When an angler customarily fishes clear water fisheries, making the
adjustment to a muddy situation can sap confidence. Patterns that produce in
clear water don't produce when applied "as is" to low clarity environments. My
own background is from fishing clearer lakes. But over my tournament career,
I've learned what I've needed to do in order to produce bass in muddy water and
have confidence while doing it.
First, let's define what I mean by muddy water. I would say any water with
less than 18 inches of visibility is muddy. The most turbid conditions I've
ever fished and had fantastic success was in a clarity
of about 1 inch! Until I figured out the pattern, I really was perplexed and
intimidated by the turbidity. However, after a couple days of scratching out
just a handful of bass, I finally put together a pattern that produced lots of
bass, including several good-sized ones.
There are basically four sources of water turbidity that come to mind. First
would simply be turbid water that is created from storm run-off. River systems
and reservoirs (especially flatland types) typically experience this type of
turbidity. Run-off washes in from rain and in severe events/cases, the entire
reservoir will become muddy. Typically water levels will rise, too, and this
will also created more suspended turbidity as shoreline erosion is
The second source of turbidity is caused by summer algae blooms.
Mostly, I witness this in natural lakes that have an agricultural watershed.
Nutrients from farmland runoff end up in the lakes making them very fertile for
The third source is what I call a tamarack stain. This is a dark, reddish
tint resulting from a watershed that has excessive swampy, or boggy conditions.
I typically observe this in certain natural lakes of the north, but have also
seen it in some Florida
The fourth source of turbidity is that created by wave action. Most
typically flatland reservoirs are most susceptible to this source. They tend to
have a finer sediment grade that is more easily
suspended by wave action. Additionally, the large shallow flats normally found
in a flatland reservoir enhance the wave action's effect.
Another factor to consider is the "permanence" of the turbidity. In other
words, is the fishery normally clear, but recent environmental conditions have
muddied the water? Or does the fishery always have limited visibility? This is
a very important consideration. If a body of water always has low-visibility
then no worries or special consideration is necessary. However, if a lake that
is normally clear, but has recently muddied, then you have to be very
thoughtful in formulating a strategy. That's because a sudden increase in
turbidity will impact fishing success negatively. Fortunately however, it's not
a lasting shut-down.
Several years ago, a very knowledgeable angler from southern Alabama told me that
bass need three days to acclimate to a sudden increase in turbidity. So yes the
first few days can be challenging, however, after a few days, the bass adjust
and fishermen can formulate successful strategies. So therefore, the general
way to approach a sudden increase in turbidity is to avoid it for a few days.
Concentrate your fishing in any remaining clear water. On vast large
reservoirs, usually the lower end by the dam is the last to muddy up, so that's
an obvious place to start. But after a few days, you can begin looking for
muddy water bass and you may find a bonanza!
Another commonly held belief is to avoid cold, muddy water. This would be
during periods from late-fall through early-spring. Personally, I haven't
had a whole lot of experience with muddy water during such cold periods, so I
can't say if this commonly held belief is truly accurate.
OK, what about lure selection? An angler still has to factor in seasonal and
weather factors, along with considering the forage base so I can't really give
you specifics. With that said, I think crankbaits and
bladed baits (spinnerbaits, buzzbaits,
chatterbaits) have an edge,
while a topwater may prove effective in certain niche
situations. These lure categories can create a disturbance that bass with
limited visual cues, can home in on using their hearing and lateral-line
capabilities. Square-bill cranks often are preferred crankbaits
because of their ability to deflect off cover.
Spinnerbaits with Colorado
blades generate the most vibration compared to Indiana and willow-leaf blades so try them.
Just about any buzzbait or chatterbait
will produce. Bright colors such as chartreuse and/or white typically are good
choices no matter which lure. Black can be effective in the most extreme
Flippin' and pitchin'
jigs and/or soft-plastics are also effective methods of fishing muddy water.
This is necessary for when bass won't respond to a moving lure, or sometimes
flooded cover is just too thick to swim a lure through. All-Terrain Tackle
makes a variety of jig styles, try their AT jig or the Grass jig for flippin' and pitchin'.
There are countless soft-plastics available in many different styles and I've seen most
of them work so I'll leave out any recommendations. Regarding color,
start with a black-based scheme. Black shows up better than any other color in
turbid waters. Shades of brown and green-pumpkin can work, too, but they do
tend to "disappear" when fished in muddy conditions. That's why I say start
with a black variation, and then switch to a brown or green-pumpkin scheme only
in the brightest of sunshine when visibility is at a maximum.
How should lures be retrieved? Generally speaking, slow and steady is
effective in low-visibility situations. As always, try mixing it up until
success arrives. And I always try to go faster so I can make more presentations
during the day. However, once faster equals diminishing strikes, then I
back down. Remember a bass can't visually see the lure,
it has to zero in on it using its other senses. For the most part, I think they
can do a better job honing in on a slow and steady lure.
Fishing muddy water is a bit of a challenge if you're only used to fishing
clear water. It's all a matter of getting used to it and gaining confidence
any time you're presented with a situation that is new, in this case muddy
water. Try to remember the points I've mentioned here and you'll find success
as I have -- despite my clear water background!
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Jim Moynagh writes a twice-monthly bass
fishing column on sportsmansguide.com. Visit Jim on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sportsmansguide?v=app_6009294086&ref=ts#!/pages/Jim-Moynagh/167413610047622?fref=ts
He is a FLW touring pro, and a former Forrest Wood Open Champion with multiple
top 10 finishes. In 2012, he finished in fourth place for Angler of the Year honors. He also finished in fourth place two-straight times in FLW events
in 2012. His expertise is
deep-water structure fishing for large and smallmouth bass. Jim's sponsors
include M&M's, All-Terrain Tackle, Chevy Trucks, and Ranger Boats.