I recently went fishing with my friend John Flowers who works for the University of Memphis football program. When we arrived at the lake we planned to fish it was unbelievably muddy.
While he and I looked at several acres of water that was the equivalent of Yoo-Hoo, I said, "Well, we might as well fish a while and check the growth rate on the bass in this mud hole."
John couldn't believe we were going to fish, much less catch anything. "Really, you mean we are going fishing here?" he asked.
In his defense, it was so muddy I took a black credit card and held it just beneath the surface, and you couldn't see the card. We could not even see the blades of our spinnerbaits just below the surface.
Still, I had many years of fishing similar conditions to back up my confidence, and I was sure bass could be caught in such conditions. For example, there was this one episode of Bill Dance Outdoors that I filmed several years ago about fishing small ponds. The water was equally muddy then, but I caught lot bass. I did so by repeatedly casting black Booyah spinnerbaits to the same spot and allowing the bass time to better track and target the lure.
As we left the bank, I tried to reassure John. "Do you think if this lake did not clear up for a month, that these bass would stop biting all that time? Of course not, they have to survive. And they certainly don't have the option of leaving this lake to go live in one over the hill that just might be clearer. They can see our lures. They might not see them as well as they would if the water was clear, but they can see them," I said.
Fortunately, in the face of doubt (and I could see the doubt on John's face), a fish helped back up my reassurance. On my third cast, I hooked a 1 1/2-pounder, and, to make a long fish story short, we went on to catch 50 bass and one crappie, fishing black spinnerbaits and XR50 XCalibur Rattle Baits very slowly. We fished from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., and our best 10 fish weighed 4 to 6 pounds each.
We fished the shallows first because I knew if there was such a thing as clear water in that lake, the clearing process would start in the shallows first. We also fished shallow cover because bass are more apt to be object-oriented in stained water.
John ended the day with the obligatory, "I never would have believed it." But, as is the case with many a fishing trip, you have to apply rule No. 1: Get out there and try!
Despite the conditions, to a fish it is always just another day in its life. It's up to you to get out there and figure out how to make them bite.
For more words of wit and wisdom from one of our sport's greatest legends, check out www.billdanceoutdoors.com.