Fishing in clear water can be very difficult. It makes for beautiful lakes and rivers, and a great feel-good moment on a day fishing. But catching fish is another story. Looking down in the water and seeing nothing but water and white sand can be demoralizing. There are a few things we can do about that!
So the name of the game in fishing in clear water is visibility. So first you need to make sure the fish don’t see you. Make long casts, stay well away from potential hot spots. It might be necessary to downsize your line. Keep the sun to your back as much as possible to remain as invisible as possible.
In clear water, fish won’t be holding as tight to cover as they might in muddy water. They will either look for a place to hide deep in shallow cover such as weed or thick brush or they will loosely relate to deep structures. For example on a natural lake, if you have a lone boulder on the bottom, in stained or muddy water, bass, pike, or zander will be right next to it. In clear water, they might be over it or in the vicinity.
The worst-case scenario is clear water, blue sky, high sun conditions. The reason is not just because it will give away our position or the lure’s fakeness. The predator/prey relationship is very well balanced. Prey have escape mechanism and predators have hunting capacity. Game fish are well aware of this and will feed when the balance tips in their favor. That’s why sunset and sunrise are prime feeding times.
So when everything is still and visibility maximized, baitfish have the upper hand and game fish are just waiting it out. The wind creates waves that break light penetration in the water and reduce visibility, just enough to even out the odds a little bit. That’s why you need to pay attention to the wind, and maybe the other side of the lake or another stretch of the river is more exposed to the wind. Maybe it will pick up later that day, whatever the case may be, use the wind to your advantage.
Most game fish are primarily sight hunters. And their main strategy is an ambush. The rule is seeing without being seen. So it makes sense that the best depth is where light penetration ends. If you would want to ambush baitfish you would position yourself in such a way that darkness hides you but you can still see above you. That’s why my default depth for fishing in clear water is where I can keep my lure where sunlight phases out.
To find it I just drop a white lure like a spinnerbait or a soft plastic swimbait in the water and let it sink until it disappears from sight. As I said it’s a default setting, it doesn’t mean the fish are going to be there. There are other factors than visibility that influence fish location. They can be much deeper than that in clear water. But it’s a good place to start. It will change with weather conditions too.
Far from the picture-perfect clear water beach, fishing in clear water is a challenge. But with the right mindset and proper tools, you can have a great day. Stay tuned for part 2 about lure choice for clear water fishing.