Wright and Stearns Counties in central Minnesota are home to one of the premier largemouth bass-fishing lakes in the state -- Clearwater Lake. At more than 3,100 acres, the lake is chock full of underwater structure and has about five feet of water clarity. The lake is an easy drive from the Twin Cities, and, as a result, is heavily used and has a shoreline that is mostly developed. However, the lake has good populations of many fish species and a variety of habitat in which to target them.
Tournament and casual bass anglers alike are drawn to Clearwater Lake for its substantial population of largemouth bass. One of the best and easiest-to-find places for bass is in the lake's bulrushes. This type of emergent vegetation produces bass throughout the fishing season. While many anglers target the bulrushes, casting spinnerbaits and jigs in and around the vegetation will catch fish. Clearwater Lake also has large beds of submerged vegetation, and spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits retrieved along the edges or over the top will produce bass. Anglers who want to catch bigger bass should throw jigs or plastic worms around the weed beds where there are drop-offs or areas in which the composition of the bottom changes. If you opt to fish in the heavy vegetation, make sure to use heavy rods, reels and fishing line.
Like many lakes in Minnesota, where walleyes are the state fish, Clearwater Lake has an abundant population of walleyes. Typical walleye spots such as drop-offs, weed edges, points and humps all hold walleyes. Troll a live-bait rig tipped with a minnow, leech or nightcrawler along sandy and rocky areas, or find a school of walleyes and fish a jig directly over the top of them. During the day, walleyes on Clearwater Lake will suspend in the open water off structure and can be caught with crankbaits. Those fish will move back onto structure during low-light periods like dawn and dusk and can be caught with jigs and live-bait rigs.
The shallow areas, especially where bulrushes are found, are magnets for crappies as soon as the ice leaves the lake in later winter or spring. This is because the water in those parts of the lake is the warmest crappies can find. Warm, calm days are the best fishing days when the crappies are shallow in the spring. The best method for eliciting a strike is to fish a minnow below a bobber. As the water warms and the calendar says it's summer, the crappies move into deeper, cooler water. Schools of crappies will hang around the lake's open-water areas that are adjacent to flats and reefs. A minnow fished below a bobber remains a good method for catching those crappies, but do not be afraid to try a small jig -- 1/16- or 1/32-ounce -- and minnow, either.
Don't Forget about Docks
Fish will take cover where they can get it, and since Clearwater Lake has development on most of its shorelines, docks are one of the most common forms of cover for species like bass, crappies and sunfish. Best docks are near deep water and have vegetation around them. Minnows fished beneath bobbers will take all species of fish that live around docks, and plastic worms or tube jigs are especially effective for targeting bass around docks.
By day, Clearwater Lake is popular among fishermen and recreational boaters alike. As a result, fish can feel pressured during the day and may not bite as well. The trick to catching them: fish at night. The same areas that produce during the day will produce at night, and you are likely to find that fish are more active under the cover of darkness.