Water Clarity Guide for Bass Fishing

[Blueprint Revealed]

Do you want the key to unlock where the bass will be and what bait to use so you can catch bass in record time? We have your answer and it’s all about knowing the water clarity conditions of the lake you’re fishing.

Water Clarity Guide for Choosing The Best Bass Baits

Do you want the key to unlock where the bass will be and what bait to use so you can catch bass in record time? We have your answer and it’s all about knowing the water clarity conditions of the lake you’re fishing.

Want to know something? MILLIONS of dollars have been won when anglers know exactly what types of conditions they’re fishing in.

We know it can be frustrating at first (there’s alot to take in) but lucky for you, we took the time to build you an easy to follow blueprint that takes ALL the thinking out of what bait (and color) you need to start out using!  

How does water clarity affect fish? - Laying the foundation.

The amount of sediment in the water is called Turbidity.  Too much sediment (high turbidity) will block the sunlight and will stop the plants and algae to produce oxygen for the bass and other fish that need to survive.

Highly turbid water will also absorb sunlight and could heat the water to an unhealthy level.

Each body of water is different, these suggestions have many applications. The best thing about these general guidelines is that more often than not they will quickly put you in the ballpark to be successful.

Remember… when locating largemouth bass, the absolute single most important factor is water clarity.   MILLIONS of dollars have been won instituting by this technique.

Year round on any body of water, the bass’ location will be determined significantly in part by water clarity.   It’s going to a cake walk to find bass once you can grasp how water clarity works.

Hundreds of thousands of professional anglers know what it’s like to compete on an unfamiliar body of water, find the school of bass, catch as many as they can and bring home a winning check. Most successful anglers follow a handful of basic rules.   

K.I.S.S - Keep It Simple Silly

When it comes to water clarity, it does not matter the time of year. These rules have solidified as being insanely accurate and very trustworthy.

Guidelines for locating Bass

1) Water clarity 6 inches or less, bass will be < 8 feet deep.

2) Water clarity 6 inches to 2 foot, bass will be < 10 feet deep.

3) Water clarity 2 foot to 4 foot, bass will be < 15 feet deep.

4) Water clarity 4 foot to 8 foot, bass will be < 35 feet deep.

5) Water clarity 8 foot or more, bass will be < 55 feet deep.

The main reason for finding bass location is water clarity or how stained that water is. The less stained that water is the more a bass will use it’s eyes to find, track and attack it’s prey.

Anatomy Of An Assassin

A bass has two primary ways that it locates its prey.  First is with its eyes and the second is with it’s lateral line.

Bass has eyesight that sees 5X better than a human’s eye underwater.  Talk about sharp vision!

Under normal circumstances, a bass will use it’s phenomenal vision to find and kill its prey when the water clarity is greater than 2- to 4 feet deep.

When bass use their lateral line to attack their prey you can expect to find them hunting in water < 2 feet visibility.

How To Determine Water Clarity - TWO WAYS.

SCIENTIFIC WAY - How To Use A Secchi Disk

A Secchi disk is used to scientifically determine water clarity.

About the size of a dinner plate, it’s divided into four quarters. Two black and two white. OR you can easily make one using a paint can lid. Simply paint it and drill and mount a screw in the eye to the center. Attach a line and mark it in one-foot increments.

When it disappears that will tell you the visibility of the water.

Pick up your own Secchi Disk here!

how to determine water clarity with a secchi disk for bass fishing

Step 1: From your boat or kayak, allow the secchi disk to sink until it completely disappears.

Step 2: Pull up the secchi disk as slow as you can until you visualize it again.

Step 3: Take a mental note where the surface level of the water crosses the marked line.

Step 4: Bring up the secchi disk all the way in, holding the line where the water and the line intersect.

Step 5: Determine the length from the secchi disk to where the water and the line intersected by totaling up the distance markings.

The final calculation is the depth of water clarity.

BUDGET WAY - Use Your Own Gear

I was taught this easy to follow trick:  

Step 1)  Tie on a bright white bait (I like to use white spinnerbaits) and slowly let the line go allowing the bait to fall.

Step 2)  Engage the reel once you cannot see your bait any longer.

Step 3)  Lift the bait out the water.

If the distance from the bait to tip of your rod is longer than the wingspan of your arms fingertip to fingertip then water clarity is > ~6 feet.  

Water Clarity 8 feet or more - Fishing Clear Water

Water Clarity 8 feet or more is considered clear water conditions.  Bass specifically hunt and feed using their eyesight in these conditions.

For instance, try to closely ‘match-the-hatch’. Meaning try to choose lures that closely look like the bass’ primary forage in that body of water that you’re fishing

Bass will instantly swim in from a long distance away to attack your lure, but if your bait is not the right size, color and sometimes shape, they won’t attack.

Best baits for Fishing Clear Water Conditions.

Morning

  1. Topwater Walking Baits – Translucent/ “Ghost” Colors.
  2. Small Topwater Poppers – Translucent/ “Ghost” Colors.
  3. Small wake baits
  4. Weightless Soft Plastic Fluke bait – Transparent Shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin near vegetation (where baby bluegill would live).
  5. Small Soft Plastic Swimbait – Transparent Shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin near vegetation (where baby bluegill would live).

