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senile1

Cold muddy water: location?

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The last two years Spring has arrived later than usual in my neck of the woods and it has forced me to fish the type of water that is my major weakness - cold, muddy water. Normally, bass are spawning by the second or third week of April here, but the last two years have been abnormally cool, and, currently, surface water temperatures are running around 46 - 50 degrees and visibility has been 3 - 6 inches on the lake that I fish the most. The weather has been unstable as well with a warm day followed by a few cold ones.

There have been a few threads recently that covered the types of lures used in muddy water. I'm familiar with the rules of thumb for muddy water (i.e. the use of bulky lures that move water, the use of bright or dark colors and rattles, fish hold tight to cover, and bass tend to be shallow in muddy water), but I have some other thoughts about bass location under cold and muddy circumstances.

(1) Will bass still tend to be shallow based on the muddy water rule of thumb when the water is this cold, or will they be deeper most of the time based on the season (i.e. late winter to early prespawn). Would you expect the bass to be shallow at all times due to the mud, or do they stay deeper as they would under normal clarity conditions and maybe only move up shallow on a very warm day?

(2) Another rule of thumb states that light penetration is approximately 3 times the depth you can see your lure. If I can only see my lure down to 3 inches before it disappears, that rule of thumb would put light penetration at only 9 inches. Even if I stretch it a little and say the light penetration is 2 feet, if the bass are deeper they will never see the lure and will have to depend entirely on the senses of hearing, smell, and the lateral line. If the fish are deeper and only move up shallow occasionally, it would seem the best time to catch a fish is when they move up, but the rest of the time would be more difficult.

(3) Finally, under cold, muddy conditions bass are usually not aggressive. I generally have to saturate the probable locations with casts to provoke a strike. It is imperative that I am fishing in the right locations most of the time or I'm going to waste a lot of time. This lake has a ton of structure/cover options that match the season so I already have a lot to sort through.

The last two years, my fishing at this lake, during this season, and under these conditions has been a struggle. Any thoughts you can provide to clarify my thinking or to give me a new direction is appreciated. Fortunately, it looks like Spring is truly arriving this week with consistent temperatures. The water temps should be moving up soon. :)

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The last two years Spring has arrived later than usual in my neck of the woods and it has forced me to fish the type of water that is my major weakness - cold, muddy water. Normally, bass are spawning by the second or third week of April here, but the last two years have been abnormally cool, and, currently, surface water temperatures are running around 46 - 50 degrees and visibility has been 3 - 6 inches on the lake that I fish the most. The weather has been unstable as well with a warm day followed by a few cold ones.

There have been a few threads recently that covered the types of lures used in muddy water. I'm familiar with the rules of thumb for muddy water (i.e. the use of bulky lures that move water, the use of bright or dark colors and rattles, fish hold tight to cover, and bass tend to be shallow in muddy water), but I have some other thoughts about bass location under cold and muddy circumstances.

(1) Will bass still tend to be shallow based on the muddy water rule of thumb when the water is this cold, or will they be deeper most of the time based on the season (i.e. late winter to early prespawn). Would you expect the bass to be shallow at all times due to the mud, or do they stay deeper as they would under normal clarity conditions and maybe only move up shallow on a very warm day?

(Ans) It has been my experience that bass in water temperatures below 50 degrees will seek the warmest water available to them that has sufficient DO levels and prey. This late in the year means nothing to bass, the water temperature rules the day. Water clarity with suspended particles of soil from run off, is different than tanic stained water. Try looking for the clearest warmest water. Bass feed by sight when they can see well and use their other senses combined together in low light conditions. Spring water for example tends to be clear and 60 degrees year around, locate the springs.

(2) Another rule of thumb states that light penetration is approximately 3 times the depth you can see your lure. If I can only see my lure down to 3 inches before it disappears, that rule of thumb would put light penetration at only 9 inches. Even if I stretch it a little and say the light penetration is 2 feet, if the bass are deeper they will never see the lure and will have to depend entirely on the senses of hearing, smell, and the lateral line. If the fish are deeper and only move up shallow occasionally, it would seem the best time to catch a fish is when they move up, but the rest of the time would be more difficult.

(Ans) Use a spinnerbait with bright nickle blades and drop it down until you can't see the blades reflect, that is about the limit of light penetration, at least 3 feet in off color water.

(3) Finally, under cold, muddy conditions bass are usually not aggressive. I generally have to saturate the probable locations with casts to provoke a strike. It is imperative that I am fishing in the right locations most of the time or I'm going to waste a lot of time. This lake has a ton of structure/cover options that match the season so I already have a lot to sort through.

