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Winning Patterns: Anglers Report How the BFL on Lake Murray was Won

  • by Jay

On Saturday, February 14 the first event of the 2015 BFL South Carolina Division season took place on Lake Murray out of Dreher Island State Park. 90 boaters and co-anglers braved freezing conditions early, and fierce winds throughout the day, in search of unpredictable late winter bass. Most anglers described the conditions and the fishing as “tough,” and on the co-angler side 4 pounds even was enough to cut a check. On the boater side it “only” took 13 pounds 2 ounces to cut a check – no small feat considering the bite and the weather conditions.   Below the top 25 boaters, anglers brought single digits to the scales, and almost half the boater field brought 1 or 0 fish to be weighed. On the co-angler side only 15 anglers caught more than 1 bass.

But, as usually seems to be the case at this time of year, a few anglers whacked them. Kyle Giella of Columbia caught a monster bag weighing 25 pounds, 8 ounces (including the 6 pound 12 ounce big fish on the angler side) to win $5,964.00 – including first place, Ranger Cup and big fish money.

Second place went to Ross Burns of Columbia with a 24-10 bag worth $1,757.00.

Third place went to Christopher Sample of Lexington with a 23-01 bag worth $1,172.00.

Fourth place went to Brock Taylor of Pendleton with a 21-12 bag worth $820.00.

And fifth place went to Scott Guyot of Wagram, North Carolina with a 20-10 ounce bag worth $703.00.

Rounding out the top ten were:

6) Maurice Freeze of Concord, NC with 19-10 (worth $644.00);

7) Kameron Harbin of Abbeville with 18-00 (worth $586.00);

8) Chris Marshall of Forest City, NC with 17-15 (worth $527.00);

9) Chris Epting of Chapin with 17-04 (worth $469.00); and

10) Cole Huskins of Mount Holly, NC with 16-03 (worth $410.00).

Kyle with his hardware


On the co-angler side Roy Beneteau of Swainsboro, Georgia had a 13 pound, 11 ounce sack worth $1,757.00.

The tournament director interviews Roy
The tournament director interviews Roy


The weights at the top were up from last weekend when less than 24 pounds took the win in the 173-boat teamtournament Carolinas Bass Challenge. However, last week seven fish over 7 pounds were weighed in, including two fish over 8 pounds, and this week only one fish over 7 pounds was caught. However, it was a 7 pound, 13 ounce monster caught by co-angler Donnie Stouffer of Rock Hill (on a Rattle Trap). The one fish was alone good enough for fifth place on the co-angler side.

Donnie with the tournament big fish
Donnie with the tournament big fish



Following their weigh-ins I caught up with the top boaters to hear about their patterns.

Chris Marshall (eighth place)

It seemed appropriate that the first person I talked to was the winner of the Carolinas Bass Challenge event on Lake Murray last week. Chris was the first angler to weigh in, and with an almost 18-pound bag I thought he might be in good shape. Having pounded the fish for the last few months, however, Chris has an excellent read on Lake Murray bass and he knew his big bag wasn’t going to be enough – even though this was an individual event.   With the strong winds Chris was unable to fish the area he had been targeting for the last few weeks, first with a crankbait much of the winter then with a jig around docks last week. Anytime it is windy on Lake Murray Chris said that fish will move up shallow, and Saturday he caught all of his weight throwing a spinnerbait against the banks just off the main lake. Even before the weigh-in had really gotten underway, Chris correctly predicted that the strong winds meant anglers who correctly keyed in on the fish were going to nail them, and he told me to expect big bags…

Maurice Freeze (sixth)

Maurice fished what seemed to be a unique pattern on the way to an almost 20-pound bag. While he said that he had fished rougher days out in the open water, under all the circumstances Maurice decided to head up the river and fish around shallow cover. He successfully targeted docks and laydowns with a jig.

Scott Guyot (fifth)

Scott Guyot took advantage of the wind on the way to a bag that was just shy of 21 pounds. Scott reported that he ran the banks just off the main lake, concentrating on wind-blown points. The fish that he caught were in 7-9 feet of water, and he caught his fish on a crawdad-colored crankbait. The tournament director pointed out that, overall, Shad Raps seemed to be the most popular lure on this day.

