the water finally warms!

April 29

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.62 (full pool is 360.00) and visibility continues to improve. Up the lake there is about 2 feet of visibility, increasing as you get closer to the dam. Overall the lake is starting to look more green and less brown. Morning surface temperatures are generally in the upper 60s.

Relatively cool weather basically has Lake Murray bass in a holding pattern, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that in the mornings you can still find spawning herring shallow over the whole lake around points, blow-throughs and more.  Even though the bass are feeding on them, the fish still do not seem to be taking topwater lures most of the time. Subsurface lures like crankbaits and even jigs and soft plastics are working better in areas where you can fish the bottom, and spinnerbaits are also good in dirtier water or when there is wind.  

The bite is definitely better in the morning, and after about sun gets up anglers generally need to find something else to do. They can either fish the bottom in the same areas a little deeper or target docks.

B.A.S.S. angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria agrees that the fish aren’t blowing up on topwater lures off points, but the exceptions is that when the fish are actively schooling then you can get away with throwing something on the surface. And while the bite is generally done before noon, there are times when the wind will prolong it. 

Andy also points out that there are still a bunch of fish on beds. 

A few cool nights have made a big difference, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striped bass have backed out a little bit and in his opinion the herring spawn has slowed down a little. He expects to see huge numbers of herring spawning again on the May 7 full moon. 

As fish have pulled deeper the down-rod bite has gotten better, and Brad is finding the best action fishing in 30-40 feet off main points and ridges. Free-lines and planer boards are also working, and some fish are being caught on cut bait. 

While fish can be caught everywhere, the mid-lake has been fishing well and fish seem to be especially concentrated in the creeks systems as well as flats and ridges in the main lake. There are a bunch of good fish off Spence Island, but there are so many little ones that it’s very hard to get a bait down to the better fish. 

A nice striper caught this week with Captain Brad Taylor
A nice striper caught this week with Captain Brad Taylor

Fortunately the crappie bite is improving, and Captain Brad reports that up the river they are starting to catch post-spawn fish around docks, bridges and shallow brush in the 10-12 foot range. The fish are very fickle and so finesse jigs and small toughy minnows are working better than larger presentations. 

The catfish bite continues to improve on Lake Murray, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fish are moving shallower as they get further into the pre-spawn period.  The best depth is 10-12 feet of water, and they can be found from the bank out to no deeper than about 25 feet. Humps and buoy markers showing depth changes are good places to look.

For now dip baits as well as cut herring will work, but soon William will just be fishing dip baits.

April 15

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.43 (full pool is 360.00) and most of the lake is stained but not muddy. Up the lake there is about 1 ½ feet of visibility, increasing as you get closer to the dam. Even though the Sunday/ Monday rains muddied the water it was clearing before that, and so visibility is barely worse than a week ago. Morning surface temperatures have dipped overnight and are in the mid- to upper 60s.

The herring spawn continues to progress on Lake Murray, and veteran tournament bass angler Captain Doug Lown reports that while it started in the warmest backs of creeks the spawn is moving out to the main lake. You can now find herring shallow over the whole lake around points, blow-throughs and more.

While the herring spawn has progressed, the fish still do not seem to be taking topwater lures. Subsurface lures like crankbaits and even jigs and soft plastics are working better in areas where you can fish the bottom, and spinnerbaits are also good in dirtier water or when there is wind.  Fish can be very shallow, but at times they will also be in 8-10 feet on the points.

The bite is definitely better in the morning, and after about 10 or 11 o’clock anglers generally need to find something else to do.  It’s not that the bass leave, but the bite slows greatly. Cold fronts will also slow down the herring bite.

There are certainly still fish on the beds, even though they are generally difficult to see outside of the clearest lower lake. A good daytime pattern for many anglers has been to flip docks. 

Like the bass, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striped bass are oriented to the shallow herring fish right now and early in the morning they are very shallow on points all over the lake in both creeks and on the main lake. They can be caught casting lures, pulling free-lines, and pulling planer boards for the first few hours.  

Unlike the bass, however, when the sun gets up the striper do work their way down the ridges and pull out much deeper. There they can be caught in down-lines in 20-40 feet of water in the same general areas where they were feeding on herring early. Cut bait is also working.

Captain Brad Taylor with a couple of good ones caught this week
Captain Brad Taylor with a couple of good ones caught this week

As good as the shallow crappie bite was last week, right now it has gotten tough.  While they are still marking a ton of fish that have pulled out to shallow brush or flats in 8-10 feet of water up the lake, the fish are locked down and just not feeding very well. While you can certainly pick away at the fish and catch a few here-and-there, the bite is very slow compared to the last few weeks. 

The catfish bite continues to improve on Lake Murray, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fish are moving much shallower. The best pattern is to anchor and fan-cast in 2-15 feet of water in the backs of creeks, on flats, and off shallow humps.  Fish will also get off the same points where the largemouth are holding, and if you fish live herring you will catch both species. Catfish will even take moving baits such as crankbaits and jerkbaits. 

