How To Catch Bass In Shallow, Clear Water

Clear water abounds in my home state of Minnesota, providing a great “training ground” for adapting lures and techniques specifically to these conditions. If you are accustomed to muddy or dingy water, try the adjustments highlighted below to catch more bass.

Jim Moynagh

I’m not going to discuss movements of bass here, because their seasonal movements are no different in clear water versus muddy water. Note however, that clear water opens the possibility of the bass inhabiting much deeper areas.

Tip 1 Use your eyes to find the bass. Clear water allows for “spotting” shallow bass. Cruise the shallows with the trolling motor on high power to cover miles of shoreline in short time. Good polaroid sunglasses will enhance your vision by cutting glare from the surface. Once some bass have been spotted, simply return a short time later and some of those fish will bite. Unfortunately, there are limits to this tactic. Windy conditions, overcast, and heavy cover make it difficult to spot the bass.

Tip 2 Wear light-colored clothing. Looking at the color of wading shore birds, whites and grays dominate. This observation suggests that a fisherman would be most camouflaged by wearing clothing colored in whites and grays. I also like light blues that blend into blue skies.

Tip 3 Keep a distance from the bass. Once a bass becomes aware of your presence, the likelihood of catching that bass greatly diminishes. Avoid flippin’, instead make long pitches or cast lures.

Tip 4 Choose lure colors that blend. This is most important for slow moving lures such as soft plastics or jigs; because with this type of lure, a bass can take time visually scrutinizing it. Too often I’ve seen bass aggressively approach a lure, only to turn away after carefully studying the fake. Translucent soft plastics seem to blend best with the surrounding environment thus becoming less identifiable as a fake. Regarding other lures: simply follow the old saying, “match the hatch.” Identify the main forage in the lake and choose colors accordingly. Occasionally for any type of lure, bright colors produce, especially under rough weather conditions.

Tip 5 Keep movement on the lure. Sometimes a bass will not hit a lure that is motionless; they’ll approach it but never take. As mentioned above, this is because the bass has too much of an opportunity to inspect it. In this situation, I like to quiver the bait being careful not to move it much horizontally. I’ll put just a tiny bit of movement on the lure using tiny twitches of the rod. This movement helps to “hide” the fact it’s not real.

Tip 6 Fish at night. Bass often become much more aggressive under the cover of darkness. During the day, these bass may have to be teased and finessed into taking a small lure, but at night they change gears and will chase down more typical presentations.

The above tips hold true whether the target is smallmouth, largemouth, or spotted bass. If your home lake doesn’t offer clear water, try finding some. Due to the visual nature of clear, shallow fishing, this can be some of the most exciting fishing around!

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Jim Moynagh writes a twice-monthly bass fishing column on Visit Jim on Facebook at!/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.

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