In the most recent CATT tournament Saturday on Lake Murray veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that bass could be found spawning, which is to be expected considering that water temperatures are in the low to mid-60s. However, Doug believes that the bulk of the fish are still pre-spawn, because even though water temperatures jumped very fast (two weeks ago temperatures were basically in the low 50s) the fishes’ biology takes a little while to catch up. Additionally, the cool snap that took place earlier this week (and dropped water temperatures a couple of degrees) has probably kept a lot of fish in that same stage.
The spawning fish that can be found all seem to be in the cleanest water available, generally in the 2 ½ – 3 ½ foot range. Even in the clearest areas seeing them can be a challenge as most of the lake is still pretty stained.
While targeting spawning fish is one pattern anglers are fishing, the predominant pattern seems to be bait-related. Even though water temperatures are also warm enough for herring (and shad) to be spawning, Doug doesn’t think they are. As with the largemouth he suspects that their egg cycle hasn’t quite caught up with the rapidly rising water temperatures.
But that doesn’t mean that bait isn’t pushing up relatively shallow off points, and there has been a pretty hot “bait bite” first thing and then continuing into the day. The top three weights in the last CATT were 22, 21, and 20 pounds, and Doug thinks all of these teams were on some sort of bait pattern. He knows the the third place team was because he and partner Rhett Manus finished in that place! While a ton of 2- and 2 ½ pounders can be caught around bait, there are also some better fish mixed in and the first hour Doug and Rhett caught four that they ended up weighing that went 16 pounds.
While bait can be found relatively shallow around points, one indication that it isn’t spawning yet is the type of places where it is holding. Instead of being on the flat points where blueback herring typically spawn it is around drop-offs where the bottom contour breaks off into a channel. Doug thinks the bait is staging for the spawn and when it gets up shallow feeding fish are pushing it up there. 6-10 feet is the primary depth range, and each day more and more fish are around points.
Whenever the bait is shallow topwater lures get popular on Lake Murray, and right now is no exception – especially with some schooling reported. Spinnerbaits and flukes are also catching fish, but day-in and day-out a shakey head worm fished around points is probably as good as anything right now – as is the case much of the year on Lake Murray. Some big bites are also coming on buzzbaits first thing, and outside of the bait pattern some fish are being found staging around docks.
Lake Murray water levels are around 357.58.