Cut herring is generally the best bait, but the period where dip baits are more effective is rapidly approaching as the gar get worse and worse.  

April 8

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.31 (full pool is 360.00) and most of the lake is stained but not muddy. Up the lake there is about 1.5 – 2 feet of visibility, increasing as you get closer to the dam. Morning surface temperatures are generally in the upper 60s.

It’s finally happening on Lake Murray, and veteran tournament bass angler Captain Doug Lown reports that the herring spawn is getting underway across the lake. It starts in the warmest backs of creeks and gradually moves out towards the main lake, and right now we are in the early stages. 

Generally this means that lots of bass are related to points, although there are also some herring back in pockets. You can throw a spinnerbait, which herring will follow, to locate them.  Early in the herring spawn they are not generally feeding on the surface and so sub-surface baits like small crankbaits and swimbaits are more effective than topwater lures and flukes.  Up the lake in the dirtier water spinnerbaits are fishing well. Some times the fish are very shallow, while at times the action is better in 5-7 feet. 

While very early in the herring spawn the fish can get more active once the water warms later in the day, generally this is a morning bite which slows down after 10 or 11.  Cloudy days will keep the herring deeper, while sun and wind can prolong the action.

While the herring bite is a great way to catch 2-4 pound fish, there is also a wave of big fish that is spawning right now. They can be hard to see with stained water this spring, but they are in the pockets. There are also pre-spawn and post-spawn fish that can be caught around docks on straight-tailed worms. 

Like the bass, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striped bass are moving shallower following the herring.  They are scattered all over the lake, and in the mornings his boat has caught them as shallow as a few feet of water, while during the day he has found them a little deeper off the ridges extending out from points. This morning Brad found them in only 4 or 5 feet, while yesterday afternoon they were catching fish in the teens over 26 feet of water. It is important to keep looking and cover a variety of depths until you find the fish and as they move.   

Free lines and planer boards are working very well, and if you find some fish set up a little deeper you can drop down-lines. Cut bait is also fishing very well. 

Fish are generally in the middle to backs of creeks, and overall the north side of the lake is fishing better than the Lexington side. 

For those who like to catch crappie shallow this is the best time of the year to fish on Lake Murray, and Captain Brad reports that right now most of fish up the lake are on the banks. They are catching a few males trolling in 6-8 feet of water where you can also tight-line, but the vast majority of the fish are spawning and very shallow. You just need a cork and a jig (or minnow) and to go up and grind shallow cover on the banks to catch fish. 

Down the lake fish have completed the spawn and pulled out to deeper docks or brush in 8-14 feet of water. 

Captain Brad Taylor with a couple of beautiful fish caught yesterday up the lake
Captain Brad Taylor with a couple of beautiful fish caught yesterday up the lake

The catfish bite continues to improve on Lake Murray, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that as fish get into the pre-spawn period channel cats are starting to move into their warm-weather patterns. You can tell that the spawn is getting close as the males’ heads turn dark and swell up. 

The best pattern is to fish off points and islands and fan-cast with multiple rods. Cover water from only a couple of feet deep out to about 20. In addition to cut herring and nightcrawlers, dip baits are starting to be effective.

March 31

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.16 (full pool is 360.00) and most of the lake is stained but not muddy. Morning surface temperatures are in the mid-60s.    

Access to Lake Murray continues to be limited, but veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that bass fishing is strong – particularly for anglers who prefer to fish the banks. There are lots of pre-spawn fish, plenty of fish are on beds even though they can be hard to see in the dirty water, and there are also some early post-spawn fish. The north side of the lake continues to be the furthest along.  

This is the time of year when you can fish for bass with most any shallow technique you want to employ, and soft plastics such as a brightly colored floating worm or lightly weighted worms (1/8 ounce or less) have both been very effective around the banks.  Fishing shakey heads around docks has also been working. There are also starting to be some fish caught in pockets on buzzbaits.  Obviously you can also sight-fish in areas with good clarity. 

Even though the shad and herring spawns have not yet started, more and more fish are also starting to set up off of points in the areas where they know that bait will soon be. Some of these fish are pre-spawn, and some of them are post-spawn. Right now these fish are not yet taking topwater lures, but flukes, swimbaits, spinnerbaits or another bait that stays down in the water column will work.   Very soon the herring spawn will get underway in the warmest creek backs.  

Like the bass, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striped bass are starting to get into the areas where they know that herring will soon be. They are off the ends of points and flats and at the ends of ditches, but they have not yet committed to moving to the banks. They can be caught pulling free-lines and planer boards over the points. There are also a lot of down-line fish that can be caught, although these are often small. Down the lake the Ballentine area has fished well. 

There are also good numbers of fish up the river, with more moving up each day for a false spawn. The river is about to get really good, and already there is starting to be an outstanding cut bait bite. Fish are in schools moving up the river and so when a group of fish comes through it is not unusual to have all your lines move off in the same direction. 

You can also catch fish on free-lines and planer boards along the river channel. 

