FISHING WORLD DESCENDS ON LAKE MURRAY
There should be more cooperation and coordination- for the sake of the fans and for the sake of the fish. Unfortunately, the ugly side of competition is what will be seen on South Carolina’s Lake Murray as both Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour and Bassmaster’s Elite Series visit this fish-rich impoundment April 2-7 and 20-23 respectively. That’s a lot of pressure. With over 650 miles of shoreline, Lake Murray is home to some very good freshwater fishing. Like a lot of impoundments in the Carolinas, it has become a haven for striped bass fishermen, as well as a frequent stop on bass tournament trails. There are a lot of talented fishing guides available to vacationing or traveling anglers.
Murray is a 50,000-acre, 41 mile-long, and 14 mile-wide reservoir impounded in the late 1920s to provide hydroelectric power to the state of South Carolina. It is fed by the Saluda River, which flows from upstate near the North Carolina state line. The Dreher Shoals Dam was an engineering achievement using native red clay and bedrock to make it the largest earthen dam in the world at the time of its completion, lending the name of its chief engineer, William S. Murray to the Lake. The dam is approximately 1.5 miles long and 220 feet high. In addition to serving as a source of hydroelectric power for the region, the lake has become a recreational hub of fishing and boating activities.
The Saluda River was named after the Saluda Indian tribe, which lived along the banks of the river. The Saluda tribe migrated to Pennsylvania beginning in the early 18th century and were replaced by Cherokee nation. The lower Saluda River valley was settled in the early 1750s by German and Swiss emigrants. In 1755, the Cherokee signed a peace treaty with the British and withdrew from the area, leaving much of the land for open settlement by German, German-Swiss and Moravians of German origin, establishing what became known as the Dutch Fork area. During the Revolutionary War, Hessian mercenaries came to South Carolina to fight for the British. Many of them had been pressed into the service and brought to the Colonies against their will, and therefore many deserted the army and found shelter in these German settlements.
Despite tournament and recreational pressure, Lake Murray has been a great place to fish. The Bass Pro Tour’s arrival on Murray marks the tour’s first trip to the famed lake. The most recent pro-level event was a 2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit stop. That event was also in April and was won by Matt Becker with a four-day total of 76- 5. The lake is in good shape and full of 3- to 5-pound fish. The lake is known for the blueback herring but there are also other baitfish and crayfish. Nomadic bass will chase the bluebacks in open water but the spawn may limit that, as well as it being a bit early for bluebacks. The Elite Series has not visited since 2011. Amongst the favorites in both series are natives Casey Ashley, Bryan New, Anthony Gagliardi and Patrick Walters.
In addition to boat fishermen, the fishing pier on the north end of the lake continues to be a popular spot, as well as from the marina on the south end. Lake Murray is stocked with bass, catfish, and crappie annually by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Other popular fishing spots include: The dam and the spillway; The old bridge next to the boat ramp; The cove; In front of the marina; The west side of the lake between the two bridges next to the boat ramp, and the north shore of the lake from the dam to the marina. Historically, the best time of year to fish Lake Murray is April as the weather and water temperature starts to warm, and fish become more active in pre-spawn and spawning areas. One rule that will impact the tournaments is that you must release all largemouth bass under 18 inches in length.