by Phillip Walker
Bassdozer with permission of Honey
Hole Magazine, Inc.
Clear water has always been considered difficult
to fish, What do you think of when someone mentions clear water?
Spinning rods, light line and deep water? Sissy tackle is
required, according to most country fried southern bassers.
Maybe, but not all bass in clear water live in deep water and
some of the bass that live in clear water can break that fairy
wand with the flick of a tail.
Here in central Texas, the Highland Lakes
chain is blessed with not only incredible numbers of both
largemouth and Guadalupe bass, but some really big bass have been
caught in recent years.
The Colorado River feeds the Highland Lakes,
which begin at Buchanan, then Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls, Travis,
Austin, and on to Town Lake, which runs through downtown Austin.
All of these lakes have very clear water so for the purposes of
this article, I will refer to these lakes but by no means are
these techniques limited here. Some of these techniques I learned
while reading about the Western bass fishing scene. I applied
them to my local lakes, so they will work anywhere there is clear
Clear water can be defined as at least
five-foot visibility to as much as 20. Clear water allows the
bass to go almost anywhere in the lake. Because of low water
fertility, the deep water has ample oxygen.
To consistently score on clear-water bass, you
must match your tackle to the current conditions and patterns. As
mentioned before, spinning tackle plays a vital role in
clear-water fishing for several reasons. Light line can be
critical with lure presentation as well as generating more
strikes due to reduced visibility. It is also imperative to scale
the size of the lures down and smaller lures cast much easier on
spinning tackle. But not all situations will call for such light
Fishing boat docks or flooded brush may call
for heavier bait-casting tackle. When pitching jigs and soft
plastics to docks, I may use 17- or 20-pound test because I feel
that the strike is a reaction bite and the bass did not have time
to inspect the line. All that is seen is the bait falling and the
bass inhales it. When fishing around flooded brush I will go to
15-pound test in a low visibility color such as green.
Due to the extreme fluctuations of Lake Travis
since the drought last year, we have been blessed with an
abundance of shoreline cover such as bean bushes, willows and
buck brush which has provided the bass with incredible shallow
water cover. In the past, bass have used shelves, rocky points
and docks for cover and ambush sites, but the flooded bushes have
provided the finest fishing that we have seen in years. When bass
in clear water have ample shallow cover, they will move up into
shallow water and are much easier to catch there.
Lure selection for clear-water lakes should
first be based on the daily conditions, which in turn dictate the
position of the bass. Cloudy, windy days will put bass on the
feed in clear water. The wind is your friend on the Highland
Lakes, but use common sense when navigating in rough water and
believe me it can really get rough here at times. Windblown
main-lake and secondary points and pockets are always a good bet
when baitfish are present. Keep an eye out for blue herons on
windy points; they will tell you that shad are present.
Spinnerbaits and jerkbaits are great search
lures on windy days. Scale your spinnerbait down to a
quarter-ounce and you will get more bites. As for skirt colors,
it is important to keep it natural and be sure to trim the skirt
and add a trailer hook. More than half of the bass that I catch
on spinnerbaits in clear water will be hooked on the trailer
hook. For the smaller spinnerbaits, use a small #4 treble as a
stinger. Nickel and hologram blades work great because flash is
the most important characteristic of a spinnerbait in clear
Suspending jerkbaits are another great tool
for locating bass in clear water. There is something about a bait
that just sits there, after moving erratically, that really
trigger bass on the Highland Lakes. For years anglers have been
modifying their jerkbaits with various weights to make them
suspend. Those baits were a best-kept secret for a long time, but
too many tournaments were won on then for people not to notice.
Now every major manufacturer offers a suspending model.
Experiment with your retrieve until the bass tell you how they
want it, but most will invariably strike it on the pause.
In the warmer months, soft plastics will be
the best choice because the bass are feeding more so it is time
to slow your presentation down. Soft plastic jerkbaits like the
Zoom Fluke and the Kalin's Floozy will replace the hard jerkbait.