(Ans) Use the same lures and presentation that you would for night fishing, only slow way down. Black jigs, Black worms with rattles, single blade "thumper" spinnerbairs, buzzbaits.

WRB

The last two years, my fishing at this lake, during this season, and under these conditions has been a struggle. Any thoughts you can provide to clarify my thinking or to give me a new direction is appreciated. Fortunately, it looks like Spring is truly arriving this week with consistent temperatures. The water temps should be moving up soon. :)

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Most sensible solution: Stay home.

Alternative #1:

You have to hit them on the head

and your best bet is tight to cover.

#2 Something loud, bright and moves

lots of water. (Has never worked for me).

::)

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Kent, the thought has crossed my mind to stay home but when you've got the itch you have to scratch it. ;) I have other places to fish where my luck is better, but it's really become a goal of mine to crack Smithville's code in all the conditions I experience there since it is the closest lake to me.

Thanks for the answers WRB. The baits you mentioned are pretty much what I've used. Spinnerbaits are a confidence bait for me and I have chartreuse, black, and black/red with single Colorado blades. I also use black worms with rattles and black jigs with rattles and bulky trailers. These normally work for me in muddy water but when the clarity is less that 6 inches it becomes a whole new ballgame. I have tried black buzzbaits as well but have had no luck with them which was actually part of the reason for the questions regarding whether the fish will be in shallow warm muddy water, or will they sometimes be in normal depths for early prespawn. It would seem to me that the buzzbait would only work if they were up shallow with the clarity of this water.

Fishfordollars, you mention fishing the first drop out which is what I would be doing under these conditions if the water wasn't this muddy. Will the fish be at the first drop but tend to suspend shallower due to the mud?

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Like others stated, TIGHT to cover and along side drop offs. I would stick to jigs and t-rigged plastics. If all else fails throw a rattle trap man. I have had good luck with them in cold water!

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As mentioned in the original post I am familiar with all of the axioms for fishing muddy water such as fishing shallow, fishing tight to cover, fishing bulky lures, and fishing dark or bright colors. What I'm trying to clarify is bass location in cold, muddy, late-winter to prespawn water. We all learn that fish tend to be shallow and tight to cover in really muddy water but when that water is at late winter to prespawn temperatures I'm trying to determine if the shallow water axiom still holds true in most cases. It would seem to me that none of the literature ever addresses this conundrum. In 46 - 50 degree water, under normal clarity conditions, I catch most of my fish in 6 - 12 feet of water at the first break or drop-off.

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The flashy spinnerbait in #2 was suggested to determine the depth of light with. You can use a white disk, however most fishermen don't carry one in the boat. If the water has less than 3 feet of light penetration during a bright sunny day, the water is extremely dirty and the bass will try to avoid it due the silting their gill rakers. If the dirty water is only surface water, the deeper water maybe clearer.

I don't know if you are bank fishing or in a boat. If in a boat, use you sonar to locate bass. If you can't meter any life, then it's usually up tight near the bank or a clearer creek arm.

Storm run off water clears fairly quickly, within a few days. The bass are staging somewhere and will move up when the water warms.

Black grape with blue neon stripe worms with a paddle tail or big curl tail and jigs in the same colors are a good choice in dirty water. Lots of scent, rattles and go fishing.

If the water is rising, the bass will move up into new flooded areas, otherwise they hold back on the breaks.

WRB

PS: Using the spinnerbait to determine depth of light; reel it up to the rod tip and stick the down into the water and move it back and forth. You should see flashes about 1/3 to 1/2 the rod length.

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The flashy spinnerbait in #2 was suggested to determine the depth of light with. You can use a white disk, however most fishermen don't carry one in the boat. If the water has less than 3 feet of light penetration during a bright sunny day, the water is extremely dirty and the bass will try to avoid it due the silting their gill rakers. If the dirty water is only surface water, the deeper water maybe clearer.

I don't know if you are bank fishing or in a boat. If in a boat, use you sonar to locate bass. If you can't meter any life, then it's usually up tight near the bank or a clearer creek arm.

Storm run off water clears fairly quickly, within a few days. The bass are staging somewhere and will move up when the water warms.

Black grape with blue neon stripe worms with a paddle tail or big curl tail and jigs in the same colors are a good choice in dirty water. Lots of scent, rattles and go fishing.

If the water is rising, the bass will move up into new flooded areas, otherwise they hold back on the breaks.

