Analysis of my bass fishing diary – Part 8 (Water Clarity)

Analysis of my bass fishing diary – Part 8 (Water Clarity)

This is Part 8 of a 12 Part series in which I will share my thoughts, conclusions and overall personal experiences of bass fishing over the past 7 – 8 years, from the south Devon coastline. In the remaining parts of the series I will also cover:

  • Part 9 – Sea state
  • Part 10 – Air pressure
  • Part 11 – Rocks, Beaches and Estuaries
  • Part 12 – Which type of lure?

Note – Please bear in mind that any conclusions I make in this series are based purely on my own experiences and my diary entries. I am positive that there will be many similarities in the hypothesis of my fellow bass lure anglers, or indeed, just as many conflicting or contradictory observations – I look forward to the debates!

Why 7 – 8 Years? Please go to Part 1 (Tide Heights) where I explain.


Like all fish, bass will obviously use all of their senses – sight, smell, hearing (through internal earstones called otoliths) and vibrations in order to hunt for food. They are also extremely opportunistic in their behaviour, and will quickly switch onto an easy or vulnerable food source – large sandeel or mackerel shoals, maggots being washed out of the seaweed or razor-fish and worms being scoured out of the sand during rough seas are classic examples. But at what stage of  ‘water clarity’ will a bass stop hunting by sight and switch into vibration and/or scent mode?

Here in south Devon, the sea generally clears quickly following a storm, providing you are a fair distance away from an estuary mouth and the flood water isn’t pouring out of it. For that reason a large percentage of my lure fishing is conducted in decent water clarity conditions, but have there been any patterns or anomalies?

Bass fishing in clear water
Clear water on a bright day – when subtlety and natural presentation is paramount

Water Clarity – My thoughts, conclusions and experiences

Below is a table whereby I have collated my diary entries into a simple format, in order to display the percentage of bass caught during the specified water clarity ranges –

Note: The figures below encompass bass caught from the shore on lures.

Water Clarity Scale

Percentage of bass caught

1 (0 – 10 cm)

1 %

  2 (10 – 20 cm)

2 %

 3 (20 – 30 cm)

4 %

 4 (30 – 40 cm)

22 %

 5 (40 – 50 cm)

18 %

          6 (50 cm – 1 Metres)

23 %

      7 (1 – 1½ Metres)

14 %

      8 (1½ – 2 Metres)

8 %

   9 (2 – 3 Metres)

4 %

10 (3 Metres+)

4 %

Murcky water bass fishing with lures
Will bass be able to see or sense a lure in this? Or are you better off bait fishing?

The results above form the following conclusions:

  • Perhaps not surprisingly, nearly 2/3rds (63%) of my catches on lures have been achieved when the water had between 30 cm – 1 metre of clarity (see my thoughts below).
  • As you can see from the statistics above – I have caught bass in very murky sea conditions (0 – 30 cm) on lures – so it is by no means impossible. Indeed, these fish have been some of my largest (5lb+).
  • Conversely, clear – very clear seas are still conducive to catching bass from the shore (30%) but quite often a change of approach is required (see below).

My experiences:

  • During the day, if the water is slightly murky, milky (aerated water that has broken around the rocks) or has that lovely green tinge to it, then I am always even more confident of catching. The fact that 63% of my catches have been achieved when the water has some (30cm -1m) but not crystal clear clarity to it backs up a theory that I, and many others have I suspect. This is when bass only gets a split second to make up their mind (from seeing a sudden flash or movement from the lure) you are definitely more likely to see them hit the lure with gusto, rather than follow it or lose out to another bass…
  • Water that is slightly murky (4 – 8 on my scale) has, more often than not, been caused by rougher seas or waves breaking onto the shoreline either at the beginning of, or following unsettled weather when things have calmed down – well-known to be periods when more bass are inshore.
  • In regards to catching bass on lures in very murky water, one thing does stand out from my diary entries – shallow water or fishing very close to the margins (see my previous blog post here) with surface lures that make a lot of commotion, large weedless lures like the Slug-Go,  or weightless/weedless paddletails such as  the Red Gill Evo Stix has been my prefered method.
  • Very clear water tends to go hand in hand with bright skies (settled conditions) therefore, changing your approach in the heat of the day by fishing very subtle lures in natural colours such as the Fish Arrow Flash J5 or DoLive Stick is the way forward. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned before, if the water has been calm and clear in the past then I have tended to concentrate on fishing either early in the morning or late into the evening.
  • If I were to collate the statistics for this season only they would read very differently. Indeed, 70% of the bass my clients and I have caught so far this season have been in very clear water conditions at night! So who knows what my overall stats will look like by the end of the season. We’re always learning, and that is what makes lure fishing for bass such a captivating pastime.
Bass fishing at dawn
Lure fishing just after dawn over a shallow reef

