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It’s Clear Now, Why I Like Muddy Water

Which is more frightening gin clear water or a muddy fishin’ hole? In recent conversations with my fishing friends we’re split on the topic of clear versus muddy water conditions. It could be experiences, negative or positive, maybe bait preferences or just the lack of appreciation for the extremes.

Longtime friend Michael Vines, “I hate muddy water, I’ll leave an area and go find the clearest water in the lake.” Debbie Brian chimes in, “Either extreme makes me adjust to the conditions.” My own perspective is clear water creates a battle of hiding my presence and the use of strictly finesse type baits. I’m a fan of muddy water!

Clearly, You Have to Have a Game Plan

Let’s face it, if you fish often or live in an area with unpredictable weather you’ll be faced with the challenge of clear or muddy waters colors. The case for clear spots begins with being able to visually determine the presence of cover, bait and fish. To counter clear waters, you can make longer casts, use smaller lures and keep a low profile which requires sitting instead of standing while you fish. Sky color will matter, as well as wind and even the color of your clothes as to not spook the “skittish” fish.

Gone are the BIG baits replaced by smaller worms, jigs, spinners and hard baits. If you’re a live bait fan clear conditions play perfectly into your hands. I big, live minnow lip hooked and free lined out is sure to get noticed by every fish within 50 feet. Casting a giant buzzbait would send fish scurrying to the deepest cover or the next zip code. Because bass and many other species of gamefish are sight feeders triggering qualities could draw hits while negative clues will shut down the clear water fish. Micro size artificial baits can be effective and still fool bigger fish. Our best luck has come on soft plastic finesse worms, tiny tubes and curly tail grubs. Light line requires a good knot and the reel drag set loose enough to slip under the weight of a larger fish. A river system phenomenon is a mudline situation created by recent rains. The main river channel carries dirty water while the shoreline maintains some clarity.

Mastering Muddy Water

Discolored water makes it much easier to sneak up on fish, hide your presence and approach the fish in close quarters. A single paddle stroke puts me in position to put a bait in the decreased strike zone. Yep, I admit bass especially will move a shorter distance to hit the potential food source in heavily stained water. It also means they will more likely stage very close to cover and in my experience “dirty” water bass stay relatively shallow especially in the moving waters of rivers of all sizes and even streams and creeks. Now we’re in position to recognize a shallow water pattern.

Any object for largemouth bass is a potential hideout or ambush spot. Be aware in your search for isolated objects in highly stained water, a single stump or slam weed bed is a perfect spot to hold one trophy fish now, I’ve landed some of my biggest fish employing this tactic. If there’s current, you hit the jackpot. The fish will set up on the downstream side of any object creating a current break and redirecting water BUT delivering food like an underwater version of Door Dash. I position my kayak above the potential holding spot and use the current as my trolling motor. My offerings include a dark colored jig trailed by a large soft plastic craw. This may also be one of the few times I employ a rattling jig for addition of an audio clue to entice the fish. After years of experimenting I’ll also keep a spinnerbait tied on to a baitcasting outfit. Know the water is murky or muddy I use the flash of a willowleaf blade or the double willowleaf for maximum flash to convince the bass shad have mistakenly slipped into the strike zone.

A great dirty water alteration is the use of a copper colored blade. Seldom seen and visible even if it appears subtle to the fish relying on its lateral line to receive the vibration of the blade. A dark colored skirt is also a proven effective on muddy water bass. For a “wake up call” another bait to keep in the box for off color conditions is the crankbait. A red crankbait and a fire tiger pattern both can be worked around wood, weeds and shallow water wood, keep both in the trays of your tackle box. Squarebill cranks can give you an awesome deflection bite as the bait bounces off cover causing an immediate reaction from the cover hugging bass.

You can make a case for either situation or at some point we’ll be faced with both. Cold weather kills off any bacteria and cold creates clear. Heavy spring rains will produce dirty, murky or heavily stained water and you have to adjust or stay home. I’ve hooked some giant fish on straight mud water conditions, close combat and s tight drag set can be your friends. Rethink your approach to dark water and you just may find your self wrestling with a muddy water monster