It’s still a good time to crappie fish on Murray, and Captain Brad reports that up the lake most of the fish are pre-spawn right now even though the bulk of the fish are getting very close to spawning.  Down the lake fish are further along and the spawn may be close to completed.

Up the lake fish are getting shallower and shallower, and long-lining in creek channels 4-5 feet deep over 8-15 feet of water is the best pattern. However, some fish are being caught against the banks and it seems the majority of the fish are on the verge of being there. When that happens the long-lining bite will drop off and more fish will be caught casting minnows and jigs. 

Crappie caught with Captain Brad Taylor this week
Crappie caught with Captain Brad Taylor this week

The catfish bite is rapidly improving on Lake Murray, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that as fish get into the pre-spawn period channel cats are starting to move into their warm-weather patterns. You can tell that the spawn is getting close as the males’ heads turn dark and swell up. 

The best pattern is to fish off points and islands and fan-cast with multiple rods. Cover water from only a couple of feet deep out to about 20. In addition to cut herring and nightcrawlers, dip baits are starting to be effective.

March 25

Lake Murray water levels are at 358.04 (full pool is 360.00) and the lake is clearing but still stained in areas. Morning surface temperatures range from the upper 50s to lower 60s, with the big water and the south side of the lake warming more slowly.  

Even while significant bass tournament activity is on hold, veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that bass fishing is strong. Due to some very warm periods surface temperatures have been holding above the 55-58 degree range where the first part of the spawn kicks for some time now, and so pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn bass can all be found. Area of the lake determines the proportion of each, with bass on the north side the furthest along.  

This is the time of year when you can fish for bass with most any shallow technique you want to employ, and soft plastics such as a brightly colored floating worm or lightly weighted worms (1/8 ounce or less) have both been very effective around the banks.  Fishing shakey heads around docks has been working. On the south side of the lake where there are more pre-spawn fish fishing a crankbait off points in 6-8 feet of water has been working, and in areas with dirty water spinnerbaits and Chatterbaits have been effective. There are also starting to be some fish caught in pockets on buzzbaits.  Obviously you can also sight-fish in areas with good clarity. 

Even though the beginning of the herring spawn is still a little ways off, some fish are already setting up off of points in the creeks.  At this stage swimbaits, spinnerbaits or another bait that stays down in the water column are better than surface lures, and if there is not too much grass you can also pull a crankbait in these areas. Once temperatures hold at 63-65 in the mornings for several days then the herring spawn will get underway in the warmest creek backs.  

The fishing has also been very good for striped bass, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that down the lake there is very good fishing off points at the mouths of creeks in 30-40 feet of water. Down-lines and planer boards are both working well, and the fish are setting up off the same points where the herring will later be. 

There have also been some big fish caught up the rivers, and even though the numbers are lower you do not have to pick through little fish. In addition to free-lines and planer boards they are being caught on cut bait fished along the river channel. 

There has also been some random schooling activity, although this is mainly small fish. 

A nice striper caught this week with Captain Brad Taylor
A nice striper caught this week with Captain Brad Taylor

It’s a fantastic time for most anglers to crappie fish, and Captain Brad reports that pretty much any shallow-water technique will catch fish right now. Up the lake trolling jigs tipped with minnows in 8-12 feet of water is working well, and there are also new waves of fish on the bank spawning each day. These can be targeted with jigs or minnows fished around shallow cover. 

From one end of the lake to the other fish can also be found setting up on shallow docks, and especially early and late these fish are biting well. 

The catfish bite is improving on Lake Murray, but Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports even as other species get into pre-spawn or spawning mode the cats are a little further behind. It is not until April when the spring bite usual starts to get wide open, and this winter residual dirty water is still hurting the fishing.

There have been some big fish caught up the Little Saluda River, but in limited numbers.  There have also been some medium-sized blue catfish caught off the main lake around John’s Creek.  However, the bite back in the creeks is not yet wide open.

March 13

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.62 (full pool is 360.00), and the whole lake down to John’s Creek is heavily stained.  Because the water is dirty it is warming faster than clear water would, and surface temperatures are already into the high 50s. 

Lake Murray

We are getting into a very good period for bass fishing on Lake Murray, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that in his opinion based on current temperatures and the forecast we are less than 7-10 days away from the first wave of spawning activity.  Already fish are moving shallower, with their depth depending in part on water clarity. In dirtier areas up the lake most of the fish are in less than 5 feet of water, while in the cleaner water down the lake most fish are in 5-10 feet.

This is a time of year when you can do a lot of different things, and fish are feeding on schools of bait at different times in different sections of the lake.  In the lower lake first thing in the morning they are relating to herring that pulls up into the ditches overnight, and the bass will take any of a variety of baits that imitates a blueback herring.  In the upper lake they are keying on shad that will move into warm pockets in the afternoon.  Look for the presences of birds or bait flipping and throw a spinnerbait or crankbait. 

