Lake Murray Country hat. I don't specifically recall buying the hat, but I remember wearing it a lot, quite a few years ago. It could have been from a writer trip I took while I was editor of South Carolina Game & Fish, but I kind of think it goes back to a day-trip to Murray while I was college, most likely on a day when I when I was supposed to be studying or working on a paper.
Of course, when I consider how I make my living now, I'm not fully convinced that I wasn't studying. I'm not suggesting that it was good prioritization to minimize attention to classes my parents paid so much money for me to take. Only that learning on the lake probably did more to prepare me for my career as a free-lance fishing writer than learning about Japanese history, accounting, astronomy or most other stuff in the core curriculum or even most journalism classes. I definitely remember more from many days on Lake Murray than from any class I took.
There's little I don't remember about my first striper trip: I recall where we started, the lures we had tied on, the instructions of my friend who took me, the size of the first school that came up (right around the boat!), the violence of the first strike and brutish strength of the fish... That September morning outing was fundamental to my understanding of schooling striped bass.
Lake Murray also taught me about twitching a bubble gum-colored floating worm for largemouths during the spring. I believe that approach actually was popularized on Murray around the time I was in college. I know that every bait store had bunch of them and that many folks considered that THE way to target Lake Murray bass when they were around shallow buckbrush.
Then there was the November day when my friend's boat broke down one cove over from where we had launched but we happily discovered that throwing a white curly-tail grub to docks, brush and other shoreline cover would yield tremendous action from bluegills, crappie and a host of other panfish in those particular conditions.
The list of days and lessons could go on for quite a while.
A quarter century later, I'm still using those early Lake Murray lessons, and I'm still learning about the lake. With Murray being the venue of the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup, I've been working on some Lake Murray stories and actively seeking new information about the lake. I look forward to spending a few days in Lake Murray Country and doing more on-the-water learning in August. I might even wear my old hat.