Anyway, lets get down to fishing. This is a real honor since, like I said, John is very private and it is not his M.O. to take people pre-fishing with him. I have been praying since I got in this sport to draw him so I could have the opportunity to fish with him so I could learn.
The day started off with us meeting outside the infamous Wal-Mart. It is not really Bass fishing if you don't have a Wal-Mart somewhere in the picture. Today we are pre fishing Lake Havasu, Arizona for the final WON Bass Pro Am of the 2002 season. I launched John in the water and we are off in search of the ever-elusive big bass. Right off the bat you could see the focus as we cruised the lake. You could just in vision the wheels turning as John slowly starts to pick the lake a part. I am dying to ask a million questions but I dare not break his concentration.
We pulled up to the first spot as John grabs a rip bait; I go for my crank bait. Boom, right off the bat we have a double hook up. O.K. I am now in heaven! I am pre fishing with John Murray and our first cast is a double hook up; it doesn't get much better than that! I sneak a closer look at which rip bait he is throwing. It's a Smithwick suspending Rogue. Out of respect for John I won't be sharing his particular colors. Wham there is another one! Then John picks up a spook, I go with a puppy. I always try to throw something different then my pro because that way you'll have two baits in the water instead of one. If my pro starts getting hammered and I ‘m not of course I will quickly switch. Well it is not to long before we have boated a couple of limits. I look up and the front deck is covered with rods, finally a fisherman after my own heart.
John explains to me "there are two ways to pre-fish 1) is you pick a particular bait or technique and stick with it as you cover water looking for fish, or 2) you cover water throwing several different baits trying to figure out what the bite is." We continue to look for fish throwing everything from Excalibur Spooks, Rebel Pop-Rs, Exalibur Fat free Shad, Cotton Cordell spotted 0 to drop shot, Texas rig and the Jig pretty much getting bit on almost everything. Then we got on a real good rip bite and I got to see first hand how color really can make the difference. John was getting hammered on this one color of the Smithwick suspending Rogue and then this one angry small mouth hammered it so hard he broke it! We had no more of that color and when he tied another color on, they wouldn't bite it anymore. They would just come up and look at it. Needless to say I was quick to get on the phone with my sponsor Chris Guldstad at Pradco and had some overnighted! It pays to have the right sponsor. Oh, yeah I noticed when John was tying on the Rogue he wasn't doing the traditional Palomar knot. I asked him what it was and he told me it was a San Diego/slipknot. He says he prefers it and he has never broken off. I had just read somewhere that Aaron Martens uses the same knot. Well that's good enough for me to try. I fished all week with 6 lb. Excalibur Silver Thread with some very angry small mouth and never broke off. So far I like the San Diego knot and it's easier to tie as well.
Finally John picks up a rod and ties on tube with a dart head. I was waiting for this. I had heard he is good with the tube and for me it is one of the few types of bait I have not had much experience with. It is really cool to watch John transition from one technique to the next. It's like he notices a subtle change in the weather, the water or the way the fish are biting, he processes that, grabs a new rod with a new technique and fishes with out missing a beat.
This day was nothing short of awesome. John was different today. It was as if he felt more comfortable with me. He started sharing information and explaining his choices with out being prompted. There was so much knowledge being made available that I found myself a couple of times thinking to myself, "I wish I had a piece of paper to write this all down." Those two days with John I learned more than I could have in a lifetime. I learned technique, weather condition, current, presentation, and patterning. A definite brain overload. Unfortunately, I can't share all of what I learned as I gave my word and my word is my honor and in my opinion if you don't have honor you have nothing. Lets talk about the day though.
We started off local throwing top water looking for fish. Right away the first thing we notice is the bite has slowed right down. We didn't find anything so we started up river stopping and flipping along the way. John likes to flip on the outside of tulies first thing in the morning since he feels the more active or aggressive fish are on the outside. Later, when the sun comes up, he will flip deeper in the cover, he feels the bass have sucked back under by then. We didn't find but a couple of bites. Then the fun starts.