As fish move towards the spawn they will often be relating to points near spawning coves, although there are still days when they will cruise the bank or set up in pockets.  They will be relating to whatever cover they can find in those areas, be it a dock or a tree.  A worm is a good bait choice, and at this time of year a light sinker is important as Lake Murray bass seem to want a slow fall. 

When fish start to spawn some will do it in traditional protected coves, although other fish will spawn deeper on Lake Murray.  This year it will probably be more difficult to see spawning bass in the stained water. 

Finally, as temperatures hit the upper 50s and continue to rise we are not far from a buzzbait becoming effective. 

It’s easy to tell that spring is coming with the striped bass, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that fish are heading into the backs of creeks and ditches following bait as the water warms.  Brad has been finding the best action around Dreher Island and below, and fish are being caught pulling free-lines/ planer boards or even casting flukes and swimbaits at fish boiling in front of the boat.  There are still a lot of birds around. 

Generally the afternoon bite has been better when the temperatures warm and fish get more active and move shallower.  In the morning or when a cool front comes through fish are more likely to set up in the belly of the channel. 

On the crappie front, Captain Brad reports that many fish have moved mid-way into the creeks up the lake where they are being caught long-line trolling with jigs.  Longlining is also working well for fish that are further behind along the main channel, and there are also some very large fish being caught around docks and bridges.   

It is getting to be the time when you can fish for crappie however you want, and in the next week Brad expects some big fish to start spawning. 

The catfish bite remains tough on Lake Murray, but as water conditions improve Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fish are starting to move shallower into 10-25 feet of water in both the creeks and off the main channel. While fish can be caught over the whole lake the middle section has been fishing the best, and anchoring is far-and-away the best pattern.  Expect a mixed bag of species but more channels. 

Right now fish are starting to feed up in preparation for the spawn so expect the bite to improve in the coming weeks.

February 27

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.64 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures range are around 52 degrees at the dam.  From the rivers down to Dreher Island there is red mud with trash and logs floating, and visibility is only about 6 inches at the mouth of Bear Creek.  There is some clearer water closer to the dam as well as back in some creeks. 

There is really no consistent pattern for Lake Murray bass right now, and veteran angler Captain Doug Lown reports that between cold fronts, rain, the power company pulling water, and high, muddy conditions there is not enough to stability for a good bite to develop and stay strong. The patterns are week-to-week and even day-to-day, and it is rare for anyone to catch fish very well one week and then replicate the bite the same way again the next.

Even though dirty water would normally have fish relatively shallow, cool fronts as well as pulling water has kept a lot of fish deep where some good bags have been caught. When temperatures do moderate then there have been some good bags caught shallow on crankbait and spinnerbaits. There were some fish staging on docks before this last cold front, and when temperatures moderate they should be up there again. 

The river is muddy and full of trash, and as a result Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striped bass have moved down the lake. They have been caught back in the creeks in relatively clearer water, and they are suspended from the middle of the water column to the bottom in 35-50 feet. In addition to down lines some fish are being caught on planer boards and free-lines, and there has also been some bird activity. When gulls are diving on fish then double rigs with bucktails and spoons have been working.   

Right now there have been a lot of short fish caught. 

Captain Brad reports that the crappie bite continues to be tough up the lake with all the current, as crappie do not want to be in swift-moving, muddy water. The better fishing has been found in creeks down the lake tight-lining or long-line trolling with jigs in the creek runs. Fish are in 10-25 feet of water.

The catfish bite remains very tough on Lake Murray due to all the muddy water, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that it may be several weeks until conditions really improve. When the water settles out then the best bet should be anchoring on long humps and points close to the river channel. Herring, white perch and bream will all work.

February 18

Lake Murray water levels have stabilized at about 357.12 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures range from about 53 on the lower lake to the upper-40s up the lake. The lake ranges from muddy to stained. 

Despite the muddy conditions this weekend a good number of striped bass were caught up the river on Lake Murray, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that free-lines and planer boards accounted for most of the catch. Nearly all of the fish were good quality keepers. 

However, the bulk of the fish are still in places like Bear Creek, Beaverdam, and any of the ditches towards Ballentine. 18-mile creek has been full of fish. Most of these fish are just off the bottom in about 40 feet of water, and they can be caught best on down-lines. As conditions improve the patterns will change. 

While there have been a few good bags caught in recent tournaments, B.A.S.S. angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that overall bass fishing is tough on Murray. Since the water got dirty the shallow bite has been decidedly better than the deep bite, which was good about ten days ago before the flooding, but nothing is great. The best pattern has been fishing crankbaits, jigs and spinnerbaits back in the creeks around shallow points and rock.  Further up the lake is a mud hole and so overall the mid-lake section has been fishing the best. 

Reid McGinn and Andy Wicker with a nice bag in the CBC last week
Reid McGinn and Andy Wicker with a nice bag caught in the CBC last week

Until about a week ago Captain Brad reports that the crappie bite was getting good, but then the flooding of the last week really slowed it down. Just yesterday the current in the Big Saluda seemed to ease enough that a little fish activity could be spotted, but still the majority of the action has been on the Little Saluda side. 

