When fishing for bass in clear water, presenting your lure in as natural a manner as possible is absolutely key. Bass are highly visual predators, and are able to pick up a lot of detail when visibility is high. In this article I break down some key considerations for lure selection in clear water and recommend some great lure and presentation options.
Clear water is a somewhat subjective term. For the context of this article, I will be referring to clear water as water that has 4 feet or more of visibility.
Key Considerations for Lure Selection in Clear Water
Before we discuss the top lures for clear water bass fishing, it is important to understand a few key concepts about bass behavior in clear water vs in stained or muddy water. Bass are actually highly visual predators. In clear water they are able to see a lot of detail, making it important to present your bait in as natural a manner as possible. In stained or muddy water you may find yourself intentionally using less natural approaches such as super dark lure colors or lures that create a lot of commotion in the water. In lower visibility conditions this is absolutely necessary in order to get fish to notice your bait. In clear water however, these exaggerated, overly prominent presentations may well put fish off as they are able to see too much detail, resulting in the presentation becoming overly intrusive.
With that said, lets cover a few key considerations for clear water bass fishing and how it affects lure selection:
Stick to Natural Colors
In clear water we are not looking for our bait to “stand out” as such. Bass can see a lot of detail in these conditions, we want our bait to blend into the environment and have it appear as natural as possible so that bass perceive it as prey. For that reason you want to stick to more natural or translucent colors. This is where classic colors like green pumpkin, watermelon, baby bass and natural shad come into play. They do a great job of imitating the natural prey of bass underwater in a way that is realistic enough to entice a strike. Don't underestimate the importance of color selection for clear water bass fishing.
Aim for a Natural Action
Bass are able to see a lot of detail in clear water, they will instinctively be attracted to something that looks more realistic. Understanding this is incredibly important when it comes to clear water lure selection. Smaller presentations with lifelike action tend to get the most bites in clear water. We don’t want to be using anything that is causing excess commotion, noise or flash in clear water. We want to rather opt for something that is not intrusive and looks like a real baitfish, craw or worm on the retrieve.
Downsize your Weights
This is key for achieving the most natural presentation possible in clear water conditions. Heavier sinkers cause your bait to have a more jagged, erratic action underwater. While this can work well in stained conditions, in clear water it will cause your bait to appear less lifelike and spook fish. Stick to the lightest weight you can get away with (or no weight at all) in clear water, this will give your bait the most natural presentation possible.
Best Bass Lures for Clear Water
with the key considerations for lure selection in clear water covered, lets get into some of the best lures and presentations to throw in clear water conditions:
Weightless plastics can be absolutely deadly in clear water, especially when fishing fairly shallow. Throwing a plastic with no weight at all gives it a slow, natural looking shimmy as it falls through the water, doing a great job of imitating natural prey such as shad or a worm. A weightless plastic is quiet and unintrusive. It’s action is of course not altered in any way by a weight, allowing it to flow and move naturally through the water. While their are plenty of plastics you can throw weightless, I usually opt for options with higher salt content as they have solid weight to them, allowing you to cast them a solid distance and get them down through the water column relatively quickly once they hit the water. My two top options in this category are the Strike King Caffeine Shad and the Gary Yamamoto Senko, rigged Weightless Texas Style. Both of these baits have an incredibly natural action and having both in your boat allows you to cover the baitfish and worm profile giving you some versatility.
No clear water fishing guide would be complete without reference to the dropshot rig! Fishing a dropshot allows you to suspend your bait slightly off the bottom and get small profile plastics down to any depth you desire. With a dropshot, your weight sits at the bottom and your plastic sits raised in the water, uninhibited by the weight. This allows your bait to move freely, creating a super lifelike action. Dropshot is especially powerful when fishing offshore in clear water conditions where it would be difficult to target fish effective with a weightless plastic or something of the sort. When it comes to dropshot lure selection there are honestly too many fantastic options to mention. A few of my favorites are the Strike King Dreamshot, the Gary Yamamoto Shad Shaped Worm and the Strike King KVD Finesse Worm.
Soft Plastic Swimbaits
In any lake in the country, you can be just about guaranteed that bass will be feeding on small baitfish. The best way to imitate small baitfish? Well, its tough to beat the soft plastic swimbait, especially with the incredible options available on the market today! While there are many different types of soft swimbaits on the market, they are all designed to accurately imitate baitfish. They are usually made up of a minnow or shad style body with a paddle or boot style tail to imitate the swimming/tail kicking motion of a fleeing baitfish. Two effective ways for rigging a soft plastic swimbait in clear water are on a light jig head or a body weighted hook. Some of my favorite clear water options are the Strike King Rage Swimmer and the Keitech Easy Shiner.
The Ned Rig
The Ned Rig has become incredibly popular in the finesse fishing world in recent years and its east to see why. It provides a small, lifelike profile that is just an easy target for a hungry bass, plain and simple. In clear water it does a fantastic job of imitating craws moving along the bottom of the lake/river in a way that is lifelike and unintrusive. Two of my favorite Ned Rig baits are the Zman Finesse TRD and the Zman TRD CrawZ. I usually opt for the Zman plastics on the Ned Rig for two reasons. One, they are made of a buoyant plastic which causes them to stand up off the bottom, reminiscent of crawfish behavior and two, they are incredibly durable and will last up to 20 or more fish catches.
Downsized finesse jigs are a fantastic option for clear water bass fishing, especially if you are looking for a more “power finesse” option that allows you to cover water fairly quickly. Finesse jigs offer a compact profile with the added action of the skirt, which creates a little bit of extra, but still lifelike action underwater. To make the presentation even more lifelike, its best to use a small plastic trailer on your finesse jig. Aim for a trailer that is somewhat proportional size-wise to your jig with a natural color. Some of my favorite finesse jigs are the Z-Man Shroomz Micro Finesse Jig and the Keitech Tungsten Guard Spin Jig. Both of these jigs come with a weed guard that is effective in guarding off cover without being bulky enough to detract from the action of the bait. Trailer wise, I love pairing my finesse jigs up with the Zman Finesse TRD or a Yum Ned Craw.
Lure selection is incredibly important in clear water. Always aim for something that will appear natural in the water, in terms of color, size and action. Bass are able to pick up a lot of detail in clear water conditions and will likely be spooked by anything bulky, overly intrusive or colors that don’t fit into their natural environment. Think of it from the bass’s perspective. If you had full vision and saw a big, loud spinnerbait coming toward you in plain sight, you would probably just move out of its way. Compare that with the site of a small, realistic looking baitfish of worm imitation lurking through the water, there is probably a much better chance you are choosing the latter for your meal.
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