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Don't give up on fishing muddy water

Whenever a cold front comes through North Alabama, many anglers stay home, groaning because high winds and heavy rain have created muddy water on Wheeler Lake.

Paul Stackhouse
Outdoors
Paul Stackhouse
Sure, when the water starts looking like chocolate milk, it's going to be hard to catch a nice bag of bass. But fish still need to eat, and they can be caught by determined anglers who like a challenge and take to the water anyway.

When I talk about fishing post-cold front conditions, I'm targeting several days after the front when the wind isn't as strong as it has been. The past weather system that came through this week left wind gusts up to 30 mph from the northwest. When the winds are strong, I recommend staying home.

I don't consider myself an expert at catching largemouth bass in muddy water, but I do have a lot of experience. The following are a few tactics I've used that have caught largemouth bass on Wheeler Lake when the water was dingy.

I actually won a small local tournament many years ago on Wheeler when the water was rolling red. I eluded the sustained 15 mph northwest winds for the main part by easing up and casting in coves the entire day. If you sit back and think about it long enough, many of the small coves and sloughs that follow points have a lot of structure piled up in the back where the water ends. Floating logs, log piles and other large objects get jammed up in the rear of the slough, creating an excellent place to fish for largemouth bass.

While the main river channel is severely muddy, many of the coves I work during adverse weather have water that's somewhere between dingy and clear. When you can find clear water, that creates a great opportunity to hook a big fish.

One drawback to fishing small coves is the noise factor. When making your approach, be sure to rig for silent running. This is especially true if you have an aluminum boat. Set your trolling motor on low and don't walk around the boat more than you have to.

If I have a logjam in the back of the slough, I get a little excited because of the quality fish I've caught in years past under the same conditions. I make sure to have a Texas-rigged plastic worm, usually watermelon/flake or raspberry in color, and I peg the bullet weight with a toothpick to make the bait easier to handle. Also, I add a bead and insert noisemakers (clackers) into the worm.

Once you are in casting range, throw the offering as far into the slough as possible. I try to throw the plastic worm on top of a log. After doing this, I gently bring the worm down the log and into the water.

Once the bait has reached the bottom, I twitch my rod tip a couple of times to create some noise that generally will imitate a crawfish. If a big bass is nearby, the bite usually comes quickly.

One other technique I like to use when fishing for bass in dingy water is throwing lures that have a bright flash or offer a lot of vibration. If I can find rock piles and a slow-to-moderate current, throwing a spinnerbait with a thumper blade or a crankbait with plenty of small pellets can attract attention fast.

Be sure to make several casts in the same location to give a big bass time to zoom to the noise and vibration, which they can detect through their lateral line.

Say ouch

Earlier this month during an FLW Stren Series Western Division tournament on the California Delta out of Bethel Island, Calif. Professional angler Steve Sapp from California weighed in a 14 pound, 1 ounce largemouth bass to break the FLW Outdoors all-time big-bass record.

"It's absolutely amazing," Sapp said after breaking the old record of 12 pounds, 14 ounces caught on the Delta in 1999.

"However, I'm truly surprised that bigger fish haven't been caught."

Apparently, Sapp spoke too soon. Minutes later, Tom Sawicki of Modesto, Calif., weighed in a 14 pound, 5 ounce largemouth bass.

If only for a few minutes, Sapp was an FLW record holder. Well, as the old saying goes, "Records are made to be broken."

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