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January 2021

Muddy vs Clear-Water Baits

By : Mark Hicks

The first thing veteran bass pro Todd Faircloth does when he gets to an unfamiliar body of water is to check the water clarity. Whether the water is muddy, murky, stained or clear will dictate which lures he ties on and what colors are most likely to generate bites.

His basic rule of thumb is to go with more natural colors in clear water. In dirtier water, he opts for dark colors in soft plastics baits and bold colors in hard baits.

“The exception is with smallmouth,” Faircloth said. “Sometimes something like a bright chartreuse spinnerbait with chartreuse blades will draw them from a long ways.”

Because Faircloth didn’t grow up fishing light-line finesse tactics, he prefers fishing stained water where he can employ baitcasting tackle. If he’s dealing with a crystalline lake, he will often run upriver looking for water that has some color to it.

Stained Water

“The ideal water visibility for me is a foot to a foot and a half,” Faircloth said. “Dirty water warms faster in the spring and fall. Generally speaking, the fish will be a little more aggressive and not as spooky as they are in clear water.”

A 5-inch Strike King Ocho in the watermelon red flake color is hard to beat when fishing stained water in springtime, Faircloth avowed. He Texas rigs the Ocho with a 4/0 offset round bend hook and fishes it weightless or with a 1/8-ounce Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten Weight.

“I also love to throw Strike King’s Thunder Cricket in stained water, particularly during the prespawn,” Faircloth said. “I usually start with chartreuse and white. If the water is a little dirtier, I go to straight white. The Strike King Blade Minnow is my favorite trailer.”

In late summer and early fall, Faircloth looks for stained water far up the tributaries that feed a given lake. Not only does the stained water work to his advantage, the upper reaches of the tributaries are less affected by the turnover that hampers fishing on the main lake during this period.

“You’ll always catch fish in a creek that has shad and a little flow coming into it,” Faircloth said.

Because the bass are keying on baitfish in this situation, Faircloth generates hard strikes with a 3/8-ounce Strike King Tour Grade Spinnerbait in a shad pattern. A chartreuse and white skirt does well for him in stained water. In clear water he opts for a translucent skirt.

Clear Water

One of Faircloth’s favorite baits in clear water around the spawn is Strike King’s Perfect Plastic KVD Finesse Worm in green pumpkin or watermelon. He wacky rigs the 6 1/2-inch size on a 2/0 straight shank round bend hook and fishes it with spinning tackle and an 8- or 10-pound fluorocarbon leader.

“I like to put a nail weight in the head of the worm,” Faircloth said. “Everybody calls this the Neko rig like it’s something new. We’ve been using that trick for 30 years at Rayburn.”