Lake Murray water levels are at 357.69 and surface temperatures have shot into the low to mid-70s – in a little over a week water temperatures jumped almost 10 degrees. The lake has more color than usual and even in the usually very clear lower lake visibility is only a few feet.
Lake Murray is a popular bass fishing destination when the blueback herring are spawning, and results from the CATT tournament last weekend show why. Out of twenty-five boats seven teams weighed in 20 pounds or more, and a sack that averaged 3 pounds per fish wasn’t enough to finish in the top half. The tournament winners – and the spring points winners after this double-points tournament – were Dave Franklin and Clay Riddle who weighed in an impressive 23.23 pound bag.
Captain Doug Lown says that the combination of erratically rising spring temperatures and significant color in the water have dragged out the spawn this year. There are still a decent number of fish spawning, and in a recent tournament the winners weighed a couple of big fish that came off the bed. There are also certainly some fish still pre-spawn, in addition to a large number of post-spawn bass.
As is typical on Lake Murray in late April and May, however, bass fishermen are thinking less about the bass spawn and more about the blueback herring spawn. For a couple of weeks now the bass have been focused on bait, and most of the fish that aren’t locked onto a bed right now seem to be keying on bluebacks. The herring spawn is scattered and somewhat spot specific – they aren’t everywhere – but early in the morning the best fishing is around shallow points. Topwater lures, flukes and even baits that bump the bottom will catch fish when the bass are up shallow feeding, but Doug notes that after people have been messing with bass up shallow around bluebacks for a couple of weeks they have a tendency to get a bit more finicky.
When there is wind the fish may stay shallow all day, but generally catching bass gets a little harder after about 10:00. The fish don’t generally leave the area and backing off to the deeper parts of the points and fishing in 6-10 feet with Carolina rigs and shakey heads is a decent pattern. You can probably also pick a few fish flipping docks.
Striped bass are doing some of the same things as the largemouth, and Lake World (803-957-6548) advises that most of the best striper action is shallow around points. Early in the morning striper fishermen can catch fish throwing surface plugs such as pencil poppers off of points and generally fishing like the bass guys, and they can also catch fish pulling free lines and planer boards with live herring in the same areas. Although some fish have been caught out to 30 feet, most of the fish are in 10 feet or less. Fishing cut bait in 3-20 feet has also been productive.