Afternoon

  1. Drop Shot – Browns and greens. Anything that will mimic bluegill colors or local crawfish colors. Experiment with coloring the tip with orange or chartreuse dyed tips!
  2. Stick Worms – Browns and greens. Green pumpkin, sprayed grass, watermelon pepper are excellent colors
  3. Finesse Jigs –  Brown/Orange, greens
  4. Hard Plastic Jerkbaits – Transparent Shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin near vegetation (where baby bluegill would live). Works best in breezy conditions.
  5. Spinnerbaits – Transparent Shad or Bluegill colors
  6. Small Silent Crankbaits – Transparent Shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin near vegetation (where baby bluegill would live). Works best in breezy conditions.
  7. Deep Diving Crankbaits – In the afternoon bass will dive down deep after the morning bite. Target deep structure near the morning feeding grounds.

Few More Clear Water Fishing Tips...

The clearer the water, you’ll need to increase the distance between yourself and that piece of structure.  Bass are easily spooked and will retreat to deep water at the first sign of danger.

Use give yourself a 5-Minute Rule.  Meaning don’t spend more than 5 minutes fishing a piece of structure. If they don’t bite right away, they’re not going to bite at that time. It doesn’t mean you can’t go back in an hour or two… just don’t waste your time in it.

Wind can be your friend if used correctly.  As a result, the wind will push bass to structure, specifically tall vertical structures (ie bridge or dock pilings, bluff walls or standing timber) or large structures like tall submerged humps or large boulders that can offer shelter.

Wind will also mask your bait because of the broken reflection that will be created by the waves.  This is why spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and shallow running jerkbaits work so well in windy conditions.  

Water Clarity 4-8 feet - Fishing Lightly Stained Water

Water Clarity 4-8 feet is considered lightly stained water conditions.  Bass will still primarily use their eyesight to hunt and feed in these conditions.

‘Matching-the-hatch’ is still very important. Choose lures that closely look like the bass’ primary forage is always a smart decision. However, considering using baits with a small amount of bright color in them. Colors such as a chartreuse lateral line you’ll find in nearly every “Sexy Shad Pattern” or a small bit of orange or red in a craw pattern.

You’ll quickly notice that bass will still come out of the woodwork to expose themselves and attack your lure!

Best baits for Fishing Lightly Stained Water Conditions.

Morning

  1. Topwater Walking Baits – Natural shad or bluegill patterns. You don’t have to rely on translucent or “Ghost” colors as much.
  2. Medium Topwater Poppers – Natural shad or bluegill patterns.
  3. Single Small Soft Plastic Swimbait – Transparent Shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin near vegetation (where baby bluegill would live).
  4. Alabama Rig – Shad colors. Extremely effective if it’s breezy or windy. Fish as close to the surface as possible
  5. Buzz Bait – Shad colors. Extremely effective if it’s breezy or windy. Fish this around standing or submerged structure.

Afternoon

  1. Drop Shot – Browns and greens. Anything that will mimic bluegill colors or local crawfish colors. Experiment with coloring the tip with orange or chartreuse dyed tips!
  2. Senko-Style Stick Worms – Browns and greens. Green pumpkin, sprayed grass, watermelon pepper are excellent colors.
  3. Football Jigs –  Browns/orange, greens
  4. Hard Plastic Jerkbaits – Transparent Shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin near vegetation (where baby bluegill would live). Works best in breezy conditions.
  5. Spinnerbaits – Sexy shad or White or Bluegill colors. Works best in breezy conditions.
  6. Underspin Baits – Sexy shad or White or Bluegill colors. Works in both calm and breezy conditions.
  7. Medium Deep Diving Crankbaits – Shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin near vegetation (where baby bluegill would live).

Water Clarity 2-4 feet - Fishing Stained Water

Water Clarity 2-4 feet is considered significantly stained water conditions.  Bass will still primarily use a mix of both their lateral line sense and their eyesight to hunt and catch prey.

‘Matching-the-hatch’ is not as important. Brighter colored lures in shad or bluegill colored patterns were great in stained water.

The bright colors of Citrus Shad or Fire Tiger are great examples of bright colored patterns

Choose lures that closely look like the bass’ primary forage is always a smart decision. This is to say, you also need to consider use baits with a small amount of bright color in them. Colors such as a chartreuse lateral line you’ll find in nearly every “Sexy Shad Pattern” or a small bit of orange or red in a craw pattern.

Spring is the time of year when most anglers will experience stained waters in their lakes, reservoirs, and rivers.

Best baits for Fishing Stained Water Conditions.

