Fishing in clear water ; choosing the right lure!

fishing in clear water

In a previous entry on fishing in clear water, we’ve discussed how to locate fish and how to build a strategy. We’ll find out here how to choose and retrieve lures to maximize your chance to fool fish when the odds are stacked in their favor.

perch fishing

The case about visibility when fishing in clear water

It’s a little obvious but the difference in clear versus stained water is the increased visibility. In some way, it is easier for us to relate because for us humans, sight is our strongest sense. It is, therefore, easier to perceive and understand how our lure will be seen by fish. But it works both ways, with increased visibility, fish can also see the angler or the phoney element of lures.

Then use visibility to your advantage. The fish will see your bait from further away. As the late Doug Hannon pointed out, lures have 2 sets of qualities: drawing and triggering. The former means being able to draw the fish in, that’s mechanical movement, bulky, noisy, and bright colors. The latter means that it’s going to trigger bites: natural random movement, slender profile, silent and camouflaged natural colors.

So the right lure for every situation is striking the right balance between drawing and triggering qualities. In muddy water, we need to go heavy on drawing quality as the lure might be hard to find. In clearwater, however, we need more of the triggering capabilities, because the lure is easy to locate but the fakeness and unnatural behavior will give away the trap. So overall we’re looking at fishing with subtle, natural, slender lures.

fishing in clear water

The best lures for fishing in clear water

Obviously, it will depend on fish species and condition but here are a few to pack on a clearwater fishing trip:

Soft plastics on a jig head:

These lures are great because they are very natural, they can be found in absolutely any size, shape, and color. They are not limited to a certain depth, with the proper jig head size they will fish as deep as you need.  I prefer straight tail worms, finesse shads, and tight action paddle tail swimbaits. Select colors that match the lake bottom.


One of the best clearwater lures, but the color will be very important, it needs to “feel right” before starting fishing. It’s the perfect lure for long casts and covering water quickly. The best jerkbaits will jump side to side in an erratic dance! 


They need to be tight action and be fished rather quickly. I like flat-sided crankbaits for cold water and slender longer models the rest of the year. This is a great solution for fishing structures such as points, drop-offs, or bridge pilings. Lipless crankbaits are great too. They are typical for offshore schools of baitfish.


Because they are on the surface, fish below can’t see them very well. It’s a great way to defeat the visibility advantage for the fish. And any topwater is a good choice, to be honest. Again use the sight sense before anything else, it means stickbait walkers, poppers, and prop baits. Color doesn’t matter as much, a white belly lure will be fine just about any time.


Spinnerbaits are considered more as a stained water lure. But with the right components they can be very good, the main reason is that they can be fished fast. That’s key because fast lures draw reaction strikes and won’t let the fish get a good look at the bait. It’s very important to have some wind to break up the light. I would choose natural-looking skirts with scale patterns and translucent strands. Select lures with willow leaf blades, in gold color for dark bottom lakes such as tannic water and silver blade for the more blueish tints.

Weightless soft plastics:

In clear shallow water ponds, there’s no deep option. Fish have to be fooled by a more subtle presentation. Weightless soft baits are great because they are light and behave very naturally in the water. No clanky treble hooks, no rattles, or mechanical action. They just glide and slide effortlessly. Virtually any model will work but I have my favorites, such as soft stick baits and fluke-type lures. Realistic crawfish imitations or lizards and worms are good too. Any color works as long as it’s watermelon!!

fishing in clear water

Conclusion on fishing in clear water

Fishing deep, fishing fast, making long casts, and avoiding hard thumping lures is the key to fooling wary clear water fish.  Stay tuned for tips and tricks about catching more fish!

clear water fishing