by Doug Yeargain
Bassdozer with permission of Honey
Hole Magazine, Inc.
Don't let clear water intimidate you.
Try some of these tricks to take advantage of what you can do.
Growing up in west Texas and fishing off-colored lakes such as
Colorado City, Twin Buttes, Thomas, E.V. Spence (or anywhere else
we could find water), I never really knew what clear water was
until I moved to Del Rio and started fishing Amistad. I have
nothing against west Texas lakes. As a matter of fact, some of my
most memorable fishing trips were on these lakes, and I was
fortunate enough to catch many a big bass out of them. But they
differ greatly from the clear-water impoundments in the state.
At first the thought of clear water was
intimidating to say the least, but after learning that clear
water is nothing to be scared of, I started catching lots of
bass. All my years of reading about clear-water tactics and how
deep you have to fish to be successful kept me from fishing the
shallows, but over time I learned a valuable lesson. Bass in
clear lakes do go shallow and they spend a lot more time there
than we realize.
We all know that bass move into the shallows
to perform their annual ritual. We call it the spawn. But it is
surprising how many bass stay shallow throughout the year even in
clear-water lakes. Take Lake Amistad for example. For many years
the only structure available was deep water, drop-offs, points,
rocks, and more deep water. But since the hydrilla started
growing, we basically have a new lake on our hands. This
completely changed the style of bass fishing, for the better I
Clear water and hydrilla go good together. It
grows deeper in clear water than murky or stained and provides
excellent cover year round. There have been thousands of articles
written on clear-water bass fishing, but I sometimes think that
we get carried away with all the technology, light line hype and
specific doís and doníts.
Iíd like to share some of my hard-earned
lessons and techniques that I use to catch bass in clear water.
Some of them may surprise you if you havenít fished clear water
First, you donít have to use 8-pound test
line to be successful or use a buggy-whip spinning rod. I
commonly use 20-pound line. I prefer green Trilene, but thatís
up to you. Another thing I have learned is that bass will hit
topwater baits at 12 noon on a 100-degree day with a blistering
sun overhead. This includes big bass.
We all have read the articles about subtle
colors in clear water, and although this works, I have much
better success with brightly colored baits such as fire tiger. I
believe the bass can see a bright color farther away, which
causes a reaction strike when it is retrieved quickly.
In the warmer months whenever I fish a
clear-water lake I will usually start out in the morning with a
dark-colored spinnerbait, but Iíll only use it for a little
while. Next I will pick up a topwater lure and make long casts
with a fairly fast retrieve. If that isnít working I will work
it even faster for a while. I believe that a faster retrieve than
normal is good because it doesnít let the bass get a long look
at anything. You want to solicit a reaction strike from them when
something zooms by.
Buzzbaits are very good at times. Fishing them
around hydrilla early in the morning can be awesome. No light
line here. Youíll need some real horsepower to get them out of
the thick stuff.
Talking about line size, I know in many
instances when it wonít matter what line size you use. I throw
1-ounce Rat-L-Traps on 60-pound braided line all the time in gin
clear water. I do use a very fast retrieve when doing this, and
the bass hit like a train. When Carolina rigging I also use
braided line for the added feel, again 60-pound for the main
line, but I will use a piece of 17- or 20-pound green Trilene for
my leader. This combination works extremely well for me. Another
favorite of mine is using a small Bomber crankbait on 20-pound
line to fish the edges of hydrilla. With the big line you can
keep the bait fairly shallow, but you can really horse them out
when a big bass takes the bait and tries to bury-up.
I have talked a little about big line and how
it will perform in clear water, but on the flip side there is an
advantage at times to using light line. Letís say youíre
fishing a tournament. Itís early morning. The wind is blowing
and creating some pretty good wave action. This in turn has the
fish fairly active. Youíre chunking a spinnerbait or a topwater
and catching a few bass. But around 10:00 the wind dies
completely, leaving you sitting on a big, clear mirror with
15-foot visibility. Youíre spinnerbait and topwater pattern
dies as quick as the wind. You break out your big Carolina rig,
but it is just as dead as the others and you never get a hit.
I have seen this happen several times over the
years and believe me, when the wind stops it makes the bite stop.
Or least you will think so. I have tried everything that I could
think of throughout the years and found a couple of tactics that
will usually work.
Making long casts is important on still water.
The problem here is getting a good hook-set with 50 yards of line
floating on the water. By all means make sure your hooks are
sticky sharp. The first thing I try is a Bass Assassin, in a
subtle color like shad or a light green. I rig this on 10- or
12-pound line with a swivel about 12 to 18 inches in front of the
Find a nice long point or the edge of a flat,
somewhere where you know fish hang out. Make as long a cast as
you can and work the bait very fast. If you see a bass following
the bait, donít stop just keep ripping it. If this doesnít
work, take the same bait and try dead sticking it around hydrilla.
I have caught a lot of bass on soft jerkbaits while the bait was
lying motionless on the bottom. They will usually pick it up very
lightly and start moving off.
Another tactic thatís often overlooked is
dead sticking a worm or lizard either with or without a weight,
depending on the amount of wind that is blowing. We all know that
working a bait fast in clear water gives the bass little time to
decide if itís real or fake, but the opposite works equally as
good at times.
Leaving a worm or lizard lying motionless on
the bottom or on top of hydrilla can be very effective. I have
seen times when a worm can be left motionless for as long as a
minute and then start moving off when you least expect it. This
can be deadly around drop-offs next to deep water. You just have
to have a good amount of patience to do this. Actually going out
and fishing slow is hard to do, especially if youíre fishing a
tournament and you find yourself struggling to put fish in the
boat. In clear-water situations, I usually do one of two things;
either fish fast or real slow.
Donít forget, in almost every lake that has
clear water you can usually find some off-colored water in one
area or another. These places can be textbook areas with fish
staying shallower than others in the clearer water. Look for
places where clear meets dirty and work these places over real
well. Spinnerbaits or small crankbaits are good choices under
these conditions. After a big rain when you have runoff from
small creeks is a sure bet to turn the fish on, I wouldnít
waste my time fishing chocolate-colored water that is extremely
dirty, but, you might be surprised sometimes at the amount of
dirt tolerance a bass can have.
Getting back to clear water, do you remember
fishing when you were young and throwing small baits like Beetle
Spins and the old H&H spinnerbait, well believe me these
baits will still catch bass even with all the modern high tech
lures we have at our disposal. Some guys are a little embarrassed
throwing these low-cost baits, but in clear water these lures
will darn sure catch some bass. They might not be hawgs, but they
can save the day when the fishing is slow.
By all means when fishing clear water invest
in a good pair of polarized sunglasses. I have caught untold
numbers of bass in clear water because I spotted them following
my bait. In clear, shallow water they are a must. You are
basically lost without them, keep your eyes peeled for any
movement and you will improve your hookups.
I truly think that many anglers have a bad
perception of clear water, which makes them uncomfortable fishing
it. They think itís too hard to catch bass, but if you believe
that, then you will probably never be very successful in clear
Successful fishing requires confidence, and
that is gained from experience. And experience is gained from
practice. So the bottom line is, get out and practice. You will
find itís not really that difficult. Stick with your first
instinct and let the bass tell you what they want. Then just
enjoy what you can see and catch.