Columbia, SC— The 2024 Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops will begin its season in the heart of South Carolina at the fishery that ranked No. 4 overall last year on Bassmaster Magazine’s 2023 100 Best Bass Lakes list, Lake Murray.
Competition days will be Jan. 26-27 with takeoffs each day from Dreher Island State Park at 7:10 a.m. ET and weigh-ins back at the park at 3:10 p.m.
With winter coming to a close in the Southeast — highs are expected to be in the low 70s each day of the event — St. Croix Bassmaster Opens angler Dalton Dowdy believes the potential for big bags is very high.
“It will be a great tournament,” the Newberry, S.C., native said. “It will take 20 pounds a day to win it, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it takes mid-20s to win. This time of year, it isn’t uncommon to see a high 20s bag. It is one of the best lakes in the country, there is no doubt about it.”
This event will kick off a new format for the College Series in 2024. There are now two divisions — the Legends Trail and the Lunkers Trail — comprising three tournaments each. The Lake Murray event is the first event on the Legends Trail.
In each tournament, teams will have the opportunity to earn points toward the Team of the Year race as well as punch their tickets to the 2024 College Series Championship, details of which will be announced at a later date.
Over the past several years, Lake Murray has proven to be a powerhouse lake that features impressive numbers of 3- to 5-pound largemouth. That was on full display during the 2023 Elite Series stop last April. Multiple patterns unfolded across the lake, but it was Florida pro Drew Benton who won with 87-0 by catching mostly spawning bass.
While the bass likely won’t be thinking about spawning just yet, they will be in a feeding mode, which will create interesting opportunities for anglers, Dowdy said. The entire lake could play, he added, but the highest population of big bass live in the midlake area down to the dam.
“I think it will be won midlake down, but that’s not to say you can’t catch a good bag up the river,” Dowdy said. “I just feel like the biggest fish live from the State Park area down to the dam. Bear Creek will be a big player. It always seems like the guys who win in the winter fish in the clearer water.”
There is some grass in Lake Murray, but Dowdy expects bass to be related more to rock and hard cover this time of the year. He expects anglers will be able to catch fish in both shallow and deep water.
“There will be an awesome shallow crankbait bite going on,” he explained. “A Strike King 1.5 and 2.5 squarebill and a new (Strike King) Gravel Dawg will be a dominant player. Something that runs in that 6- to 10-foot range. People will catch them off of docks with jigs and stuff like that. If there is any wind blowing, I would foresee it being won up shallow.”
In shallow water, Murray is known for a good winter crankbait bite around rocks and boat ramps. If the wind blows and/or the lake has a little color to it, Dowdy expects that bite to be even better.
Out deep, teams will be able to target rockpiles and brushpiles in 15 to 20 feet of water. Forward-facing sonar will likely play a big role in those scenarios.
“A football jig could play, as well as a shaky head and drop shot. All of that stuff will play,” he said.
Blueback herring populate the lower sections of the lake, but in January Dowdy said the herring don’t factor into the equation quite as much.
“There could be a ditch bite going on in the back of the creeks,” Dowdy said. “First thing in the morning the herring get back there, but it usually isn’t a way to win a tournament. It is a way to catch 14 to 15 pounds.”
Daily weigh-ins for the event will be carried out live on Bassmaster.com.
This event is being hosted by Visit Lake Murray County.
2024 Bassmaster College Series Title Sponsor: Strike King
2024 Bassmaster College Series Presenting Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2024 Bassmaster College Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2024 Bassmaster College Series Premier Sponsors: Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2024 Bassmaster College Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Lowrance, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC
2024 Bassmaster College Series Youth Sponsors: Seaguar, Shimano
B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting-edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series, Mercury B.A.S.S. Nation Qualifier Series presented by Lowrance, Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Strike King Bassmaster High School Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship, Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series scored by TourneyX, Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.