The best pattern has been tight-lining at the mouths of major creeks along the main channel, fishing 8-12 feet down over 18-20 feet of water.  Jig and minnows are both working, and the best pattern may be fishing bright-colored jigheads tipped with plain minnows.

There have also been some big fish caught down in Hollow Creek and Horse Creek, although numbers are a little low.

January 29

Lake Murray water levels are up to 356.45 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures range from the lower 50s on the lower lake to the mid to upper-40s up the lake. Up the lake is muddy but the water clears as you come down. 

It’s not where you expect striped bass to be in the winter on Lake Murray, but Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that there are a lot of big fish in the lower pool between the dam and Spence Island.  The muddy water has pushed them down the lake, and a healthy population of herring that stay in the area give them a preferred food source. There are large numbers of gulls there as well, and when they come up schooling it is fairly easy to locate the fish. You can catch them about any way you want, from casting lures to pulling free-lines and planer boards to dropping down-lines at the fish.

There are also some fish up the rivers, and as the mud settles out that bite should be getting better. When you can see fish then casting double rigs is the best bet, and at other times you can pull free-lines and planer boards.

In last CATT tournament veteran bass fisherman Captain Doug Lown reports that he and his tournament partner weighed five fish caught on five different baits for 21 pounds and second place. However, one commonality is that most of the fish are in 10 feet of water or less right now, even though they are adjacent to deep water. Although temperatures dropped 10-15 degrees with the cold snap last week, they are starting to work their ways back towards areas where they will eventually spawn. Secondary, rocky points are often the most productive right now.

There are a number of variables affecting how the fish are setting up from day to day, including water temperature, lake level, current and visibility. These determine whether fish are suspended or not, which mostly dictates the choice of bait. When fish are suspended Alabama rigs and jerkbaits have been fishing well, and when they are not jigs, crankbaits and shakey heads are effective. 

In addition to fish starting to head in the direction of eventual spawning areas, they are also looking for the warmest water where they can feed. 

Perhaps the best bite going is for crappie, and Captain Brad reports that the action has gotten really good out over the river runs. It’s hard to believe but we are only about 6 weeks out from spawning fish and the bite is already picking up.

The best action has come tight-lining or trolling jigs or jigs tipped with minnows, and most of the fish have been about 8-12 feet down over 24 feet. Using sonar it is pretty easy to locate where the fish are located.

A nice crappie caught last winter with Captain Brad Taylor
A nice crappie caught last winter with Captain Brad Taylor

The catfish bite remains very tough on Lake Murray due to all the muddy water, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that it may be several weeks until conditions really improve.  When the water settles out then the best bet should be anchoring on long humps and points close to the river channel, as in February fish should be starting to head shallower into 25-30 feet of water.  Herring, white perch and bream will all work.

January 15

Lake Murray water levels are at 355.34 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures are in the mid-50s. There is lots of mud and current moving down the lake.

These are confusing times for bass and even more for bass fishermen on Lake Murray, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that right now they are catching all of the fish they are getting in less than ten feet of water, with some well less than that. The bait that had been really deep has now moved up shallower, and the good fishing that was taking place in deep water has died off. Usually this time of year when fish leave deep water they are not going back, but with highs in the 40s predicted for next week it’s anyone’s guess how the bass will respond. Further complicating things a few shallow spots are holding fish, but other similar spots are not. Finding the right areas can be difficult. 

Generally Doug advises that while fish are relatively shallow they want deep water close by, and you need to be fishing close to at least 20 feet of water. Fish are also out next to the channels, and most fish are at the mouths of creeks or out towards the main lake.  The best fishing has been early with lures like crankbaits when fish are feeding on bait, and after about 10 or 11 the fishing slows down and anglers need to fish jigs or a shakey head. 

Doug also notes that the lake has a lot of current right now, and since bass do not want to sit in cold current they are seeking out protected areas.

An influx of muddy water has made for less than ideal striped bass fishing, but Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that there have been some fish caught up the rivers pulling free lines and planer boards over the channel. However, the better fishing has been down the lake in less dirty water on both sides of Dreher Island. Here the fish are holding in about 30-40 feet of water, and down-lines, free-lines and planer boards are all catching fish. There have also been some fish caught on cut bait off the side of shallow points.

Fishing related to bird activity has been slow since the gulls are visual feeders.

Captain Brad reports that a few crappie have been caught up the rivers tight-lining over the main channel, but that bite slowed way down when conditions got muddy. When the water clears up again he looks for anglers to do well tight-lining again with jigs and minnows 8-15 feet down over the main channel.

The catfish bite has gotten very tough on Lake Murray, even though Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) did catch a big 45-pound fish his last time out. It was accompanied by only one small channel cat, and he has found that fish are scattered all over the place. Fish have been few and far between on electronics.

While that might suggest that drifting would be the best pattern, fish are so sluggish that that the better bet is to anchor down in areas where you find fish and try to wait them out until they take a bait. While there is no obvious pattern most of the fish seem to be in 20-60 feet of water.

