Tournament angler and Bandit regional pro staffer Donna Bilbrey has vast experience chasing smallmouth bass in clear water. The highland reservoirs near her Crossville, Tenn., home are so transparent that many fishermen reserve angling activity to nighttime hours during the summer.

“I probably fish Douglas and Norris lakes most often, and Dale Hollow whenever possible,” she said. "But though they all have a reputation for being clear, spring rains cause runoff that can change the color quickly, so you have to be ready.”

When cranking bass, Bilbrey most often opts for Bandit’s 100, 200 or 300 Series baits, depending on the depth fish are holding, and under typical clear-water conditions, she has a couple of favorite patterns. “I like Pearl Red Eyes (09) and Chrome Black Back (31), especially when the sun is shining because light reflects off those lures making them look like a real baitfish.

“In dirty water you need to go with more intense colors that are easier for the fish to see. The crayfish patterned Brown Craw Chartruese Belly (41) is my particular favorite; I think the bright belly color does the best job of cutting through the murk.”

Orange is another option in dirty water, she says, adding that the Brown Craw Orange Belly (04) is one of her go-to shades in many situations because the crustaceans are a primary forage item in those lakes.

Though the patterns Bilbrey outlines here may not turn out to be the most productive in the waters you fish, she says following the clear water/natural color, dirty water/bright color strategy will put bass in your livewell.