Client Catches – How murky is murky…?

Client Catches – How murky is murky…?

My garage is cleared, my house is almost completely packed up and my family and I are ready to up sticks for what is a formidable house move… There’s no need to worry though, as I’m not moving from south Devon, and I am in fact moving a distance that I could probably cover by gently lobbing a Patchinko 125!

Alongside my guiding commitments, in which my clients have landed some spectacular bass that I am extremely eager to tell you all about, all of the breaking down of furniture, dealing with solicitors and drives to the recycling centre have obviously kept me off the old laptop. It is for these reasons that this blog post, in addition to my next two efforts, will be relatively short and sweet, whilst also following a theme of sorts.

This post clearly covers bass lure fishing in murky, turbid or coloured water (with the 65cm beauty in the featured image being a prime example of what can be achieved), with the follow ups covering the respective topics of how my clients have ‘lured’ bass within exceptionally specific underwater features, with the final post of this short series depicting how my clients have landed bass from some exceptionally shallow water – with that 72cm monster I mentioned in my last post taking centre stage for that one…

Open coast bass lure fishing in very murky sea conditions creates huge challenges – some of which can be overcome with the correct venue and lure choices…

Choice of venue

First up, lets cut to the chase and answer the question – just how murky is murky? Well, what I am talking about here is catching a bass, on a lure, in water that has zero clarity to it – not 2ft, not 1ft, not 6 inches – nothing…

Now that’s out of the way, I mentioned above what I aim to cover within a series of posts that I really hope will assist the bass fisher who is new to the arena, and especially those who may be a little daunted by the prospect of casting a lure during what can be difficult period (the autumn). And as it happens, the capability to cast into extraordinary distinct regions and/or exceedingly shallow water is actually the first of many options I consider when faced with chocolate-coloured seas. The reason? It narrows down the odds as much as you can possibly narrow them for starters…

Clearly then, the choice of venue is critical, as you certainly won’t find me or one of my clients retrieving a lure from a deep water headland when the water clarity is minimal or indeed, diabolic. By utilising all of its senses, I have absolutely no doubt that a bass can find your lure in this situation or environment, but why would you or I want to be reducing our chances when you can look elsewhere?

In my experience, elsewhere could be one of the following:

  • A very precise location (such as a gully, channel, pool, sandy patch or weed bed) that you may have consistently caught bass from, and that you know intimately.
  • An environment in which you have clearly witnessed bass moving through, within and around in clearer sea/water conditions.
  • A setting (that will most probably encompass one or both of the above) where bass activity is naturally condensed, quite possibly due to the tide flooding or ebbing through a confined region, close to an outfall or stream, and/or where bass ‘fodder’ (shrimps and prawns, and in season, smelt, whitebait/sprat or sand eels) are routinely trapped or funnelled.
  • On the open coast, I would be looking to fish within a more sheltered section of a beach (the lee of a promontory of rocks for example), not necessarily the most turbulent area or the one swept by the strongest current – a clever bass wants an easy meal, so give them just that…
Bright day – bright lure? Not for me… What about no clarity, bright lure! I needed sunglasses to attach this one – a Savage Gear Gravity Stick in the new ‘Hi-Viz’ configuration.

Choice of lure

It’s all personal choice of course, but I would definitely say that I am a natural-coloured ‘lure lover’ whenever the opportunity presents itself – which in the clear waters of the South Hams is a pretty regular occurrence. Indeed, give me silvers and dark hues over bright reds, yellows and pinks all day long. However, when the going gets tough the tough get going in respect of grey and/or brown water, and I can still see the look that Les (the gentleman who landed the stunning 65cm bass in the image above and below) gave me when I suggested he should attach one of the new Hi-Viz Savage Gear Gravity Sticks (the lemon-back/chartreuse pattern) to his lure clip!

65cm of fearsome, predatory prowess that ‘homed in on’ and eventually ‘plucked’ the bright-coloured soft plastic paddle tail lure out of the relative obscurity of some very, very muddy water. If you look closely behind his left shoulder you can see the almost fluorescent lure laying next to his reel – ultimate proof in the pudding.

If you read this blog on a regular basis you will already know all about my penchant for a bright white lure. “When it’s bright or night, go for white” has been one of my favourite quips whilst guiding my clients this season! But judging by the many catches of bass achieved in moderately-dirty to pretty damn filthy water by my clients and I this year (I aim to write a number of retrospective ‘My Recent Catches’ charting my own endeavours later this autumn once things have calmed down a bit) you will appreciate, I’m sure, just how effective they are, both in the turbid, and indeed, very clear sea conditions for that matter – another blog post in itself I feel.

A bright sunny day and some mucky, turbid and shallow water saw me using another lure (in white or Sight Flash) that I continue to explore – the excellent 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner.