A 45-pound monster caught this week with Captain William Attaway
A 45-pound monster caught this week with Captain William Attaway

 

December 24

Lake Murray water levels are up to 356.22 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures are in the low to mid-50s.  As of yesterday the lake was muddy from the river down to Buffalo Creek and it is only getting more stained. 

Striped bass fishing on Lake Murray has been tough, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that in the recent Midlands Striper Club tournament and in general catching good ones has not been easy. With the rain over the last couple of days it has only gotten harder.

With so much mud up the lake the best reports have been coming from below Buffalo Creek down to about the Gap. The best pattern has been to fish below the mud line with free-lines and planers boards and keep your eyes out for gulls, loons or any other signs of activity. Cover water until you find out what is working as overall the conditions are not very good right now. 

A nice striper caught with Captain Brad Taylor
A nice striper caught with Captain Brad Taylor

Captain Brad reports that crappie fishing has gotten tough with the influx of dirty water, but when there is enough time for the mud to settle out then fishing should improve again. Fish will be caught tight-lining at the mouths of creeks about 8-12 feet down off the bottom in 15-18 feet of water on jigs and minnows.  There are also some scattered fish off deeper docks and bridges.

The influx of dirty water has pushed Lake Murray bass towards the banks, and B.A.S.S. angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that probably the best way to catch them in these conditions is fishing a crankbait shallow. The midlake area is fishing the best right now.   There has also been a pretty good jigging spoon bite out in clearer water about 25 feet deep, and a jig has also been working well. It has been hard to catch numbers out deep but there have been some good ones biting. 

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the mud is not good for catfish on Lake Murray, and when the water gets heavily stained they can be really hard to get to bite.  Besides looking for areas with some cleaner water, there may not be any very good pattern right now.  And unfortunately it takes longer for the mud to clear in cold conditions.

December 13

Lake Murray water levels are at 355.45 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures are in the mid to upper-50s. The lake was fairly clear before the rains of the last 24 hours.

Bass fishing has gotten pretty tough on Lake Murray, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that there are several different patterns going but nothing very good. A few fish have been caught shallow on crankbaits, a few have been caught up the rivers, and there has been some action on Alabama rigs – but there is no one pattern that is reliable. There are a lot of reports of fish biting short and not really taking lures. One problem may be that this time of year bass are focused on bait, and for now the bait is very deep.  Bass may just not be set up very well to be caught.

In the cooler months bass are looking to conserve energy, and they want access to deep water. Steep, 45 degree banks provide them the ability to move up and down the water column quickly and easily, and so these are the best places to look right now. Channel swings and points that drop off sharply are good, especially if there is some rock on them. Depth depends on the day, and drop shots and shakey heads can be good baits. If there is some wind a crankbait or an Alabama rig can be a good choice. 

Perhaps because the bait is so deep there have not been good reports on a jigging spoon.  

Likely as a result of the warm weather, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striped basshave been more spread out than is typical. They are in small groups of fish and are just not schooled up very well. As temperatures drop the action should improve.

For now anglers need to be very open-minded to catch fish, and using free-lines and planer boards they need to be willing to cover a ton of water. Go very shallow, pull baits over deep water, and zig and zag across the channel until you figure out where fish are holding. While there have been a bunch of small fish caught up the rivers, the better catchable concentrations of all sizes still seem to be the up the lake. Down the lake there are just too many places for fish to hide.  

The best schooling has come in the evenings. 

Captain Brad reports that crappiehave been caught tight-lining in the rivers, and the best action has been at the mouths of larger creeks up that way. Start out in about 15 feet of water and vary depths until you find the fish. 

While the big ones are roaming, there are some small fish that can be caught on docks and bridges.

On the catfishfront, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the bite has gotten slower although they are still catching fish. When temperatures drop he expects the action to pick up again.

For now anchoring has been the best way to catch fish, especially around points and long points close to the river channel.  Fan-cast bream and white perch at a variety of depths.  Herring will also work, but they will pick up a bunch of small fish.

November 21

Lake Murray water levels are at 355.96 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures range from the lower 60s to the mid-50s. Up the lake the water has turned over and had time to return to normal color, while on the lower lake the combination of rain and turnover has it very murky. 

Water temperatures are still mild, and B.A.S.S. angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that there continues to be a pretty good bass bite shallow. Fish are scattered throughout the lake, and when fish are like that you can throw about anything in the tackle box at them. Alabama rigs, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs, and shakey heads have been catching fish, and as of a couple of days ago there were still some bass being caught on topwaters.
There is also a deeper spoon bite just starting in 25-35 feet of water, but that will get better as more fish leave the shallows. 

Striped basshave gotten into a pretty reliable late fall/ early winter pattern, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that the best catches are taking place from Rocky Creek up. Both of the rivers have turned on, and anglers are fishing under the birds with double rigs with a bucktail and an ice fly. They are also pulling free-lines and planer boards.

There are still good numbers of fish that can be caught on down-lines but they are generally smaller. 

