In the previous issues we discussed high winds, no wind, extreme heat and falling water levels. Lastly, we’ll discuss ultra clear and muddy water. These two opposites account for a lot of headaches – especially if you are accustomed to one or the other.
“Dealing With Tough Scenarios - Part 3” In the previous issues we discussed high winds, no wind, extreme heat and falling water levels. Lastly, we’ll discuss ultra clear and muddy water – Divan Coetzee
As always, we’ll start with how the fish relate to each environment. The bonus with clear water however, is the fact that you now potentially have an opportunity to see how the fish react to your specific presentation. This in turn allows you to make adjustments if your initial presentation was refused. Muddy water will not afford you this luxury.
Firstly, let’s define ‘clear water’. Being able to see the bottom at 10ft would be a good generalisation. Many of our impoundments may consist of both ultra clear and muddy water. The cleaner water would normally be towards the dam wall area, and the dirtier water towards the river section. Vegetation plays a major role when it comes to water clarity; rock is the other common denominator. When there’s lots of vegetation present, the bass will obviously relate to it in some fashion if it’s within their comfort zone. This makes fish easier to find as they will normally operate around a specific depth and cover type. But what if there is nothing for the bass to relate to? Their only option is to head deep or suspend. I’ve mentioned in the previous articles that bass need to operate under some sort of cover, and use whatever is available to them. In most clear water cases they revert to depth and darkness – especially the bigger fish.
Bass tend to have quite a big strike zone in clear water, they also move around more in search of bait. From this we can deduct that covering a large amount of water would be beneficial, and once you’ve located some fish, you can slow down and pick the area to pieces. Clear water makes fish skittish, they don’t enjoy being exposed whatsoever. Making long casts to the target area before coming onto it proper will increase your catch rate. If vegetation is present, you need not worry too much about your approach, fish are less cautious in the presence of abundant cover.
One of the disadvantages of clear water is the fact that the fish can get a better look at your presentation. This means that if your bait does not conform to certain prerequisites it will be ignored. My advice would be to stick to natural / neutral colour schemes and combinations to avoid that the fish peg it as a fake right off the bat. If you feel the need to stray from natural colours, keep in mind that you need to give the fish less time to inspect the bait – in other words, a faster retrieve. With regards to line size; there is a general consensus that one has to downscale, but have you ever considered the reason for this? Think that the fish can see your line? Unless you’re using braid or mono the answer should be ‘No’! Fluorocarbon is theoretically ‘invisible’ and whether you’re using 6lb or 25lb the principle still remains. The main reason you need to downscale on certain outfits is to ensure that the action or capabilities of a particular bait isn’t compromised. For example: a four inch Senko will perform much better on 0.25mm as opposed to 0.38mm. The same goes for drop-shot and deep running cranks, crankbaits will run deeper on a thinner gauge line and jerkbaits will perform better as well. These are tiny details that contribute greatly to your catch rate.
Let’s define muddy water; if you lose sight of your bait 20cm below the surface then the water can be classified as ‘muddy’. Diminished light penetration will force bass shallow and tight to cover. With impaired sight, the bass will rely on other senses to orientate themselves and to detect bait. Their strike zone also
dramatically decreases due to impaired vision and you need to saturate your bait for long periods in order to allow the bass enough time to find the bait.
Heavy downpours are the primary factor when it comes to discoloured water, if the transition is gradual then all is good and well, but if the discolouration occurs overnight, fish need time to adjust. Rains trigger the baitfish to spawn and the bass follow them shallow. General tactics would include hugging the shoreline and presenting your bait to the most obvious and visible structure. Bait selection is not as critical as the specific presentation; most of your bites will be out of reaction. Cover lots of water until you determine what the fish are relating to in terms of depth and structure, and duplicate the pattern in other areas to achieve maximum results.
Fish are less skittish in muddy water as it creates ‘cover’ on its own. I’m not saying that you can slam your hatch closed without repercussions, but they are certainly more comfortable.
For muddy water I prefer heavy rods and line due to the nature of my presentation and the cover that bass are likely to relate to. Jigs and craws rank as some of my favourite baits for this scenario as the pattern would consist mostly of pitching to shallow cover. Spinnerbaits also do well along with shallow running cranks.
I sincerely hope that these insights guide you to better success and decision making. See you on the water!
This 3kg fish refused a weightless bait several times and eventually latched onto a jerkbait
A selection of jerkbaits suited for clear water (left) and muddy water (right)
A fantastic specimen taken on a deep diving crank in 20ft of water