Scott with his two biggest fish
Scott with his two biggest fish


Brock Taylor (fourth)

Fishing with his team tournament partner, and correspondent, Brad Fowler in the CBC last weekend Brock caught 21.31 pounds and finished in fifth place. Las week they reported fishing a Buckeye Lures Football Mop Jig in brown and peanut butter and jelly colors around a deep ledge and catching all of their weight before 8:30, and this week Brock fished the same area on the way to a nearly 22-pound bag. Most of the fish came off a jig in the same colors before 10:00, and around that time it became too windy to hold the spot anymore. Brock headed shallower and “just fished,” but he didn’t catch any bass that helped his bag up shallower. The fish he weighed had moved a bit deeper than last week, and this week Brock was working 35-40 feet of water. A couple of his fish also came off a jigging spoon. He also caught a number of white perch, which were presumably in the area feeding on some sort of bait. However, Brock believes that the bass were themselves eating the white perch (as well as possibly the bait), a phenomenon with which veteran Lake Murray tournament angler Captain Doug Lown also concurs.   Overall Brock was the only angler at the top to report catching his fish deep, but he does not think this pattern is going to go away anytime soon. Note: Brock has caught two tournament winning bags on his home Lake Hartwell in the last month that weighed over 27 pounds; Brock knows a thing or two about catching big fish.

Brock holds up a couple of beauties
Brock holds up a couple of beauties

 Ross Burns (second)

While some of the top anglers were disadvantaged by the wind, the conditions were perfectly suited for the way Ross Burns fished. Ross caught all of his weight by fishing an Alabama rig around rocky, main lake points, the same bait he said he and his tournament partner had used last week in the CBC event to catch a 17 plus pound bag and finish in 15th place. Both weeks he reported losing some good fish, but on Saturday the fish that he lost were directly the result of BFL tournament rules. This year in the competition Alabama rigs can only have three hooks, and on multiple occasions Ross said he could see good fish take the baits that did not have hooks and swim with them. Ross reported catching all of his fish down the lake where the water was more stained than usual, and he said the best bite was early and that all of his weight came before 11:00. I asked what water temperature range he saw and Ross said he wasn’t sure because he never turned his graph on all day!

Ross with his fish
Ross with his big bag


Kyle Giella (First)

As is often the case, sometimes the winner is doing something different from everyone else. The wind provided the simplest explanation for the big bags at the top of the standings on Saturday, but winner Kyle Giella wasn’t sure the wind had helped him at all. He said it was among the roughest winds he had ever seen out on the water, and only one of his fish came from a wind blown area. Similarly, while anglers have been reporting that the best bite is early on Lake Murray for some time now, Kyle said that his fish bit evenly throughout the day. His big fish came at 1:45. Finally, many top anglers have been concentrating on the main lake this winter, but not Kyle.

Instead, Kyle was fishing a pattern that one might expect people to fish in late March or April. The area he was fishing was a very protected pocket well off of the main lake past several other pockets, and it fact he says it is a spawning cove. He was fishing in less than five feet of water in an area that he says each year fish pull in and out of throughout the winter. He was primarily fishing around docks, and while he caught half of his weight off of an Alabama rig and the other half off of a Shad Rap his live well was full of crawfish by the end of the day – which the fish were clearly eating. Naturally, he was fishing a crawfish-colored Shad Rap.

While Kyle says the area he was fishing can be dynamite for him during the winter, it can be feast or famine. He isn’t sure where the population of bass goes when they leave the area’s docks, but he was just thankful that on this day they were in there. Last week they were not.

For more information about Kyle check out his website, When he is not working for Pure Fishing, Kyle also guides on Lake Murray.

Kyle (far right) gets some help holding up his big bag
Kyle (far right) gets some help holding up his big bag


After the weigh-in I spoke with Captain Doug Lown, who did not fish the event, and he pointed out that once again some very good Lake Murray bass fishermen had struggled. Catching fish one day is no guarantee that they will be caught the next day, much less the next weekend. The really cold weather did not arrive before Saturday, but with the extreme windy conditions on the tournament day some good bags were foreseeable. And sure enough they materialized.

It looks as if the coldest few days of the winter are predicted for later this week, with highs in the 30s and lows in the teens Wednesday night into Friday. Water temperatures could drop into the mid-40s. Doug says that typically with cold fronts the deep bite should be the least affected, while the shallow bite could suffer the most. However, even after snow dropped water temperatures into the low to mid-40s several years ago Doug and his tournament partner still caught fish up shallow around docks in a Saturday tournament. The most thing predictable about fish is that they will be unpredictable, and as Kyle’s winning pattern Saturday should remind everyone good anglers can make things work that seem like they shouldn’t work. Who would have thought the Valentine’s Day BFL on Lake Murray would be won in a spawning cove?

My thanks to all the top-finishing anglers, and of course Captain Doug Lown, for sharing their insights. In addition to that little tournament up the road on Lake Hartwell, next weekend will see the second CATT Spring Event of the year on Lake Murray. The next BFL SC Division event is March 21 on Santee Cooper out of John C. Land. Stay tuned to for more coverage of South Carolina bass tournaments.

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