Water Clarity and Bait Choice
Water clarity is a sliding scale, and can change depending on the weather. Most bodies of water have reports that will give the average water clarity. (I will get more into lake surveys in another post). Clarity depends on suspended particles in the water and can range from coffee brown to glass clear. As I previously mentioned this can change based on the weather. If the weather has been mostly calm and sunny the clarity will increase, however if it has been rough and rainy then clarity will most likely decrease due to an increase in debris kicked up by the wind and run off. Knowing the water clarity is important because different baits, lure colors and even lines can be impacted by the level of water clarity.
Murky Water-Coffee Brown
This is the lowest clarity, with the average being 0 inches to two feet, and usually only seen in rivers. When the water is the cloudy fish will hunt with their sense of smell and through their lateral line to sense disturbances in the water. In this water it's best to go with live bait, or incredibly "fragrant" dead bait. The most common species being found in these waters are catfishes, bullheads, gars and carps. All of which can live in low oxygen waters and use smell and vibrations to hunt. The other choice is artificial bait that has a strong scent or very high vibrations when it's being retrieved. Color is not a large factor in murky water but that being said, yellows, oranges, reds and whites tend to catch more fish in coffee colored water than other colors.
Moderately Murky Waters-Whiskey
When clarity is between two and 6 feet, in some bigger rivers, shallow bays (which tend to have lower clarity than the rest of the lake) are the usual areas where this level of clarity will be found. Fish will still be relying heavily on sense of smell and detection of vibrations in this color of water. Using fragrant bait, or bait that has a good level of vibration (such as top water baits) will work the best in this water. When using artificial baits, the colors that work best are reds, oranges, and greens. If it is a sunny day then using flashy metallics such as silver or gold will also work very well.
Moderately Clear Water- Sweet Tea Colored
Many shallower sandy bottomed lakes will have this color, with clarity between 6 and fifteen feet depending on the weather. The bottom will be easily seen and changes in depth can be seen from above the water by color. In these waters fish will use sight as their primary hunting sense, as well as smell and vibration detection. This clarity is the first level where line comes into the equation. While previously it was not such a big issue whether mono or braided was used because the fish are mainly using smell, in clearer waters some fish have the ability to see the line if it is braided or very heavy monofilament. When casting artificial baits braided still works. However when trolling, jigging or presenting live bait with a bobber, mono or fluorocarbon line is the best option as it tends to not be visible underwater. The colors of artificial baits in sweet tea colored water that work the best are reds, oranges, chartreuse and flashy metallics, also matching colors to bait fish common to the lake also work.
Clear Water- Like looking through glass
Crystal clear waters, deeper spring fed lakes with rocky bottoms tend to be in this category. Clarity is 15 feet plus and looking through the bottom and things underwater can be clearly seen in full detail. Fishing in these waters is exciting because fish can clearly be seen below, but can also be difficult as the fish can easily see a boat pass overhead or clearly see the line pulling the bait. As with the sweet tea water line type is important in crystal clear water and to avoid a picky fish refusing to strike because it sees the line stick with the same method mono or flouro for everything except casting. Match the bait fish or go bright colors when fishing artificial baits on these waters. Bright oranges, reds and greens work well and of course take advantage of the clarity with metallics that will shine and flash brightly in the clear waters.