How to Catch More Clear-Water Fish

Fishing in clear water, especially gin-clear water, poses many challenges no matter what the target species. But don't panic, with a few adjustments, you too can catch clear-water fish.

How to Catch More Clear-Water Fish

In clear waters, natural baitfish give off flashes when moving through the aquatic environment. (Shutterstock image)

Clear-water fish, regardless of the target species, provide a special challenge to anglers, but they can be taken with crafty tackle selection and tactics. To be successful in clear waters, attention should focus on all tackle, fishery and environmental parameters as well as specific lure appearance and water-specific techniques.

While muddy water fish are primarily keying in on the artificial lure’s action, fish in clear water are usually more influenced by the shape, size and coloration of their newfound “forage.”

Selection of the right lure in clear water situations is very important. A life-like artificial lure that is realistic in all details will attract fish under the toughest fishing conditions. In such situations, plugs and soft plastic baits that most closely approximate the prevalent live forage will usually produce best. Natural pattern lures that imitate shad, shiners, sunfish, perch, crustacean, insect larva such as hellgrammites and/or other forage in coloration, profile and even action are especially productive in especially clear waters.

In clear waters, natural baitfish give off flashes when moving through the aquatic environment. Shad or shiner finishes are popular fare to toss because they give off a fairly-realistic baitfish “flash” when retrieved. Pearl, silver and chrome which easily reflect light are highly productive lure colors for many anglers who frequent clear waters.


The shad’s silver-pearl scales are difficult to copy in a lure’s finish. They tend to blend into their primary environment, open water, but when the forage moves into areas with cover, their presence is easily detected. Silver-sided lures are, thus, very productive in clear waters with heavy cover.


Many manufacturers produce a replica that closely resembles a real crayfish and reddish brown, orange, greenish gray and dark brown are all stimulating colors to clear water fish because they are the hues of the crayfish clan. Matching the color and size of the crustacean in the particular waters you are fishing is the key to catching more fish. If the forage size and color is unknown, stick to a dark brown in a smaller version. Most forage in clear water fisheries are smaller in size, so downsizing lure size may be more effective.

In addition to lure size, other tackle considerations for gin-clear waters include line visibility and terminal tackle. It is usually wise to employ low-diameter, clear lines such as a fluorocarbon and minimize use of snaps, snap swivels, weights and other terminal tackle. Various finesse rigs with light hooks, jig heads and minimal weights and ultralight tackle are also very effective in clear waters.

Obviously clear waters often provide excellent night fishing, low light and windy day opportunities when underwater visibilities are more limited. Clear waters are often born in rocky, sandy or highly vegetated environments and as such may dictate the type of predominate forage to be found.

They also may help an angler identify prime casting targets (pockets behind boulders or aquatic plant beds) for their often-long casts as well as help with angler or boat positioning. Smart clear water anglers will use and blend in with the terrain in a stealthy approach that’s helpful to success.


Other tips for prime productivity in clear waters include wearing clothes that blend in with the environment, keeping a low profile by wading, kneeling or using float tubes or kayaks, making long casts and fast retrieves when possible. Using “quieter” lures - those without rattles or other noise-making features and imparting a swimming or gliding action rather than crazy antics to the artificial may help you take the challenge out of clear water catching.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Pro angler Jonathan VanDam showcases new offerings at ICAST 2019, including the ultra-thin, big bait boxes, LED-lighted boxes and backpack-able gear lockers. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

Lure Lock Tackle Cases: No-Spill, No-Scent

Lure Lock Tackle Cases: No-Spill, No-Scent

Glenn Walker talks us through the soy-based technology that makes Lure Lock cases spill-proof and scent-proof. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing. Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some...

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the cooler.

By Other Freshwater

6 Tips for Nighttime Crappie

Keith Sutton - June 19, 2017

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the...

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing How-To

When it turns miserably hot in the South, the biggest bass head for the thickest slop. Here's how-to remove them from their vegetative haunts. Playbook

Summer Lure Choices for Thick-Grass Bass

John Felsher - June 16, 2020

When it turns miserably hot in the South, the biggest bass head for the thickest slop. Here's...

It might be a basic rig, but the popping cork can be incredibly effective. Saltwater

Perfect the Popping Cork: Inshore Fishing

Mike Marsh - June 08, 2020

It might be a basic rig, but the popping cork can be incredibly effective.

Take advantage of better topwater lures and tackle to get more action on the surface. Bass

Topwater Tech: Get More Strikes, Hookups

Dr. Jason Halfen - July 08, 2020

Take advantage of better topwater lures and tackle to get more action on the surface.

Floating baits are highly effective for trout, but many anglers leave out a key ingredient. Here's why you should add drift bobbers to your summertime trout arsenal. Playbook

Proven Tips for Fishing Floating Trout Baits

Scott Haugen - June 18, 2020

Floating baits are highly effective for trout, but many anglers leave out a key ingredient....

See More Fishing How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now