The casual angler has a distinct advantage over those of us who fish for a living, either as a guide, or as a tournament circuit angler. The advantage is that the casual angler can choose what conditions they wish to fish in. However, Guides, who may book their trips months or more in advance, and tournament anglers, who have to fish the schedules and take what is dealt them, have to learn to locate and catch fish in all seasons and in all conditions.
By far the toughest of these is muddy water.
Let me explain: Bass use 3 major senses to locate and attack their food.Scent, The Lateral Line, and Sight. The Lateral Line is often though of as the primary way bass locate prey. Recent studies, however, show this may not be the case. In recent tests, it has been shown that Bass feed first and foremost by sight, then scent, then feel. Except in the worst conditions, bass use their Lateral Line Last.
With that said, I will attempt to try to help anglers understand how to catch Bass in muddy water.
In clear to stained water, bass feed primarily by sight. When water becomes muddy; however, this puts the bass in a negative mood. The reason for this is simple. The Bass can no longer count on its vision to locate prey. They must depend on their Lateral Line. Because muddy water prohibits light penetration, the bass tend to move to shallower water because it is warmest. Especially in cooler weather. Due to the fact they are unable to count on their vision, they stop roaming and draw and hold tight to cover. This is because the bass do not feel as safe when their vision is impaired.
Find the shallower water with the best cover and you have a good chance of locating the fish. After you have located the fish, the 3 keys to effective lure selection for muddy water are Vibration, Noise, and Water Displacement. A lure with any of these characteristics should be successful.
Single Colorado Blade Spinnerbaits, such as the Retriever Single Paw (Vibration/thump), A trap, such as a Signature Trap from CCFFL (Vibration/Noise), A big, wide wobbling crankbait (water displacement), or a Rattling Flipping Jig, such as a Retriever Brush Puppy, (Water Displacement/Noise) with a chunk trailer are all good choices in muddy water. Fish them slowly, and tight to cover. The bass will not chase them very far.
The best muddy water color, by far, is Chartreuse. Period. This has the greatest visibility of any color in mud. I will also occasionally take and modify a Retriever Single Paw, and use the chartreuse head, but I will remove the other skirt and add a Bubble Gum Colored skirt. Don't laugh, it works.
In early spring, and late fall/ winter, when faced with COLD muddy water, try to seek out warm water discharge areas or steam plants. The water here can be as much as 25 degrees warmer than surrounding water. These can pay off big time.
I remember a tourney I fished several years ago, in the dead of winter, with a water temp of 37 degress. I think the tourney was called a frost bite open. Good name. We found a warm water discharge area off the main lake with timber in it where the water temp read 46 degrees. While most of the boats were fishing the deeper channels and main lake drops, 5 boats, including ours, found and fished this warm water area. These 5 boats finished as the top 5 teams.
Next time you are faced with muddy, or cold and muddy water, don't throw in the towel and write it off as bad, go for it with gusto.
Tough? YES. Impossible? Not by any stretch of the imagination.