John Murray may have recently moved down south to be closer to the big tournament lakes, but the fact remains that he dominated bass fishing in Arizona for decades. He won so many tournaments that I lost count, and I’ve known him since he was really young.
One of the great things about Murray is that he is always willing to share his fishing knowledge with everyone – he is always doing seminars, giving talks on the bass tank, and going out with writers to do stories.
Doing Great In Bassmasters
Murray would probably still be in Arizona if he didn’t value his family life so highly – but it’s hard to travel to all those Bassmasters tournaments and leave your wife and son behind for weeks at a time. Murray is doing great in Bassmasters: He’s been to the Classic 7 times, has been in the money 110 times, he has 3 wins, 24 top ten finishes, and has won over a million dollars.
And that’s just in Bassmasters. No telling how much he’s won over his entire career. It boggles the mind. All this means that Murray is no stranger to tough conditions. When you fish tournaments you take the good with the bad, so John has good advice for when the bass seem to have lockjaw.
Doodling Is A Favorite
One of Murray’s favorite ways to catch fish at Lake Pleasant is doodling. To him, doodling is a retrieve more than a rig. It means you’re shaking the worm all the way back to the boat — not lifting or hopping, just shaking it gently as you drag it back.
This is one of his go-to techniques when fishing is really tough. It’s most often a bottom-fishing method, but that depends on the terrain. In open water, doodle sliding is the way to go. For instance, Murray will sit over 50 feet of water and cast over a ridge into 30, and the instant the lure hits the surface, he starts shaking it while swimming it back in a pendulum arc.
Best doodle colors are reds, browns, and greens. The same colors work for doodle sliding, or you can try smoke/blue or smoke/pearl. To rig a doodle worm, first slide a brass weight onto your line, then a faceted glass bead. Murray usually matches the bead to the worm. He uses 6-pound-test line and has caught tons of very big bass on this rig. DD worms, Don Iovino’s worms (Don actually invented doodling), Robo Worms, and Berkley Power Worms all work well. He likes a curly tail in warmer water and a straight tail in cold water.
Bite Feels Like Mush
To fish this rig, he uses a 7-foot , medium light spinning rod and ¼- or 3/16-ounce weights with a 1/0 Gamakatsu offset worm hook. The worm should have a lot of salt or flavor so the fish hold on to it. The bite, he says, usually feels like mush.
You’ll probably have a lot of light line out with that light hook, so Texpose it (rig the worm Texas style, but leave the point just outside the worm instead of slipping it back under the skin), and when you get bit, sweep and use the reel to set the hook. The longer 7-foot rod helps get you better hooksets.
Doodling isn’t the best technique for finding fish, but it’s one of the best ways to catch as many fish as possible off a spot. When you know they’re there but you can’t get them to bite, try doodling. Make as much noise with as little movement as possible.
To locate fish, look for shad and determine how deep they are, then locate the best possible structure at that depth. This means things like extended reefs, sheer rocky bluffs or cliffs, and creek channels. Murray says that some of the best fish he’s ever caught have been fish that he never saw on the graph.
More Doodling Tips
Some final doodling tips: Murray finds it works even better if you work uphill, especially in rising water conditions. If the water is falling, work it downhill. It’s also an excellent vertical technique — his favorite is to stay right on top of the structure and move the boat instead of moving the line.
If he’s fishing deeper than 30 feet this is the technique he’ll try use every time, because using the trolling motor and electronics give you a better feel and more control over what your lure is doing down there.
The time of day isn’t that important, but doodling is great in the middle of the day (10-2) especially when fishing is tough. Murray will generally try more aggressive tactics early and late.
Try these tips from Arizona pro John Murray when the fishing gets really tough. I bet you’ll put some fish in the boat!