WRB

PS: Using the spinnerbait to determine depth of light; reel it up to the rod tip and stick the down into the water and move it back and forth. You should see flashes about 1/3 to 1/2 the rod length.

Thanks, WRB. I'm in a boat using two LMS520C sonars. I have marked fish at the first break which is what I would see with normal clarity and I have caught some of these fish, but as I said it has been a struggle to get bites. Funny thing is the water is very muddy but the lake is still a half foot below normal pool. There has been a lot of run-off from the upper end of the lake and the siltation has actually caused problems at a ramp up there. It's too shallow to put larger boats in at that ramp. A few weeks ago they opened up the gates and ran a lot of water through to keep the lake near normal pool and it has been very muddy ever since. This is a 7200 acre lake and from the dam to the end of the riverine portion of the lake is about 16 miles so it drains a pretty good area. In addition to rain some of the main points of the lake have been washing away over the years and it is becoming an issue.  They have started a project where they are placing rock around some of the points to protect them from further erosion.  Even near the dam the visibility wasn't over 6 - 8 inches last Thursday.

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The flashy spinnerbait in #2 was suggested to determine the depth of light with. You can use a white disk, however most fishermen don't carry one in the boat. If the water has less than 3 feet of light penetration during a bright sunny day, the water is extremely dirty and the bass will try to avoid it due the silting their gill rakers. If the dirty water is only surface water, the deeper water maybe clearer.

I don't know if you are bank fishing or in a boat. If in a boat, use you sonar to locate bass. If you can't meter any life, then it's usually up tight near the bank or a clearer creek arm.

Storm run off water clears fairly quickly, within a few days. The bass are staging somewhere and will move up when the water warms.

Black grape with blue neon stripe worms with a paddle tail or big curl tail and jigs in the same colors are a good choice in dirty water. Lots of scent, rattles and go fishing.

If the water is rising, the bass will move up into new flooded areas, otherwise they hold back on the breaks.

WRB

PS: Using the spinnerbait to determine depth of light; reel it up to the rod tip and stick the down into the water and move it back and forth. You should see flashes about 1/3 to 1/2 the rod length.

Thanks, WRB. I'm in a boat using two LMS520C sonars. I have marked fish at the first break which is what I would see with normal clarity and I have caught some of these fish, but as I said it has been a struggle to get bites. Funny thing is the water is very muddy but the lake is still a half foot below normal pool. There has been a lot of run-off from the upper end of the lake and the siltation has actually caused problems at a ramp up there. It's too shallow to put larger boats in at that ramp. A few weeks ago they opened up the gates and ran a lot of water through to keep the lake near normal pool and it has been very muddy ever since. This is a 7200 acre lake and from the dam to the end of the riverine portion of the lake is about 16 miles so it drains a pretty good area. In addition to rain some of the main points of the lake have been washing away over the years and it is becoming an issue. They have started a project where they are placing rock around some of the points to protect them from further erosion. Even near the dam the visibility wasn't over 6 - 8 inches last Thursday.

Passing cold water through a lake can turn it over and mix bottom silt with the already dirty water and that can and has caused fish kills. The bass aren't going to be too happy of campers until things settle down somewhat. I would find and target any isolated rock or wood that maybe on or near the breaks or points at the depth you have metered bass and caught bass. Difficult conditions, slow down and saturate the best areas.

WRB

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Muddy water does not mean all bass leave deep water for the shallows ;)

From your description this muddy condition is from runoff which would tell me to stay way from feeder creeks and especially the back half of these creeks. The farther away from the source of the mud the clearer the water will be. Quite often deeper water will disperse the mud quicker than shallow water if it's far enough away from the source.

Believe me in spite of the muddy conditions the bass will find a Texas Rig, Carolina Rig, or Jig-N-Craw in deep water, do not be afraid to throw them. I would not how ever throw a straight tail worm because they do not move much water; this would be ideal conditions for Rage Tail Anaconda's, Craws, or Space Monkeys. Another selection would be Ole School Lunker Lures Original Rattleback or Triple Rattleback Flipping Jigs in Black Chartreuse.

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I've experienced very similar conditions to what you have described...

Upon trying and contemplating, I found that catchable bass were found suspended, but high in the water column, just off deep cover.

I'm not going to go ichthyologist on you, but I noticed that in the lakes I fish, bass would move out along laydowns, treetops, etc out towards deeper/open water but stay shallow. No-one ever fishes these areas. I'm talking about the top 1-4 ft. of water over 20 ft. just off of a downed tree, etc. Most folks are casting towards/parallel to the wood cover with their boats sitting right over where I'm catching the fish.

