By: Shaye Baker
Fishing for Bass in muddy water can be a little intimidating at first. If you’ve never done it, you may wonder how a fish could even see anything with all the dirt and sediment clouding up the water. Well, many times they can’t. Instead, they hunt and target prey based on feel. Sometimes, however, there are baits that you can use to help the fish see it as long as there’s some semblance of visibility.
Today, we’ll shine some light (pun intended) on how bass hunt and position in the water column when they can’t see very well. And we’ll discuss the types of baits and techniques you can use to take advantage of the bass’s heightened senses, and use the muddy water to your advantage.
Where to Fish for Bass in Muddy Water
In clear water situations, bass will often suspend off the bottom and cruise around, visually targeting bait. The main difference you’ll find when the water is muddy, is that bass become cover oriented. That means they may lock onto the bottom and poke around with their noses down on a gravel patch. Or they may ease up beside a stump in 2 feet of water, waiting to ambush passing prey.
If you think about it, bass are essentially fishing for a living all the time. If they don’t eat, they die, simple as that. Sure, there are certain times of the year when their metabolism slows due to their cold-blooded nature, so they don’t eat as much. But by and large, their main driving force is to be a predator and hunt and eat.
In muddy water, bass key in on their ability to detect vibration through their lateral lines. This ability to sense movement compensates for their lack of vision in muddy water and allows them to hunt without being able to see very well. This is evident in muddy water, but you also see this when fishing at night. Many of the same baits that work well in mud, also work well at night.
Muddy Water Baits & Lures for Bass Fishing
Best Best Lures & Baits for Muddy Water
Bait selection is critical when targeting bass in the mud. You want a bait that gives off a lot of vibration, displaces a good bit of water or creates some type of sound. Something the fish can feel. If it’s a subsurface moving lure, we’re talking about double Colorado spinnerbaits and squarebills. If you’re fishing on top, buzzbaits, popping frogs and Whopper Ploppers are great. And if you’re fishing on the bottom, a tungsten weighted Texas rig or jig will click and rattle as it’s drug over gravel and other hard bottoms.
Best Lure Color for Muddy Water
In addition to feel, you want to choose a lure the fish can see, at least at the last second. Most of the time, bass will first sense the bait is in the area by the vibration or sound. But as the gap narrows, you want them to have the best chance possible to see whatever they’re about to strike. This is why you’ll see people fish with a lot of white and chartreuse baits when targeting bass in muddy water. The brighter colors catch and reflect more light. Or you’ll see really dark baits used at times, like black and blue flipping jigs and green pumpkin football jigs that standout against the plain muddy background.
You’re essentially looking for contrast. This is why you’ll also find one of the most popular baits for muddy water fishing is a chartreuse and black back crankbait. The reason this bait is so effective in muddy water isn’t necessarily the chartreuse sides, but the combination of the chartreuse paired with the black back. As this bait is reeled through the water, it rocks back and forth and the contrast of the bright color on the sides and the dark colored back creates a lot of flash.
Shallow, Cold and Muddy
Shallow, cold and muddy water is the most intimidating set of conditions for many anglers. I was born and raised on this style of fishing, often targeting bass in 2 feet or less with water temps in the 40s and 50s and a mere inch or two of visibility. But I didn’t realize how fortunate I was in that regard until later in life when I noticed some of my friends and fellow competitors, some truly great anglers, run as far from shallow, cold and muddy water as they could. Meanwhile I was running into it, confident there were big bites to be had and having to compete with far fewer boats for a bite than the other anglers crowded up in the clearer water.
I want to encourage you not to be intimidated by this set of conditions. Yes, the bite will be a little tough at times. But it you fish with confidence, knowing a bite will come, the shallow, cold and muddy deal can be extremely rewarding. Though confidence is key, there are a couple other things to keep in mind. Again, pay very close attention to your color sections and make sure your baits are giving off a good bit of vibration. But on top of that, the most important two things are bait positioning and repetition.
Getting your bait as close to the cover as possible will greatly increase your odds of getting bit. And making repetitive casts to the same piece of cover will often make a huge difference as well. You will hang up some when fishing this tight to cover, and that’s fine. That means you’re putting the bait where it needs to be. As my dad often says, “If you’re not getting hung-up every now and then, you’re not fishing it right.”
The repetitiveness of the casts will often ‘wake a fish up’ so to speak. The first or second cast will simply alert the bass to something in the area. And then as the third, fourth and fifth cast come through, the bass becomes more annoyed and alert until you finally hit it on the nose and it strikes. I’ve had this happen several times in my fishing and have seen it play out for others many more. Accurate and repetitive casting are the two best ways to separate yourself from other anglers in shallow, cold and muddy water.
What Else You Need to Know About Fishing for Bass in Muddy Water
Bass definitely still bite in the mud. Look for them to relate to the bottom or tight to some sort of cover. When selecting your baits, color and sound/vibration are key. Pick color combinations that contrast with each other, or pick solid colors that will either catch a lot of light and reflect it or help a bait standout against the plain muddy backdrop. But the real difference maker in muddy water comes in the form of drawing power. Figuring out a bait that gives off a good bit of sound or vibration will help the fish find it or have them alert at least when the bait finds them.
And when adding shallow and cold to the muddy situation, don’t be discouraged. Focus on getting your bait really close to cover, really often, making as many as half a dozen repetitive casts if you find a particularly attractive piece of cover. Be patient, knowing that cold blooded bass won’t be super aggressive with water temps in the 40s and 50s. But patience and execution will eventually payoff and you’ll be rewarded with a bite. Take these tips out on the water with you, and the next time you’re faced with muddy conditions, you’ll be ready.