How Murphy and Phillips Boated Top-Ten Bag on Guntersville

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

How Murphy and Phillips Boated Top-Ten Bag on Guntersville

It may not have been what the Auburn University Bass Fishing Team was looking for when it brought 15 boats to Guntersville, but the Tigers had a solid showing in the 275-boat field that included the top-ten finish of Sean Murphy and Will Phillips. The two anglers posted a strong 25-pound bag of their five best fish, including seven- and five- pounders. They were just ounces of really moving up the board, but the two anglers were extremely happy about their finish. I outlined how prefishing went and what the teams expected versus the reality of the day in an earlier article.

Here is an interview I held with the two following their performance. 

Will/Sean, guys, well done. Let’s start off with some basic questions. As I understand it, you guys prefished early in the week and then returned late in the week. The lake changed fairly dramatically, as did the weather. What did you find early and how did that translate to the late-week prefishing?

Sean: When we fished a little over a week ago, we found warm water and very shallow fish that we could sight-fish for. Sight fishing is one of my favorite methods of fishing, so I was obviously very excited. The next Monday was when the cold front hit up there, and it really hurt our fishing when we came back to the lake. When we came back, the water temperature had dropped 13 degrees to around 57 where we were fishing. I was extremely confused at the time, and it definitely affected the fish.

Will: On top of the water temperature dropping, the heavy amounts of rain washed out many of the places we had fished the week before. We realized on Friday that fishing beds was out of the picture, and that finding water that was stained would be key considering the fact that most of the creek we were fishing looked like chocolate milk. We stuck to our game plan of fishing shallow because we believed that the fish would just back out into slightly deeper water on Friday.

Assuming that your prefishing put you on the fish, what was the moment you knew what to do?


Will: We only caught 3 or 4 on Friday, so at the end of practice we weren’t real sure what to think. On the ride back to my house, we decided we would stick to fishing shallow and just slow our presentations down to see if we could get bites. We knew the fish were in the backs of pockets getting ready to spawn, but with an almost 15-degree water temperature drop within a week we knew they would be lethargic. Going into the tournament, we felt that we had a solid game plan and if we got caught 10 fish we would have a decent bag.

Going into Friday night, what were your expectations and your game plan?

Sean: Going into Friday night, I was pretty nervous. We had only caught 3 or 4 fish all day Friday. We both looked at the charts on my graph and decided on a spot to fish where we assumed we could catch a few keeper fish. We were just going to keep the trolling motor on high and cover ground during the day.

Give me the play-by-play on the day. I could ask dozens of questions, but it’s probably easiest to tell me how it all went.

Will: At blast off, we knew that we had about a 45-minute long ride to our creek, and the wind was awful to start. We jumped multiple 3–4 foot waves on the ride up, but we finally made it to Roseberry. We started off that morning in a pocket where we had caught 2 keepers the day before. I caught a small keeper on my second cast on a ¼ red rattletrap, which is always a good feeling to start off the day. One thing we really keyed in on in practice was cleaner water which this area had due to an underground spring. We continued to move down the bank, and Sean hooked up with our big fish of the day. At first we thought it was a carp or catfish—that was until it jumped out of the water. The feeling of getting that fish in the net was absolutely incredible. He caught it on a green pumpkin 3/8 ounce chatterbait. We continued down the bank and did a few circles on this area and caught 2 more fish that were around 3 pounds on the chatterbait and the rattletrap as well as another small keeper on the chatterbait. After fishing this stretch of bank thoroughly, we backed off and fished the 3–4 foot deep flat that was at the mouth of this pocket. Another thing we keyed on was new hydrilla growth. On this flat there were sections of hydrilla that had new growth because of the warm water temperatures the week before. We fished the chatterbaits and rattletraps over the top of the hydrilla and caught several smaller fish for the first hour that we used this technique. Around 10:30 AM I decided to slow my presentation down even more (We fished as slowly as we could due to the high pressure and post-frontal conditions). I even told Sean “I’m going to slow down and see if can get one to bite that way.” The second cast after I made that statement I hooked into a 5 pounder, and we got her in the boat. At this point in the day, we had a 7.5 pound fish, a 5 pounder, 2 fish around 3 pounds and a fish around 2 pounds. For the rest of the day we ran in the backs of pockets that we had fished in practice and threw chatterbaits and rattletraps [into] stained water with new hydrilla growth. We caught several keepers, but none that helped our cause. With 10 minutes to go before we had to run back to weigh in, we pulled up on a dock with some floating dead grass around it and Sean caught a 3 pounder. That was just the icing on top of the cake.

How much moving did you do throughout the day? How about rotation of baits and presentations?

Sean: We moved some, but our main area was a 250–300 yard stretch that we just did circles on. We stopped at one last spot on the way back and were able to cull our smallest fish.

Where did you find the fish? Could you send a screenshot of the area? What was so special about this area(s)? How did you find it?

Will: Honestly, I don’t think that our area was as special as our technique. Roseberry only has 6–8 decent pockets in it where fish can really get up and spawn. Throughout the day we fished all of these and caught fish in each of them, we just caught two of our biggest fish in the pocket with the underwater spring. We caught 13 fish throughout the day, but in order to get bites in an area it had to have these characteristics:

  1. Dingy/stained water (not muddy)
  2. New hydrilla growth or floating dead grass
  3. Deeper water nearby
  4. On top of these 3 keys, bait presentation had to be very slow due to the high pressure and cooler water temperatures.

Talk to me about the weigh-in, the different thoughts and emotions.

Sean: Weigh-in was the biggest rush for me. When we came in, Will and I both agreed that we had around 16 pounds with our 5 fish. We got our weigh-in bag and headed back to the boat. When we started pulling fish out of the live well, I realized that we may have something special when I couldn’t get my hands around our big fish. There was a 19-and-a-half pound bag weighed in right before us, which really made me nervous. By the time we got to the measuring station, I was shaking like a leaf. Our big fish decided to go nuts on the bag, which soaked Will from head to toe. We were then called up on the stage where Will put the bag on the scale. Kevin Hunt got called off the stage. and when I looked down at the screen on the scale, I saw it finally settle on our number: 20 pounds, 5 ounces. I was shocked. We held up our fish, and the crowd cheered. It is a memory I will remember for the rest of my life.

Check in soon as we will talk the next FLW Yetti College event on Kentucky Lake.

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