Captain Brad reports that crappiehave not totally turned on yet, and up the lake they are still out in the main river channel and have not really committed to the creeks. This should happen once water temperatures drop a few more degrees and bait moves in. 

Fish have been caught both trolling and tight-lining in open water, and there have also been a few fish caught off bridges and brush. The best depth range has been from about halfway to the bottom to the bottom in 18-20 feet of water.

On the catfishfront, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the bite continues to be strong. The best pattern is anchoring in the river channel with cut bream or white perch. Blues are making up a better and better part of the catch.

 

 

 

October 25

Lake Murray water levels are down to 355.75 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures have fallen into the lower 70s.  Up the lake the water has turned over, in the mid-lake there are some signs of turnover, and the lower lake has not yet turned over. 

It would not be accurate to say that the Lake Murray bass bite is strong right now, but veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that it is a lot better than it was a few weeks ago. In the most recent CATT tournament about 20 pounds won, and there were several sacks in the teens before weights really dropped off.

As temperatures drop fish are moving shallower, and they are being caught on baits fished up in the water column around the lower lake grass. Crankbaits and floating worms have both been producing, but fish do not want to come up for a topwater lure and it is impossible to fish on the bottom.

There have been a lot of big fish seen cruising around the banks, but as is typical when they first come shallow they are very hard to get to bite.  

Johnny Mayer and Chris Epting with 20+ pounds!

As expected in the fall striped bassare moving up the rivers, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that there is a mix of keepers and short fish up the lake. 

Pulling free-lines and planer boards has been working the best, but when you see fish blowing up on bait you can catch them casting. However, they don’t seem to want to come up to take a topwater lure like a Spook but they will take something subsurface like a fluke. There is some very sporadic schooling activity.

From the Buffalo Creek area down to Dreher Island there are also lots of good fish on the side of the channel in the high-30s to mid-40s. These fish are sometimes suspended at this depth and sometimes on the bottom, perfect for fishing down-lines.

Captain Brad reports that crappieare solidly in a fall pattern, and they are basically moving back and forth in the channel between the mouths of creeks, ledges, and channel turns. They will use brush as a stopping point while they follow schools of bait, and with the lake drawn down fish are pulled out even more than usual. 

Brush in 15-20 feet of water at the mouth of the creek channels is a good place to look, and up the river fish are also thick around deeper docks and bridges. There are also anglers tight-lining up and down the channel around the bridge at Big Man’s.

Both jigs and minnows are working.

On the catfishfront, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the bite has significantly improved in the last few weeks. The best fishing is in the creeks and rivers up the lake, and there has also been a group of fish around Wessinger Island. The best pattern is drifting or anchoring in 30-40 feet of water with cut bait, as the dip bait bite is done for the year. Blues are just starting to join the catch. 

 

 

October 3

Lake Murray water levels are down to 356.30 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures in the morning have risen back into the low to mid-80s. Clarity is normal.

There’s not much good to say about the fishing for Lake Murray bass, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that until we get a break in the weather that is unlikely to change. It only took 12 pounds to win the last tournament, and very few anglers were able to put a limit in the boat. 

There are signs that fish are feeding heavily at night as the morning bite is only a very short window, but when temperatures cool fish should start to relate to grass in the 6-10 foot range and actually feed. 

For now probably the best way to catch a decent fish is working the banks with a buzzbait early in the morning. Probably the best way to get several bites is to head up the rivers and fish flats and pockets with some cover. 

Mostly though, for things to really improve some cooling is needed.

Striped basscontinue to be in the top of the water column on Lake Murray, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that they are roaming a few feet below the surface, and from time to time they show themselves on top.

When fish aren’t on top and willing to chase lures, both free lines and shallow down lines are still working. Fish are in the main lake and the creeks, but the further back in creeks you go the smaller they get. There are significant numbers of good fish at the mouths of creeks from Shull Island to Buffalo Creek.

Captain Brad reports that there are good numbers of crappieganging up in creeks around large schools of threadfin shad and small fry. They can be from the mouth of the creek to the belly of the creeks, and a good depth range to prospect is 8-12 feet down over 15-20 feet of water. The bridges at the top of the lake are also producing.

Both jigs and minnows are working.

On the catfishfront, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the catfish are still very scattered but they are getting a few.  The best fishing is in the river channel, creek channels, or in flats off the river. Most of the fish that are being caught are still coming in 20-35 feet of water, and right now most of the fish are channels. Cut bait is the best option for drifting or anchoring.

 

September 19

Lake Murray water levels are down to 356.86 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures in the morning have cooled into the lower 80s. Clarity is normal.

It’s anyone’s guess how long it will last this time, but as he expected Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that the small drop in the temperature has set the striped bass back to schooling again. They are roaming a few feet below the surface, and from time to time they show themselves on top.

When fish aren’t on top and willing to chase lures, both free lines and shallow down lines are working. Fish are in the main lake and the creeks, but the further back in creeks you go the smaller they get. There are significant numbers of good fish at the mouths of creeks. 

