How to Fish Muddy Water

Catching bass in muddy water can be challenging, especially on lakes where visibility changes dramatically. After reading this guide you will better understand how muddy water affects bass behavior and how to catch them during ever-changing water conditions.

Determine Your Lake’s Normal Visibility

It’s important to understand your lake’s normal visibility level. Some lakes will have 20ft+ of visibility while others may only have visibility for a couple of feet. It is important to know what is normal for your lake because bass are use to that level of visibilityand have adapted to it, that is their normal.

If the lake that normally has 20ft of vis suddenly becomes 10ft of vis then the bass will consider the water muddy. On the other hand, the lake that normally has 2ft of vis suddenly clears to 5ft then that water would be considered clear to the bass.

What bass considers clear or muddy differs from lake to lake. If you decided what lure, color, or technique to use solely by comparing the two lake’s visibility numbers then you would have completely missed what the bass are looking for and likely would not have been successful that day.

On one lake you may need bright colors like white or chartreuse to fish 3ft of visibility while on another, you may need a more natural color like ghost minnow for the same visibility. It all comes down to how the current situation differs from that lake’s normal. So pay attention each time you are on the water and adapt from there. The more time you spend on the water the better you will be able to determine your lakes normal.

How Muddy Water Affects Bass

Now that you have a better idea of what muddy water means for your lake, let’s go over how it affects bass.

Visibility

The most obvious effect of muddy water is on visibility. In muddy water, you will need brighter and bolder colors for bass to see. Additionally bass will rely more on sound and vibration to find their prey. This is why it’s common to see bladed or baits with rattles used for muddy water.

Safety

The change in visibility also plays a role in how safe bass feel. Lower visibility allows bass to remain hidden and feel safer at shallower depths than they would in clear water. The lower vis gives them a short window of time they can safely move up shallower than they would on clearer conditions.

New Feeding Ground

Muddy water often means heavy rain bringing in dirt and debris from creeks and runoff. Heavy rain also means a rising water level that floods new hunting grounds. This is especially common during the spring. Along with a new hunting ground, the runoff will wash insects into the water which are snacked on by bass and the baitfish they hunt.

Warmth

Another lesser-known effect murky conditions have is on water temperature. Water with sediment absorbs and retains heat from the sun much more than clearer water. This can play a big role during the spring as bass start moving up from the deeper water. During this time bass will often move up shallow during storms and muddy conditions and retreat back as soon as the water starts clearing back up.

Muddy conditions are often associated with springtime. During the spring, rain and rising water levels play a big role in when bass do their spawning migration. For more information about this migration read our spring bass fishing guide.

Catching Bass in Shallow Murky Water

When bass moves up super shallow due to muddy water it is important you be extra stealthy. They will not be used to being so shallow and will be very easy to spook. So cut your main engine further back, slowly lower your trolling motor in, avoid dropping things on the boat, use lures that won’t get hung up. If you have to move your boat to get unsnagged then you will scare the bass away and kill that spot.

Best Lures for Fishing Muddy Water

1. Flippin Jig

During the spring it is common for temperatures to fluctuate day to day. These fluctuations can cause bass to stop wanting to feed. These bass will still move up shallow to enjoy the warmer muddy water. Jigs are perfect for targeting these bass because they allow you to slow down. Additionally, they rarely get hung up so they are perfect for fishing thick flooded cover.

I recommend using a 1/2oz Dirty Jigs No-Jack V2 in a solid dark color like black, blue, or purple when fishing muddy water. For more in-depth recommendations or to learn more about how to fish a jig, check out our jig fishing guide.

Best Jig Trailers for Muddy Water

When fishing muddy water pair your jig with a trailer that has a ton of movement. Here are my favorites jig trailers with a lot of movement:

2. Lipless Crankbait

A lipless crankbait is a great muddy water bait for covering water. Fan cast and cover as much water as you can until you get bites. In muddy water, I typically start in searching in the 3-5ft depth. Depending on the depth, I either go with an LV-500 for deeper water or a 1/2oz Red Eye Shad for anything less than 5ft deep.

For a more in-depth breakdown check out our lipless crankbait buyers guide.

3. Ultra Shallow Squarebills

Ultra shallow squarebills are perfect when water is rising and muddy. When the water is rising and murky bass will often get super shallow following the shoreline looking for food that has been flooded or washed into the water. Squarebills are great at deflecting off cover and drawing reaction bites. Squarebills are also super buoyant so if they start to get stuck you can pause and let them float up and get free. So you don’t have to worry about getting hung up when fishing that thick newly flooded shoreline

4. Squarebills

Standard squarebills, like their ultra-shallow variations, are also great for muddy water. Standard squarebills are more ideal once the water level has stopped rising. During these conditions, bass will still move up shallow but they won’t be as close to the bank. You still want to deflect off cover and bottom to draw in reaction bites.

Check out our squarebill buyers guide to learn more.

5. Spinnerbaits

Spinnerbaits are perfect for murky open water. They move a ton of water and produce a lot of vibration due to their blades. Bass can feel vibrations so spinnerbaits are able to draw in bass even if they don’t initially see your bait. The spinning blades also put out a lot of flash to help draw in bass.

Muddy water is the perfect time for bright and bold painted spinnerbait blades. As the water starts to clear then I move to gold blades.

For additional spinnerbait tips please read our spinnerbait guide.

6. Swim Jig

Swim jigs are a little more finesse than spinnerbaits. They don’t put out as much vibration. In theory, they shouldn’t do as well as spinnerbaits in muddy water but that simply isn’t the case. You can fish swim jigs in even the thickest cover without worrying about getting hung up. Additionally, you have the benefit of the strong jig hook to fight even the biggest bass out of thick cover without bending out.

The Dirty Jigs Swim Jig 1/2oz is my favorite in either Citrus Shad or Crappie color.

Swim Jig Murky Water Trailer

The River2Sea D walker is my go-to trailer for swim jigs in murky water. The D Walker is more ridged than most swimbaits so it adds some rocking motion to the bait along with the standard tail kick.

Best Bait Colors for Muddy & Murky Water

When fishing muddy water you need bold, bright colors to be visible. The best colors for standing out in muddy water are reds, whites, and chartreuse. These colors catch the most fish during murky conditions.

Remember to base your color selection on your lake’s normal, as the water starts to clear up you will need to transition to more natural colors.

Now that you know how to successfully fish in muddy water, learn about other fishing conditions.