These baits are deadly when fished around flooded brush and
Keep your colors natural such as shad or
watermelon and fish the bait weightless in water less than 20
feet deep. Most clear-water lakes here are full of threadfin and
gizzard shad, crawfish, and a variety of sunfish. Learn what the
bass are feeding on and match that natural bait with a soft
plastic lure. As for crawfish, the new skirted Twin Tail grubs
work great here and have been known to catch some big bass. The
bass in clear, rocky central Texas lakes feed on crawfish year
round. Rig this bait on a football head for fishing open water
ledges or points. When fishing docks or brush, I will rig it
Texas style with a screw-in type sinker. If the skirted grub is
not getting strikes, try a tube bait in the same areas. Remember
to keep your colors natural such as watermelon and green pumpkin.
One big advantage of fishing clear water lakes
is the ability to sight fish. Not only in the spring for bedding
bass, but cruising bass in marinas are just as exciting to catch
as spawners. On the Highland Lakes, bass have two choices for
shade and cooler temperatures, deep water or overhead cover.
Overhead cover might be an isolated dock or an entire marina
That's right, some of the best bass fishing in central Texas is
found right under the feet or maybe I should say boats, of
hundreds of people. Marinas provide everything that a clear-water
bass needs to survive. Shade, cover, food, and surprisingly a
lack of fishing pressure.
The bottoms of the boat stalls are covered
with algae, which in turn attracts the shad that attract
the bass. Marinas, however, can be difficult to fish effectively.
There are so many cables, crossbars and tight spaces that it only
rewards the very best casters. Learn to skip a bait under a dock
like a stone. Spinning tackle is easier, but bait-casting is more
precise. It just takes more practice. Sometimes I will get down
on my knees to access a particular opening between a dock and a
boat. Choose a lure that skips easily like a weightless soft
jerkbait or a grub. If you can get into the very far reaches of a
dock, then you will catch bass that other anglers will miss.
Another way to score on clear-water lakes is
to fish at night. On heavily pressured clear-water lakes such as
Travis, the bass will become less cautious and roam shallower
water when feeding at night. There are hundreds of lighted docks
on any of the Highland Lakes and any of these can hold bass as
long as there is a little brush under them. Texas-rigged worms
and spinnerbaits are good choices for night fishing.
The lower end of Lake Travis has dozens of
deep main-lake ledges that can hold incredible numbers of bass
during the summer and winter. This is classic structure fishing
and requires the use and understanding of good electronics. Most
of these ledges have at least a 20-foot break and some drop as
much as 50 feet. This is Guadalupe bass country, and these hard
pulling little bass dominate the deep structure. When you catch
one, you may catch a hundred if the timing is right. A deadly
technique is counting down a 1/8-ounce smoke glitter grub on
light spinning tackle and hopping it off the ledge.
Topwaters are always most effective in clear
water. Some of my most memorable topwater trips have occurred
during the middle of the day here on Travis. There is something
about a walk-the-dog type bait that really attracts bass in clear
water. Zara Spooks, Sammys, and Chug Bugs are great choices here
in central Texas. Clear is my preferred color, but bone works
great on cloudy, overcast days. Do not be afraid to throw the
topwater in a hundred feet of water if bass and bait are present.
Some of my biggest Travis bass have come on topwaters at marina
breakwaters in water deeper than the Gulf of Mexico.
Bass will suspend under this cover and let the
wind push shad into the area. Clear-water bass will also suspend
over long points and ledges and rise to hit a properly presented
The next time you fish here, or in any clear
water, try some of these patterns. Remember to make long casts,
scale your lure sizes down, and keep your colors natural. Do not
be afraid to fish shallow if there is ample cover present.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For guide service and
information on the Highland Lakes, give Phillip a call at
512-272-9105. He can give you the chance to sample a quality and
a quantity fishery as well as to learn more about fishing