Morning 

  1. Topwater Walking Baits – big and loud baits word the best. White, blue or black are great colors.
  2. Buzzbait – White or black with a matching swimbait trailer. Extremely effective if it’s breezy or windy. Fish this around standing or submerged structure.
  3. Prop Baits – White, blue or black.  
    1. River2Sea Whopper Plopper
    2. Lucky Craft Kelly J Prop Baits
  4. Alabama Rig with spinner blades – White swimbait trailers. The shiny spinner blades grab the bass’s attention and push out a ton of vibration. Therefore it’s extremely effective if it’s breezy or windy. Fish as close to the surface as possible

Afternoon

  1. Drop Shot – Browns and greens. Anything that will mimic bluegill colors or local crawfish colors. Experiment with coloring the tip with orange or chartreuse dyed tips!
  2. Senko-Style Stick Worms – Browns and greens. Green pumpkin, sprayed grass, watermelon pepper are excellent colors.
  3. Flipping Jigs –  Browns/orange, greens during the mid-day, blues/blacks during the late morning and early evenings
  4. Hard Plastic Jerkbaits – Opaque shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin near vegetation (where baby bluegill would live). Works best in breezy conditions.
  5. Spinnerbaits – whites shad or White/chartreuse colors. Works best in breezy conditions.
  6. Underspin Baits – Sexy shad or White or Bluegill colors. Both can work in both calm and breezy conditions.
  7. Shallow or Medium Diving Crankbaits – Whites with +/- chartreuse in shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin or fire tiger (looks like baby bluegill) or craw patterns in orange or red in rocky areas. Squarebills perform great in stained water.

Water Clarity 0-2 feet - Fishing Muddy Water

Fishing muddy water can really throw a novice bass angler off their game if they run into this situation. However, nothing can be farther from the truth.

Even though the bass can’t see very well they use their lateral line to primarily find prey to ambush.

so, consequently, you need to use baits that are flashy AND put off a lot of sound or vibration!

If your bait doesn’t come with a sound built-in, add it then! There are small rattle chambers you can buy that will attach to a jig or a worm hook.

The steady and slow retrieve is going to be your best bet with fishing muddy water

Muddy water allows you to position your boat or kayak closer to the structure you’re targeting.  Typically the bass are not as easily scared by something as close as you.

Bass will not chase your bait. They rely on their ambush position relative to their structure.

Since they are not as spooked and will hold tight to the structure that means you can make repeated casts to structure that you’re targeting.

Baits should have very bright color patterns or be very dark.

Best baits for Fishing Muddy Water Conditions.

Morning

  1. Topwater Buzz Frogs Baits – These big and loud baits allow you to fish the soft plastic buzz frog extremely slowly, all the while still creating a commotion on the surface. Fish your frog as slow as you can so it can help the bass key in on the bait, resulting in fewer misses. White or black are great colors.
  2. Buzzbait – White or black with a matching swimbait trailer. Extremely effective if it’s breezy or windy. Fish this around standing or submerged structure.
  3. Prop Baits – White, blue or black.  

Afternoon

  1. Flipping Jigs – All black or black/blue or black/red.
  2. Flipping a large creature bait
  3. Dragging a large Texas-rigged big worm
  4. Spinnerbaits large colorado blades – whites shad or White/chartreuse colors. Works best in breezy conditions.
  5. Shallow or Medium Diving Crankbaits – Whites with +/- chartreuse in shad colors (when the bass are chasing shad) or green pumpkin or fire tiger (looks like baby bluegill) or craw patterns in orange or red in rocky areas. Squarebills perform great in stained water.

Adapting to Different Situations

Aside from water clarity lure color also depends on the time of year and available forage.

For example, in the southern part of the U.S. during pre-spawn crawfish are one of the staples of the bass’ diet.  So choosing a lure that is brown with some orange or red in it has a high probability of getting bit.

On the other hand, some northern states may have small perch the bass feed on so choosing a bait that looks like the fire tiger pattern may be exactly what the bass are keyed in on.

Two important situations you need to recognize are when you’re fishing at night and or early morning topwater conditions most professional anglers will use very dark colored lures no matter what the forage is present.

If you think about it, the dark black or blue lure gives the bass a great silhouette to focus on against the light background.

This makes it so much easier to see!

In Summary

It’s important for all anglers to realize there are no rules that are “set in stone” because of all of the possible variables that you may encounter.

Newbie bass anglers must put forth time on the water to gain experience and confidence in what works for the lakes and rivers they fish.

It’s highly recommended to stock your tackle box with a variety of lures that will work in the most common water clarity you’ll likely encounter.  Look up local angler reports and other social media outlets. Many anglers will quickly answer questions on local water clarity and conditions.

—> Purchase a fishing lure set. The Strike King KVD 13-Piece Square Bill Crankbait Kit takes the difficulty out of choosing multiple lures. These crankbait kits are fairly priced and offer a huge selection of the most popular colors and styles..

—> PRO TIP: Carry only a handful of common colors in your soft plastics (worms, craws, creature baits ect…), crankbaits, spinnerbaits, etc.  As you gain more and more experience on a certain body of water only bring what you’ll know the bass will be biting on. Then you’ll be fishing with supreme confidence and be ready to make changes that you may come your way.

Good luck with this new technique!

Tight Lines.

George

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