Sunday, August 17, 2014

How Muddy is Too Muddy When Fishing for Smallmouth Bass? (08/17/14)

Hello Folks,

I went fishing with my good angling buddy, Josh Kreider, this past Thursday, August 14, 2014. It was two days after several inches of rain fell across our state from a low pressure front that dumped over eight inches of rain in the Baltimore/Washington area! They had flash flooding that took over the airports... An amazingly large amount of water fell that day.

Our Susquehanna River rose from 4.3' to 5.1' or 9.6 inches of river rise. That is a heck of a lot of water in a river that is over a mile wide in some spots! Yes, it's an awful lot of water, but it also brings a lot of silt and such into the river system. This silt muddies the water up quite quickly and makes smallmouth bass fishing rather difficult, to say the least,

Smallmouth guides like Lance Dunham from "LD Guide Service" on the North Branch who fishes a large stretch of river in and around the Terrytown Launch, has become rather accustomed to the muddy water that enters the North Branch of the Susquehanna River from the New York farmlands. His experience has made him a very good guide under these muddy water conditions.

Most of the better anglers and those who "fish for a living" will agree that one must toss dark colors to present a large profile, loud thumping noises for sound attraction, and/or bright colors to create an visual attraction for our smallmouth bass to be drawn to. Gawdy may be another way to describe these bright colors.

So, a dark black crankbait or Firetiger Big-O or a Firetiger/Chartreuse Spinnerbait may fit this bill. When you see these "ugly baits" in the water, you may wonder, "What on Earth would ever want to eat anything that looks or sounds like that!?" In fact, my good friend, Coach Dell Jackson, describes my Firetiger Big-O as "T's Ugly Bait"... LOL!

1/2 oz Spinnerbait in Firetiger Color with muddy water as it's background...
 photo e9b6d2d6-71bc-4100-857b-b2faa3537771_zpse34de459.jpg

A few years ago, while fishing on a fast rising Susquehanna river from Long Level out of Ray Caldwell's Ranger Bass Boat, we were facing terrible fishing conditions... TERRIBLE! I had chosen to fish a 1/2 oz. Firetiger spinnerbait with Colorado blades most of the day. I had also tossed loud and noisy lipless crankbaits, as well as, lipped crankbaits. Neither one of us had caught anything with only thirty minutes left to fish. Every club boat that we came across that day were also facing similar conditions without any fish in their boats.

We decided to fish just below the launch, the launch that had a walkway which I had to step down about three feet to get into the boat when we launched and which now, I needed only to step level to exit the boat! There was a small creek entrance below that ramp with a muddy silt hump which often was exposed during normal river levels. I tossed that Firgetiger Spinnerbait out across that now submerged silt hump as far as I could possibly do and "Whack!" my first "keeper" smallmouth bass was in the boat. Not only it our first, but she was our only bass after eight hours of fishing in completely muddy water that was on the rise... "I was lucky!"

Well, I can't say that I was completely lucky. We had tried every lure we owned that fit those muddy water lures descriptors that all the fishing authors write about. We even fished all the locations for rising river waters... banks, mid-river grass beds and islands. Despite all that knowledge between the two of us, we were unable to rouse up a bass strike all day long until that one measly fish finally took my spinnerbait.

That lone fish placed me in the top three anglers for the tournament!

So, this past Thursday, Josh and I had to figure out a way to make the smallmouth bass bite. We first tried the muddy water west shoreline as the water had rose against the bank and presented a positive situation for us. What we did notice was that the river had crested only a few hours before we arrived and it was now dropping slowly. After about twenty minutes or so, we decided to head out and seek less muddy conditions which we found in the mid-river... grass beds and islands. These grass-beds are excellent filters for the muddy river water.

As we were heading to the mi-river, I noticed that the water conditions were improving and that the sun was trying to escape from behind the heavy cloud cover... Good conditions for a chrome bladed spinnerbait. But the current was still strong and I decided to grab a 1/2 oz. chrome bladed Double Willow spinnerbait. As we were moving, I tied that spinnerbait on in place of my 1/2 oz. Firetiger spinnerbait,

We eventually settled into our first mid-river fishing spot near several grass beds, I told Josh what I had done and why. He continued to fish his chartreuse spinnerbait and I began to fish my chrome bladed spinnerbait. Within two casts, I had a 17" smallie in the boat. The switch to the chrome blades and the introduction of the sun after such cloudy coverage provided a successful combination in muddy water conditions...

Josh threw his chartreuse blades for awhile until he grabbed his smaller bladed Double Willow Mouse colored War Eagle and tied it on. But he still struggled to bring in a smallmouth to hand. He did eventually figure out the correct combination when he grabbed a Mouse colored War Eagle with the 4.0 big Willow Leaf blade! He nailed a 17.5" smallmouth bass soon afterwards.

Wind and Mud seem to never be friends to anglers.

Before we made the decision to move our fishing position last Thursday, Josh had gotten his spinnerbait hung on the bottom just below a set of riffles. I fired up the big engine to go chase after that spinnerbait, And,s soon as I turned the key and the motor roared, a fish smacked into the side of the boat!!! A few seconds later, another fish hit the boat. Josh called out, "What was that!" I told him that we were in shallow and dirty enough water that we were frightening the fish and they were running from us and "banging" directly into the hull. We've all seen those Asian Carp videos that show them flying out of the water and into boats filled with laughing passengers. Well, this was a similar situation but with American carp, catfish, walleye, and smallmouth bass as our scared "flying" fish,

Another spot that this happens quite often is at the top of the chute that leads into the Goldsboro Launch on the York County side of the river. I can remember many years ago fishing a Pa. B.A.S.S. District 3 tournament in this area and the fish were constantly smacking into the hull due to the muddy water and shallow conditions.

It's funny how certain situations remain with us throughout our lives...

Take Care and Be Safe!