Clear Water Benefits

The Elite Series event here on Cayuga Lake in New York is dispelling a myth held by many anglers about northern natural lakes.

I’ve heard people say they are afraid to fish up here because the water is so clear. They think it’s tough to catch fish because of it.

Well, the fact is, clear water is more of a positive than a negative, as a lot of the deep south pros who have fished up here often are finding out.

Make no mistake about it, Cayuga is clear – you can see bottom in 10 feet in most areas and even deeper in others. While that’s pretty clear, I’ve caught bass in a lot clearer water and the same thing has held true: you can use it to your advantage.

For example, you can see the bottom and have a better visual of what you’re fishing and learn the area so much better.

That’s not to say our electronics aren’t necessary in clear water. In fact, my Hummingbird Side and Down Imaging come in handy when looking for grass beds on the deep flats.

But when you can couple that with being able to physically see into the grass, see what’s around dock pilings, see rock piles, it gives you a better perspective of what the area has to offer.

In clear water, bass will relate to anything that gives them shade so visually knowing what’s there is huge.

Perhaps even more important is that you can see the bait and how it looks in the water, and occasionally spot the bass and how they are relating to the cover.

That’s where a good pair of polarized sunglasses are critical and have been one of my most important “tools” here at Cayuga. I’ve been able to see the color of sunfish and perch and the bottom. Everything in a clear water environment is built to emulate its surroundings, so your lures should resemble the color of bottom and habitat you’re fishing.

The exception is the baitfish that roams, such as shiners, alewives, smelt and ciscoes that don’t spend much time on the bottom. They are transparent and silvery in color so you must match lures fished in the upper water column accordingly.

And remember that bass will use clear water to their advantage. They become more of a sight feeder, which means our presentations have to be more natural. Lure colors should closely match the natural forage that the bass are feeding on.

The gaudy, chartreuse and white spinnerbait you slow roll in stained water isn’t going to catch you anything but the most aggressive fish.

Now, you can get away with fast moving baits if the conditions warrant it, such as when there is cloud cover and wind that limit how well a fish gets a look at your bait.

But when the sun is out and the skies are clear, you need a two-pronged approach of either finesse tactics or overpower the fish to get them to bite.

By overpowering them, you can’t give the bass too good of a look at it, so you need to go with heavier weights that plummet natural looking lures quicker.

If you pitch a jig with a ¼ or 3/8 ounce, the lure may fall more seductively, but the fish sees it too well. If it falls quickly, they don’t have as much time to look or think about it. They react to it.

Louisiana pro Greg Hackney, one of the front runners in this tournament and a good friend of mine, is a good example. He says he loves fishing clear lakes with grass, because he’s learned to use it to his advantage.

Northern bass aren’t shy and will attack your baits when you keep them natural and use the presentations mentioned here.

Once you get a feel for this great fishing, you will change your mind and you’ll realize it’s all about the attitude!

—Kevin VanDam