Gagliardi Says Lake Murray Winner Could “Just Go Fishing”

Published on 04-22-2022

By Pete Robbins

Lake Murray is a regular stop for the Big Bass Tour, and we’ve ping-ponged back and forth between spring and fall tournaments there, but the results have always been similar – a tightly-packed field with lots of quality bass up and down the leaderboard. No matter the season, this popular South Carolina fishery produces tons of fours and fives, but to get to the six pound mark – or past seven, where the grand prize winner usually lands – is a challenge.

This also marks the first tournament of our 2022 schedule where a sizeable percentage of the bass may not be bedding or looking to bed. Veteran Bass Pro Tour competitor Anthony Gagliardi said that there may still be a few big girls working their magic, but for the most part that’s over.

What’s starting up now is the blueback herring spawn. “It probably won’t be won that way,” he explained. “A good fish for that bite is 4- to 5-pounds, which should win you some money but probably not the overall prize.”

The herring bite goes on mostly in the lower end of the lake, on hard surfaces like clay points and rocky points, or “sometimes just a little section of bank,” Gagliardi said. Obviously, the classic long tapering points will hold fish but they’ll get hit hard, so sometimes the rounded pockets leading into a cove produce just as well. “It doesn’t have to be a textbook shoal point,” he added. “Sometimes you’ll come across them by just fishing, in a place where you wouldn’t necessarily look for them.” He uses a Berkley Cane Walker topwater when it’s windy, and the more slender Drift Walker when it’s calm. He also likes the Power Jerk Shad and the 3.3” Power Swimmer in these situations. One way to try to get a bigger bite out of the school is to work below them with a mop jig, but he admitted that it’s a hard technique to employ since it’ll likely produce fewer bites, and no guarantee of better quality.

Anglers convinced that the herring bite is not the way to go can “just go fishing,” and Gagliardi believes that covering water might be the best overall strategy. It puts the whole lake in play, which means that it’s possible to fish less crowded and less pressured areas. A buzzbait or a swim jig around grass and docks would be his chosen tools. “Beating the bank and covering water is a good strategy. You might not get a whole lot of bites, but I think that’s a good way to run into a big one.”

One other way to run into a big one is to look for fish that have finished spawning and headed out to deep water. Again, this is a low percentage, high reward strategy, but has the possibility to produce a 7-pounder, 8-pounder or an even larger bass. He’d make a milk run of brush piles and fish them thoroughly with a Berkley Power Worm, likely in green pumpkin, although he also frequently employs Red Bug and Plum.

Because Lake Murray is so loaded with 5-pound plus fish, it’s imperative to watch the live leaderboard to make sure that you don’t “waste” a fish or your fishing time by making a long run back to weigh it when it won’t pay off. An angler fishing the herring spawn could easily claim multiple hourly checks, and possibly the overall grand prize, with a savvy strategy, but anglers who pursue patterns that result in fewer bites will ultimately have to be more judicious with their minutes.