We head into Topak. You have to go thru this tunnel but first you have to get to the tunnel. We almost got stuck twice but that's to be expected when you are going Jungle fishing. You all know you have to get in the deep of it to be truly jungle fishing. So that's where we head. We get thru the tunnel with less than a foot to spare on each side. We are in toolie heaven now. It feels like we are in the everglades or something. John starts cruising the bank. He has that look on his face as he scans the banks. Then all of a sudden he starts to turn left into what looks like a dead end of toolies to me. Then all of a sudden the toolies part and it is like a James Bond movie, like we just entered a hidden passage that nobody knows about. This is really cool I am now in one of John's secret spots.
We flip in there for a while but we don't find much of anything. We venture into a couple more of Johns' secret tulie passages; we get so thick in it we actually get stuck. I am up at the front of the boat trying to adjust my weight so we can barely get thru. I am having visions of being stranded in the middle of nowhere. Needless to say we got out, barely. Now if we were in a Stratos with my Evinrude I bet you we wouldn't have got stuck! But hey, no need to talk trash we're not on the Basketball court. Smile. Then later I found out it was duck season and we may have been in some duck territory. Great that's all I need is for some near sited hunter to mistake me for a big Mallard. Smile. So we head back down the river. John was throwing the blade and I was cranking a fat free Shad crank bait .We get a couple of good bites along the way. Art Barry comes by and stops because he saw us going into Topak but he never saw us coming out; there is only one way in and one way out. . He wants to know how we did that. John just laughs. I told you it was like a James Bond movie.
We get back to the main lake and we go to a few more of his spots and we drop shot and split shot. The bite has completely shut off. I ask John if he worries about sticking fish in pre fish. John says "though we are fishing my spots these are not the spots I plans to fish in the tournament." John says he doesn't go to the spots he knows he can find fish. He checks old or other spots and new spots in case he comes across a new honey hole. When John first started fishing he told me that he learned from a guy who when learning a new lake would go to the local tackle store or guide and ask where the worst part of the lake was or where nobody fished. He would then go to that part of the lake and figure out and pattern the fish. He felt that if he could pattern that part of the lake he would win and usually did.
Well this has been two of the best days of my life. I want to thank John for sharing a part of his life with me. I will tell you that from a far John may seem very quite and to himself, but after spending a couple days with him you find out he is not only undeniably one of the greatest sticks, he is very humble, honorable, a wealth of Knowledge and solid. John is the kind of man that if, God forbid, I had to go to war, I would definitely want him on my line covering my back. Oh yeah when I came off the water one of the other anglers noticed that I was fishing with John and said, "Hey that's no fair you are fishing with "THE GODFATHER." He was right about it being not fair but your not going to hear me complaining! He was also right about calling him the God Father. I think that name is very fitting for John in the fishing world. So, I am going to change his nickname to the John "The God Father" Murray.
John's Favorite Technique: Flipping
John's Favorite Pre fish Technique: Top Water. "it depends on the lake and conditions but I usually use a Pop-R
John's Advice: I asked John if he had to give a non-boater one piece of advice what would it be. John said, "Pay attention to your pro. Learn from them. I am not saying ask them a ton of questions, but watch them, watch the choices they make and why, watch how they change as the conditions change." He says, " So many just get in my boat and turn their backs to me. I can boat a fish and they won't even notice how, why, or even when I did it. John feels it is a waste of a great opportunity to learn.
I couldn't agree more. When I got blessed with the opportunity to go to my first B.A.S.S event. All I was thinking about was who I was going to draw, for those exact reasons. To learn and oh how I have learned! I feel if you can learn a new thing every day, your one step a head of everybody else. In Marshal Arts we have a saying, "the minute you think you know it all is the minute you fall." Take my own career. I started as an extra, but I wasn't like the other extras who saw it as a way to make money and would do nothing but eat donuts and play cards, hoping they wouldn't get called to work and would get paid for doing nothing, I saw it as a learning opportunity and every chance I had I was getting as close to the action and learning. That is where I got my nickname "the sponge" everybody used to say, "I was like a sponge sucking everything up." I truly feel that attitude is what got me to where I am today. Anyway, my take is that first I fish as a non-boater to learn, and if I get blessed and do well, great! I NEVER go with the intention to one-up on my pro. That is just plain stupidity and not to mention disrespectful. If, the latter is your intention, I can assure you if your Pro is any good he will back seat you so bad all you will see all day is the back of his you know what...