To summarise – never say never…

In my opinion, there are always bass close inshore, feeding and catchable on lures – no mattter how clear or murky the water is. The answer to the question as to whether there is a limit or threshold to when they will cease chasing lures because they can’t see them is clearly subjective, and many anlgers will turn to bait long before the sea resembles tea/coffee.

Personally, I will always try to find water with a modicum of clarity (even a tiny amount) and will fish in very shallow water if I can to achieve this before I look at bait as an option. That said, to be an all-round bass angler you need to adapt to the conditions and situations therefore, if I’m heading out (especially late Autumn/early Winter) onto the coast, when I know it is going to be tough with the lures, I will always have a few slabs of mackerel or a some squid defrosted just in case…

I remember a day in Dorset 14 years ago where the sea was rough, coloured like chocolate and with floating weed all over the place. I had driven a long way to get to the coastline that day so I wasn’t about to just turn around and go home. I attached a big surface slider, the Duel Aile Magnet in the 130mm 28g size and launched it parallel to a line of rocks before working it back towards me. My efforts appeared to be futile until on the fifth cast (between picking weed off the line) when, just after I pulled the lure from the floating weed, an almighty splash and line tearing off the spool signalled a good bass had taken the lure! It took some getting onto the rocks but at close to 6lb I was glad I’d bothered – so you never know!

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling




  1. Dear Marc, Just returned from my short sojourn to wales ( where as far as Bassing goes, I blanked horribly ) and have caught up with your latest posts. Sounds as if you’r well into your stride on the night fishing side of your guiding operation. I know you put a huge amount of effort into it, so Well done with that my friend.

    FYI the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society have a pretty accurate length to weight table for bass and perhaps more interestingly a size to age graph. Both of which are available free to anyone on line.

    The other thing that struck me regarding your personal ‘ statistics ‘ was this. . . When you say for example that 1% of your fish were caught when the water clarity was less than 10 cm. That figure only has any meaning/ relevance if we also know what percentage of your fishing time was in those conditions. In other words if you spent say 90% of your time fishing in water clarity of less than 10 cm then it’s almost certain that a higher than 1% catch rate would be achieved. This applies equally well to any other statistical analysis by you or anyone else. ( tide state, weather,e.t.c. e.t.c.) In other words to get an accurate picture considerably more information is required. It’s what one leaves out that gives rise to the old adage. . . There’s lies, There’s damn lies, And there’s statistics. And you’ve only to look at politicians and the way they massage figures to suit themselves to see statistics in action. This isn’t meant to criticise your excellent efforts but more of a ‘ heads up ‘ really. Hope you don’t mind my e mailing you but thought it better than making a public ‘ comment ‘. Looking forward to getting back to your neck of the woods at some stage, and another session together. All the best, Chris.

    On Sun, Jul 9, 2017 at 5:59 PM, South Devon Bass Guide wrote:

    > southdevonbassguide posted: “Analysis of my bass fishing diary – Part 8 > (Water Clarity) This is Part 8 of a 12 Part series in which I will share my > thoughts, conclusions and overall personal experiences of bass fishing over > the past 7 – 8 years, from the south Devon coastline. In the” >


    1. Hi Chris,
      Thank you for the comment and yes, the night guiding is proving to be popular with my clients! It’s a great way to lure fish.
      Re: the statistics, as I state in Part 1 – I have made a very conscious effort to fish in as many differing weather, tidal, sea state etc. condition as possible in order to gauge as accurate as possible overview of my catches however, I agree that a paragraph explaining the percentage of sessions fished in certain water clarity conditions (alongside the catch stats) would assist in ‘quantifying’ the statistics therefore, I’ll dig into it!
      See you again soon,


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