In complete contrast, I have guided a number of excellent anglers, both in regards to their own bass lure fishing expertise, and/or within their respective fields related to fly, trout and salmon fishing who have strongly suggested that I pursue the highly silhouetted virtues of a dark or even black lure in zero visibility sea conditions… A do like a black lure in twilight, particularly if I suspect the bass are hunting beneath the lure and it is being highlighted against the sky, but I am yet to gain confidence in their use in cloudy water conditions – I will be persisting with this approach though as too many good fisherman, who I respect immensely, have mentioned it to me.

Good vibrations

After colours, and apologies if this is ‘sucking egg’ territory for some of the more seasoned among you, there is no doubt in my mind that a lure with a bit wiggle, waggle, and shake, rattle and roll will out-fish a lure that is doing very little when the bass cannot see the lure at any kind of distance. A recent event stands out in my mind, in which the young angler (Tiger) who joined me on a recent 3 Day Package landed a 3lb+ bass (below) in ridiculously shallow and coffee-like water on a white, paddle tailed Savage Gear Gravity Stick. After returning this hard-earned fish he commented that he’d felt the bass ‘pluck’ at the lure on three occasions on the retrieve before engulfing it – seemingly the bass couldn’t see the lure, but it sure as hell picked up on the vibrations of that pulsing tail.

Although not huge at just over 3lb, this is quite possibly the most significant capture of the season, as it was achieved in water barely ankle-deep and completely opaque in nature.

It isn’t always the case, but generally speaking if you are fishing in murky water then there is a fair chance that the zone you are casting and retrieving into will also be ‘weeded up’ to a degree, with frustrating levels of flotsam and fine fragments rendering the use of a hard-diving minnow with all its finery attached almost futile. This is when and where, by comparison, a soft plastic lure with a groove in its back to counter (it will not complete alleviate) the weed situation will stand a better chance of prevailing and assisting to with connecting with a bass – which leads me nicely onto retrieve techniques and the methods associated to them.

Retrieve choices

By now, you would have probably realised that smashing a lure to the horizon isn’t exactly part of the agenda here, and that instead, a carefully placed lure, swimming within literally centimetres of the angler on occasion, is more likely to yield results. Added to this, below are what I hope will be a couple of ‘golden nuggets’ that I hope will remain in your mind or will come to the fore the next time you encounter water clarity that you may have zero confidence in, or that you may have walked away from previously – these are:

  • If at all possible, look to target areas where there is a definite line or convergence of dirty water and any clearer water, as there is a high probability that an astute bass will also look to capitalise on this occurrence by utilising the more feculent zone to conceal themselves, whist remaining ready to strike at their prey (most notably bait fish) that will look to harbour in the more transparent belt of water.
  • In my experience, the closer you can keep the lure to the seabed (again, this is where the use of a soft plastic comes into play) then the greater the chance that a bass will pick up on its movement and begin to track and tail it. Clearly in very shallow water (less than 12″) the fish will be swimming along the bottom, but even if the water is 2, 3 or 4ft+ then I reckon that as the bass aren’t hunting for small fish by sight in this scenario, it will instead be hunting head down, and by virtue of this would have switched to ‘scavenging mode’ – much the same as it would in a turbulent surf beach situation, in which it is actively snuffling along seeking out razorfish, clams, worms and anything scoured out of the sand or mud.
  • I touched on it briefly, but if you are targeting bass within the confines of a gully, channel, pool, weed bed or a specific sandy patch amongst the rocks, then ideally, you’ll want to be as close to it as you possibly can. Add suspending weed into the mix, and actually, the shorter the cast the better. Therefore, the overall message is not to cast too far, with the vast majority of the beautiful bass we’ve latched into within cloudy, murky, coloured, silty or just downright disgusting sea conditions this season have been hitting the lure within 3-5m of the anglers’ stance. Remember, if you can’t see the fish, then there is a very good chance that it won’t see you either, therefore, use this to your advantage.
  • There is real case for retrieving whatever or whichever lure, regardless of colour, shape or size, far slower and far more deliberately than you would if the water was clear. What I mean is to slow things right down, so that you can just about ‘feel’ the lure throbbing through the rod tip or blank. Moreover, there really isn’t a requirement to jerk, twitch or pause the lure like you might if you were attempting to create what I would term (as per my most recent book ‘Bass Lure Fishing- A Guide’s Perspective‘) a manual trigger point – which is basically the angler creating, generating or inducing a positive take from a bass that may be tracking and following the lure .
A recent capture for one of my regular clients and someone who is a very, very good all-round angler – note the lack of any clarity to the water surrounding him, yet this fine lure-caught bass had no trouble whatsoever in finding and ultimately nailing the 5″ Megabass Spindleworm he was using.

My Books

My most recent book Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective is currently IN STOCK, with my first release ‘The Lure of The Bass‘ (Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society review here) available to reserve or pre-order as I will be commissioning another batch very soon. If you would like to purchase/reserve a copy of either publication, please contact me via the Contact Form at the bottom of this page and I will send you the payment details. I can accept PayPal or a Bank Transfer.

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

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