Picture this scenario, you are dealing with bass in pressured urban ponds where the water is highly muddy, with limited visibility under summer postfrontal conditions, the fish are not biting normally and you do not have the option to seek clearer water. It has been a grind since the morning and you are starting to have doubts whether you should even continue fishing. What do you do to get adjusted and respond to that situation? In this latest installment, allow me to share with you my perspective on finesse fishing in muddy urban ponds.
We know that cold fronts, angling pressure and many other reasons we never fully understand affect bass behaviour, but they can be beaten with the right approach. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the ‘f-word’, ‘finesse’ fishing. And though finesse fishing is not my all-time favourite technique, especially for summertime bass fishing, I am always equipped for it in response to tough conditions. I do it not by choice but by necessity.
I grew up fishing in the north-western coast of Malaysia for inshore and freshwater species such as snakehead, oxeye tarpon, ladyfish and barramundi predominantly on small, pressured waters where angling pressure often leads to finesse fishing situations. Factoring in the equatorial climate, weather swings and tide variations, conditions could change dramatically from tough to super-tough. Early on, I learned how essential finesse fishing can be.
Finesse fishing, as we know it today, is a phrase that can mean different things to anglers in different parts of the world. In bass fishing however, many anglers think primarily about downsizing lures. But one of the keys to realize is that a lot about finesse fishing involves more than just lure size, as Elite Series pro Michael Iaconelli precisely describes.
From my perspective, the starting point in preparing for finesse fishing includes lighter tackle but not necessarily light and small lures with spinning tackle. Here is what I normally use:
Lines: 5, 6, 8 or 10lb test fluorocarbon is my first choice for soft baits. I use 5 or 6lb in clear water, 8 or 10lb around cover or in muddy water. Sometimes, I use nylon monofilament line. For muddy water, I prefer a line with color that blends in the water.
Rods: I do not limit myself to just spinning rods and reels. I actually prefer finesse baitcasting setup. Occasionally, I travel overseas to fish. Therefore, my choices are basically limited to 2-piece travel finesse rods with micro guides for better sensitivity.
Lures: I do not limit myself to lures of a certain size or weight. On light lines, a 4” Senko or even a 6” lizard can be as deadly as some true finesse baits. I go with more natural colors but in muddy water, I use black or dark colors because bass can see it better.
During my visit to Toulouse, south-west France in summer a few years ago, I was fishing with Luckycraft (France) field-staff David Mailland at an urban pond where the bass were hammering football jigs. Then a cold front hit and on the following day, we were fishing under overcast skies. Air temperatures plunged from high 70s to low 60s, to say the least of the angling pressure and persisting muddy conditions. Cold, muddy water is arguably the worst possible fishing scenario anywhere in the world.
Despite switching up and downsizing, we did not get a bite from midmorning to early evening. So, I reached for my spinning rod and tied a 1/0 size offset worm hook and rigged a black 4” Yum Dinger and fished that very same pond. Within moments, conditions got even tougher. As a last resort, we had to fish live baits but with a twist, implementing aspects of finesse into the presentation. For that, I was using 6lb test Sufix Siege monofilament (neon tangerine color) with a size 14 wacky rig-style hook. For finesse live bait rigs, you want to use a light weight hook that will not overpower the bait’s natural movement.
Bait color choice when fishing in muddy water comes down to natural forage. The muddier the water, the more contrasts is needed. For me, I prefer to keep things simple with black, dark blue or dark colors in general because bass could still track it, even in extremely muddy, low light conditions. If I can see the bait in 6” of water, bass can see it better than me.
Despite plunging temperatures and highly muddy water, the bass were definitely feeding. My black color Yum Dinger looked natural, or so I think. It was quiet and non-threatening, totally opposite of the football jigs with aggressive trailers that I was throwing the previous day. All in all, it was not a great day and we landed three solid 3lb’ers just before dark. Two of those were caught on 3” live perch and one on the Yum Dinger.
Finesse fishing in muddy water is just like solving a puzzle. You retrieve slow and maintain contact with the bottom as often as possible. Do not overcomplicate. Keep color choices as simple as possible. Work every piece of cover from various cast angles. Fish slow, as fast as possible, especially in potential areas. If conditions take a turn for the worst, do not overlook live bait such as perch or bluegill, implementing aspects of finesse presentation. For a case in point, on July 2nd 2009, Deps sponsored angler, Manabu Kurita caught a 22lb 5oz world record tying largemouth on live bluegill in Japan’s legendary Lake Biwa. Though I do not know about setting any largemouth bass world records in France, live baits when utilized in the right conditions has bailed me out of numerous super-tough situations.
Thank you for reading. Fish hard, fish well and god bless.
Big thanks to Bill Siemantel and theBBZ for giving me this opportunity to present to you this short feature on urban bass fishing in Toulouse, France.
About the author
Bertrand Ngim, Ph.D., is freelance writer and international columnist for SA Bass (South Africa) and Rod&Line (Malaysia), Lure Vision (Shanghai, China) and mechanical engineer by profession. He is a field-staff for Sunline and Majorcraft (UK and Ireland), TCE Sports Daiwa (South East Asia) and Bitez (Singapore). He has published more than 100 feature length articles in angling magazines in South Africa, Malaysia, England, France and China.
 What Finesse Fishing is All About by Michael Iaconelli, October 6, 2009.
 Murky Water Finesse Tactics of the Pros by Don Wirth, April 7, 2014.