The best baits I've used for fishing these areas are medium-heavy weight spinnerbaits fished w/ various retrieves, as well as mid-running cranks/lipless cranks. I find fish in the same areas (w/ similar water temperatures) that I would find them in clear lakes while utilizing a suspending jerk, but the water has very little visibility.

It's almost as if they stay in that higher temperature surface area, located where the closer cover elements to their wintering depths exist, and hang (literally) in that zone.

The fishing conditions aforementioned are synonomous w/ (in my locale) the 50-55 degree water temperatures and w/ visibility in the 4-12 inch range...

It's just one of those patterns that most people don't think to try. As soon as it's high water, they are flipping and pitching...I have been trying something different and it's working...And these are dirty lake largemouth BTW!

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Read the other posts fairly closely but didn't see it mentioned...

Just wanted to add that in areas w/ decent current that that runoff "mud" band can exist high in the water column whereas the lower depths could be clear(er) than the top current area.

I've experienced this scenario not only in a hydroelectric impoundment (not w/ <8 in. visibility, like you, though) but also in medium-size undammed river systems.

Just because that top layer is muddy and colored doesn't always mean that the bottom layers aren't settled and/or clearer...

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Thanks for all the comments.  You've all been very helpful.   :)

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Lotsa good comments here -really good. You are in mostly uncharted waters I think though.

I'll throw in 2cents:

My first thought is: Go someplace else -especially if this is not a normal situation for those bass. I've seen extended muddy conditions in normally clearer waters and watched the bass (smallies) get skinny! Tells me they weren't coping too well.

Tight to cover seems to be true with both bass and trout. In many trout streams muddy conditions are common and I literally go to flippin' brush and wood. But, snowmelt which brings plummeting water temps and silt just kills the fishing -the worst conditions on a trout stream. It's tougher to affect stillwater though so this plummeting temps probably isn't much of a factor in bass fishing. You're dealing with relatively stable cold temps -less of an issue I think.

I think the suspended near vertical cover is interesting -if you have it.

I'd probably use two things (and save the time of having tie on other lures): a black CO bladed single-spin with a slow straight (non erratic) retrieve -something they can find and catch. And a black jig-n-pig and flip right inside of whatever you got. It should fall slowly.

So...let us know what new ground you break! Or, play it safe like everyone else and find different water.

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So are you fishing Burtons and MSTA?

No, I don't fish the tournaments at Smithville.

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So are you fishing Burtons and MSTA?

No, I don't fish the tournaments at Smithville.

Then why in the hell would you choose that lake to figure out? :o

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So are you fishing Burtons and MSTA?

No, I don't fish the tournaments at Smithville.

Then why in the hell would you choose that lake to figure out? :o

I, quite often, work very long hours and this lake is the closest lake to me.  When time is short you often don't have a choice.  Besides, I like the challenge.  There are other places I could go and catch fish for sure, but I believe this will help me become a better angler.  And Smithville has some hogs.  The winning team on Sunday had just over 20 lbs and big fish was over 8 lbs.  Unfortunately, only two teams were able to get a limit and everybody else had 3 fish or less.  Find the right place at the right time and you can catch some good fish here.  I think it's worth the time.   ;)

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I wouldn't think you are too cold there at this time. If you have a good warming day I'd definitely check out very shallow cover.

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I wouldn't think you are too cold there at this time. If you have a good warming day I'd definitely check out very shallow cover.

Water temps are still ranging from 46 - 52.  Nights have been in the 30s with some 20s now and then.  Highs have been in the 50s with a 60 degree day thrown in now and then.  That is all changing this week.  

Monday - lows in 30s, highs in 60s

Tuesday - lows in 30s, highs in 60s

Wednesday - lows in 40s, highs in 70s

Thursday - lows in 50s, highs in low 80s

Friday - lows might reach 60, highs in low 80s

The water will be warming up but I've been dealing with this for a few weeks and I want to be prepared for the next late Spring.  But for now, bring on the prespawn and spawn!   :)

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I would check the first break line out from the bank ;)

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You are at least a month away from bass moving up into shallow water to stay. Late afternoons on the sunny side of the protected areas that has deep water access close by, that is another story.

Isolated structure like rock piles or any stumps would be my choice, if located on or very near a deep water breakline. That is where those larger bass should be and I would be spending a lot of time casting a jig to those spots. Find the fish and stay on them.

WRB

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