My roots go back to fishing some select clear-water lakes in Minnesota. So when I started fishing outside of this background, one of the first things I had to figure out was catching bass from muddy water. At first, I would simply run everywhere in the system until I found the best water clarity. And this usually worked to some degree. But whenever I couldn’t find this, I would feel very uncomfortable and fish without confidence. However, eventually over time, I figured out a few things to help catch bass from water clarities of six inches or less.
First, I make sure my Lowrance fish finder reads in the single digits. Limited light penetration causes the bass to use shallow water. They can sometimes be positioned in water so shallow that you swear their backs should be showing. Even in the dead of summer when fish like to go offshore, I am looking for an offshore structure that is ten feet or less and often even less than five feet.
With limited visibility in muddy water, bass become more dependent upon their sense of hearing and also their lateral line sense. Vision plays a limited role. Because of this, I have become a big fan of noisy lures in muddy water. So this includes baits with rattles or simply baits that have a pronounced vibration. One of my favorites is the bladed jig, like a Chatterbait, because they really send out a good vibe. In last year’s Bass Masters Classic held on muddy Grand Lake, OK, the leader heading into the final day was using a spinnerbait with a large, single Colorado blade. Additionally, a friend of mine has been using a single Colorado for years with success in muddy water. Also try deflecting squarebill crankbaits off of hard, shallow water cover like riprap and old laydowns. If I am going to use a jig or soft plastic, I add a rattle to it and opt for dark colors, especially black. In fact, that goes for most of my muddy-water lures, have some black on them! Then, of course, topwater baits can be effective due to the surface disturbance they create. A buzzbait retrieved over a super-shallow, muddy-water bass gets destroyed nearly everytime the bass are surface feeding!
In regards to retrieving speed, I generally have the best success with a slower speed. I’m thinking a bass from a distance needs a little extra time homing in on the lure. If I decide to stop-and-go, I do it with a smooth stop and start. This is quite different compared to what I might do in clear water, where I may implement a much more erratic style.
Allow me to point out that not all muddy water is the same! Fresh mud from a recent, heavy downpour normally is something that is bad and you want to stay away from it. But after the mud has aged three days, usually the bass are conditioned to the new murkiness and are willing to bite. In fact, the fishing can be really productive. So the key is to pay attention when areas of a lake muddy up, so you can avoid fresh mud and eventually know which day to begin fishing in a muddied area.
Also be aware that cold (dipping into the high-40s or lower), muddy water can be very difficult fishing. In this case, it may often be best to do as I mentioned earlier – find the clearest water in the system.
Fishing in muddy water can provide some excellent angling opportunities. Be aware that shallow water is often the place to begin your search and be sure to choose lures that provide a strong disturbance in or on the water. Just these two facts alone will steer you towards success!
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