Oklahoma pro fisherman Tommy Biffle sometimes takes an unusual approach to bass fishing -- he looks for muddy water.
"Often I fly over a lake [before a tournament] just to find muddy-water regions," Biffle says. "As a matter of fact, at home in Oklahoma, I fish water as red as tomato soup."
There are several advantages of fishing muddy water, according to Biffle, who won the B.A.S.S. Megabucks championship last year.
* Most fishermen prefer clearer water, so fishing pressure is lighter in areas of stained or muddy water.
* Muddy water makes bass move into the shallows, which creates a smaller area to be fished.
* With the fish concentrated by muddy conditions, the angler may concentrate on creeks where there is abundant cover and structure and the depth is 3 feet or less.
A good way to fish muddy or murky water is to work one's way in toward cover and structure from the edge where clear and murky water meet.
"My favorite three muddy-water tactics are pitching and flipping jigs, crawling crawdad type baits and big worms along the bottom and utilizing spinnerbaits with large, No. 5 to No. 7, gold-finish Colorado blades that create a lot of vibration and flash," Biffle says.
"Placing the lure in the exact location where you believe the fish are located also is critical. . . . Putting the lure right in front of the fish and working it slowly increases odds of hooking up."
Think of fisherman and television show host Bill Dance and usually one associates him with largemouth or smallmouth bass, but Dance knows a bit about panfish, too. Especially crappie, which are moving into the shallows in the coves of our reservoirs as the weather warms.
"The No. 1 lure choice for crappie fishing is a jig," says Dance. "They flat out catch crappie."
The trick is to find crappie and to entice them to bite.
Start with a 10- to 12-foot medium-action rod, which will allow coverage of a much larger area than a 6-foot rod. Then scout out a likely area.
Crappie relate to cover and depth, even when they are in the shallows. Shallow water with good cover and a 2- to 3-foot drop-off nearby is good this time of year.
Tie on the jig and start vertical movement of the lure. Once a fish is caught, return the lure to the same depth.
"These lures don't dart, wobble, wiggle, sputter or chug. Their best action is created by the angler when he works his wrist," says Dance. "To enhance jig action, use a loop knot when you tie the line to the jig. . . . As a result, the bait has more action because there is less restriction from the line."
The long rod will allow the jig to be positioned right in front of the fish or just above them (crappie's eyes look up, not down) and the strength of the rod should be enough to lift the fish from cover without retrieving line.
Work cover from the outside in, Dance says, to avoid spooking fish that are more likely to be bunched within the cover. When there is a breeze blowing, keep in mind that in the shallows crappie keep their heads to the wind.
Susquehanna River: Below Conowingo Dam, white perch, herring, catfish and bass, with catfish action picking up steadily over the past week.
Susquehanna River (Pennsylvania): Duncannon area at mouth of Juniata River has been hot for smallmouth bass on tube baits cast to water willow.
Gunpowder Complex: Seneca, Saltpeter and Dundee creeks are providing good catfish action as the water warms and largemouth bass fishing there is heating up too as grasses come in.
Potomac River (nontidal): Smallmouth bass, catfish, walleye and crappie. From Brunswick to Lander, chartreuse or pumpkin-pepper grubs cast to pools and eddies are best choice for consistent smallmouth catches. At White's Ferry and Edwards Ferry, grubs, worms and tube baits work well in shallows and along rock ledges. Water levels remain low and boating access can be tricky.
Potomac River (D.C. and upper tidal): White perch and rockfish in the area near Fletcher's Boathouse, along with smallmouth bass. Gravel pits and sunken barges near Wilson Bridge good choices for largemouth bass. Rattling lures do well at Fort Washington Lighthouse. Grass beds at mouth of Mattawoman Creek have been good for largemouths, as has wood cover up in the creek.
Reservoirs: Liberty, Prettyboy, Loch Raven and Piney Run all have decent crappie action, with bluegills good at Liberty, Loch Raven and Piney Run, too. White perch action at Prettyboy; rockfish strong at Liberty and to a lesser extent at Piney Run.
Eastern Shore rivers: White perch runs at Millington and Red Bridges slacking off, with small fish dominating. Catfish, perch and bass in the Denton and Martinak areas of the Choptank. Crappie, bluegill and pickerel in the Tuckahoe.
Ocean City: Good mackerel fishing aboard head boats six to eight miles off the beach between Isle of Wight and Great Gull Shoal.