Captain Brad reports that the crappiefishing has gotten good up the rivers around the bridges, and catch rates are really improving. They are also loaded up at the mouths of creeks in the upper lake over brush. Fish are in big schools, and they are mostly 5-10 feet down in 15-20 feet. Jigs and minnows will both work.

There’s not a lot of change in the pattern for Lake Murray bass, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that earlier this week he was on the water and still found a really tough bite. Fish were not loaded up on offshore spots, and even mid-week they had to really work to get bit.

However, Andy believes that with the cold front that came through yesterday the bite should be on the verge of really taking off, and the next week could be really good. Fish should group up around the offshore spots where anglers have put cane piles and they should eat a fluke or topwater lure. 

Still, perhaps the best big fish pattern is to work the banks with a buzzbait or Whopper Plopper early and late.  

On the catfishfront, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the catfish are still very scattered but they are getting a few. The best fishing is in the river channel, creek channels, or in flats off the river. Most of the fish that are being caught are still coming in 20-35 feet of water, and right now most of the fish are channels. Cut bait is the best option for drifting or anchoring.

 

September 13

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.02 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures in the morning are back into the mid-80s. Clarity is normal.

In the cooler weather around the storm Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striped bass schooled pretty well for a day or two, and then they went right back to the same pattern they have been in and fishing got a little tough. Some cool weather is needed to jump-start the bite again, although in Brad’s estimation the absolute temperatures are not the problem – the fact that it is moving in the wrong direction is. 

For right now fish remain in limbo between summer and fall patterns, but they are roaming across the lake from Shull Island down about 15-25 feet below the surface. Both free lines and shallow down lines are working. Fish are in the main lake and the creeks, but the further back in creeks you go the smaller the fish get. There are significant numbers of good fish at the mouths of creeks. 

Overall, any significant rain or cooling should set the fish back to schooling as they again seem ready to make the transition.

Just like the striper crappieare still related to bait that has pulled up relatively shallow, and Captain Brad reports that fish are roaming around the bridges up the lake following threadfin shad. While crappie won’t generally show themselves on the surface like bass or striper, if you see threadfin on the surface you are in the right area. 

Water quality is not great deeper and so most of the fish up the lake are within 6-8 feet of the surface, but they can be a little hard to catch. They don’t seem to want to chase baits being trolled, so casting or tight-lining with live bait has been the best pattern. 

The end of summer is usually a grind for bass fishing on Lake Murray, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that this year is no exception. The best fish still seem to be coming running a buzzbait or Whopper Plopper around the banks early and late, and some good fish are being caught first thing around brush or lighted docks still holding fish that spent the night there. 

The best daytime pattern is looking for suspended fish that will come up to eat a fluke or topwater around offshore spots, but the action is not very widespread and fish are only on a few random spots. There are also deeper fish that can be caught around grass during the day.  

On the catfishfront, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fishing is still a little slow but the best action has been in the river channel, creek channels, or in flats off the river. Most of the fish that are being caught are still coming in 20-35 feet of water, and right now most of the fish are channels. Cut bait is the best option for drifting or anchoring.  

 

 

September 5

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.62 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures in the morning have generally cooled into the lower 80s. Clarity is normal.

While schooling action has not been as widespread for striped bass as it was a week or two ago, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that fish are still pretty shallow. Any time now he expects the schooling action to bust open again, and it could be that storm conditions today set it off. 

For right now fish are in limbo between summer and fall patterns, but they are roaming across the lake from Shull Island down about 15-25 feet below the surface. Both free lines and shallow down lines are working. Fish are in the main lake and the creeks, but the further back in creeks you go the smaller the fish get. There are significant numbers of good fish at the mouths of creeks. 

Overall, any significant rain or cooling should set the fish back to schooling as they seem ready to make the transition.

Just like the striper crappieare related to bait that has pulled up relatively shallow right now, and Captain Brad reports that fish are roaming around the bridges up the lake following threadfin shad. While crappie won’t generally show themselves on the surface like bass or striper, if you see threadfin on the surface you are in the right area. 

Water quality is not great deeper and so most of the fish up the lake are within 6-8 feet of the surface, but they can be a little hard to catch. They don’t seem to want to chase baits being trolling, so casting or tight-lining with live bait has been the best pattern. 

The end of summer is usually a grind for bass fishing on Lake Murray, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that this year is no exception. The best fish seem to be coming running a buzzbait or Whopper Plopper around the banks early and late, and some good fish are being caught first thing around brush or lighted docks still holding fish that spent the night there.  

The best daytime pattern is looking for suspended fish that will come up to eat a fluke or topwater around offshore spots, but the action is not very widespread and fish are only on a few random spots. There are also deeper fish that can be caught around grass during the day.  

On the catfishfront, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fishing has been a little slow but the best action has been in the river channel, creek channels, or in flats off the river. Most of the fish that are being caught are coming in 20-35 feet of water, and right now most of the fish are channels. Cut bait is the best option for drifting or anchoring.

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