Water color matters

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

Now is about as good a time as I can think of to talk about water color and its importance when it comes to finding aggressive smallmouth. It’s about as cold as it can get throughout most of smallmouth country, and it’s been that way for a week. That means the water is really cold. It’s snowing around the country today and even the South is getting hit with freezing rain.

But, next week is supposed to be different. They’re saying better weather will arrive warmer temperatures, rain and bright sunlight. Things could get really interesting on the water by Tuesday or Wednesday. The rain will drop warm, colored water into almost every lake in the country and the bright sunlight will warm the water up even more. You can be sure that the smallies will notice the change.

What happens is that the more color there is to the water the better it holds heat. It’s kind of like when you wear a black shirt out in the sun in the summertime. You get hot real quick. But if you wear a white shirt and stay in the shade you’ll be a lot cooler. Water does the same thing. Clear water doesn’t warm up as fast as water that has color to it.

This is especially true if you can find some calm water on the north side of the lake where the sun shines on it all day. A perfect place to look might be out from a muddy creek flowing into a bay. Places like that will sometimes be several degrees warmer that the rest of the lake. Like we talked about last week, that temperature increase will pull the baitfish in and the smallies will follow.

Another thing that the color does is make it easier for the fish to ambush their prey. This is true throughout most of the year but right now it really matters because there will be so many baitfish stacked in one relatively small area. Smallmouth have the advantage of having a brown body which matches the mostly brown water. Baitfish have silver bodies so they can’t hide as efficiently.

Don’t worry too much about structure right now. These fish are dealing with survival. They’ll suspend over a completely bare mud bottom if the water temperature is right and if the baitfish are around. You’re fishing the water — temperature and color. Nothing else matters.

When you’re fishing dark water it seems like bigger baits that move a lot of water and make a lot of noise work best. This is probably because it makes them easier for the fish to find. One thing that is different, though, is color. Despite the fact that baitfish are silver it seems like darker colors work best.

Everyone says that’s because they’re easier to find. Supposedly they make a silhouette or something. I have a lot of questions about the why of it but I do know dark colors work better so I guess why doesn’t matter.

Keep warm this weekend and hit the colored water next week!

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