How to Catch Bass in Crystal Clear Water

A bass angler may run across crystal clear water for a variety of reasons. These simple and effective tactics will help you coax bass from the clearest lakes you find.

To catch bass in crystal clear water an angler needs to focus on a few things: 

  • Target deeper water
  • Use light line
  • Make long casts
  • Focus on natural colors
  • Target shady areas
  • Use the Wind to your Advantage.

In this article, I will go over how to utilize these tips so you can be confident that you will catch bass on lakes and rivers that have crystal clear water.

My Area of Expertise

I have spent my entire life fishing ultra-clear water. The lake that I live on is a reclaimed strip mine. It is not unusual to see the bottom in twenty feet of water all throughout the year. 

This has forced me to learn different tactics and presentations that will trigger strikes in these challenging situations.

Why is the Water so Clear?

There are multiple reasons for clear water. Many anglers notice these conditions when the ice first comes out and before the spring rains hit.

The water has been undisturbed for months and the sediment has fallen to the bottom resulting in some of the clearest water you will find.

Other lakes and rivers are naturally clear because of little runoff or an excellent filtration system in the form of vegetation or swampy ground.

In more recent history, zebra mussels have changed the ecosystem in many waters throughout the country. These little creatures are filter feeders and can make a huge difference in a short time. 

Lake Erie used to be known as a dirty and stained lake. Since the zebra mussels have taken over this body of water is now crystal clear and boasts some of the best bass fishing in the nation.

Target Deeper Water to Find Bass in Clear Conditions

What makes crystal clear water so challenging is the fact the bass can see or notice you way before you have a chance to fool them into biting your lure. 

The first thing that I look for is deeper water. I choose the target zone based on how far I can see into the depths. If the sun is out and shining bright I may lose sight of my lure at fifteen feet. If the clouds are out I may lose track of it at ten feet. 

I do my best to fish this “darker” zone. 

Predators like to hide. The depth where light starts to reduce its penetration is a natural place for them to vanish. 

If there is some sort of structure or cover features that coincides with this light dispersal that is even better.

Light Line

Bass fishing crystal clear water is when I use the lightest line I feel I can get away with. For the most part that means 10lb fluorocarbon as a leader material. 

Some anglers like to go smaller, but I have had great success with this. Experiment and see how light you can go yet still refrain from breaking your line and landing fish. 

Using braid with a leader is an easy way to change and experiment and avoid re-spooling the entire reel. 

Make Long Casts

There are times in clear water where the majority of the bass will be shallow – to the point of making it nearly impossible to sneak up on them.

This is where making long casts can save the day.

I will turn my spool tension knob a little looser, turn the brake down, and choose lures that fly well for long distances.

For example, a lipless crankbait is shaped much like a potato chip. This lure catches the air and will often slice to one side when attempting to make a long cast with it. 

A lure like a heavily salted soft jerkbait can be thrown a long distance with accuracy. 

Long casts put the odds back in your favor, but setting the hook with a lot of line in the water can be challenging. 

This is where spooling up with braided line and using a fluorocarbon leader is beneficial. These lines either have no stretch or very low stretch. The energy from the rod is transferred to the hookset quickly.

Using monofilament when making long casts can up the chances of a fish coming off because of poor energy transfer to the hook.

Matching the forage in the places you fish is a key component when fishing clear water.

Natural Colors When Fishing Clear Water

Fishing in clear water is one of those times when color can make a noticeable difference. Take a few moments to really study the forage. What coloration phase are the crawfish in? How brilliant are the sunfish? Are the shad looking more silver or white?

The bass in clear water know exactly what their prey looks like. Matching the forage as close as you can may make the difference between a few strikes and a lot of bites.

If there are two of you fishing, make sure each angler has a different color tied on and use this information to help narrow down what the bass want on that particular day.

Target the Shade

The sunlight in clear water is intense. Bass prefer to avoid the direct rays of the sun when possible. 

Shade can come in many forms. 

It could be shadows cast from trees, an overhanging bush, a dock, or even thick vegetation.

Most clear lakes and rivers have an abundance of vegetation because of the increased light penetration. Find the thickest vegetation and there almost certainly will be bass somewhere in the area.

Even the slightest ripple can help hide your presence on clear water fisheries.

The Wind is Your Friend on Clear Water Lakes

On my home lake, I look forward to fishing in the wind. The increased waves and turbulence on the surface of the water allow me to get closer to my target areas. 

Another plus is that most anglers avoid the wind and you most likely will have the windiest shorelines all to yourself.

Boat wakes can also hide your presence to the bass. 

I used to shy away from busy weekends on my home water. Not anymore.

I use the disturbance that those waverunners and tubers cause to not only get the food chain kicked up, but hide my presence. 

When you fish crystal clear water be sure to use every possible advantage you have to keep the bass unaware of your presence.

Final Thoughts

Fishing crystal clear water is challenging, but following these simple tips will help you get more bites.

Stealth is critical and approaching every cast with that thought process is the first step to unlocking the secrets of clear water lakes and rivers.

Be safe. Tight lines and be sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you may change their life forever.

Isaiah 6:8

Steve Rogers

Steve spends his time filming and writing about bass fishing. You may even see him in your area. If so, stop and say "hi."

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