So Many Colors, So Little Time
may not matter to anglers, but it does to the fish!
What a controversial statement that is! Like religion and
politics, this is an area where people have highly personal
The biggest challenge we face as anglers
is whenever we walk into any tackle store to buy lures. We are
faced with infinite choices of colors. Is it all just a big trick
to get us to unzip our wallets? Not in my opinion. I truly
believe that color does matter. I can recall too many times when
the trick to unzip fish lips was the color pattern on a bait.
Fortunately for us, we can reduce the complexity of color
choice by putting almost all lure colors into one of several
broad "food groups":
1) Predominantly white or white-bellied lures
2) Predominantly black lures, including
black/purple, black/blue, black/red, and other primarily black
3) Neutral, subtle, muted lures, ranging
from a Smoky Joe pattern on a crankbait, a natural tan-colored
surgical tube lure, a translucent smoke-colored soft plastic
bait, a transparent plastic popper, or a clear amber darter.
4) Flash colors, including of course tins,
chrome-sided plugs or those with metallic inserts, or soft
plastic baits that are fundamentally clear and laced with heavy
doses of metal flakes in the soft plastic. By the way, gold flash
is a highly desirable color to fish at times...and even copper
flash...but there are few copper flash lures on the market.
5) Bold shock colors, the most familiar of
which are fluorescent green, hot chartreuse, school bus yellow,
fire tiger, and hot pink bubblegum.
By the way, I put natural baitfish-colored lures (those with a
darker dorsal color and mostly white or silver sides) into either
the predominantly white or the flash category.
Sure, there are be a few color patterns that do not fit neatly
into one of the above genres...how about the multi-colored
"rainbow" pattern and "chicken
scratch"...where would you place them in the categories
above? But these are infrequent exceptions - the majority of lure
colors fall into one of the above genres.
If I do not know what fish want,
then I will deliberately rotate lures from each of the "food
groups" above until something clicks with the fish. That is,
I'll try a predominantly white lure, a predominantly black lure,
a neutral-colored lure, a flash lure and then a bold color in
rotation. Doesn't matter to me if it is day, night, twilight,
sunny, cloudy, calm or rough water, clear water or dirty water,
deep or shallow. Doesn't matter one bit...I think the fish can
pretty much see and sense all colors of all lures 24 hours a day,
seven days a week, spring, summer, winter or fall. So, the
problem to me is not that they cannot see it, but that they are
not biting it. Often, I know there is a school of fish in front
of me and I can see them actively feeding. I just want them to
hit something, anything...and it can be remarkably unpredictable.
You have to discover by trial and error what will trigger the
school to bite. Once you find what will trigger them, then it can
become pretty predictable at that point. In fact, you may be able
to really hone in on them and start making fine distinctions such
as that a black back/clear sparkle belly plastic shad is catching
more than a blue back/clear sparkle belly shad.
There are many other factors beyond color that go
into triggering them - of course, size, shape,
speed, action, sound, vibration, displacement, fall rate of a jig
-- but the topic of this article is color, so I have limited my
comments here to just that.
I do not use or choose different colors for night
or day fishing. What I mean is that I have a surf
bag filled with lures, and I use the same color of lures in my
bag regardless of whether it is day, night, or twilight.
So what's the moral of the story? How
important is color? Color is just one of many factors to
selection of a lure. Sometimes it matters a lot, sometimes
seemingly not at all. In any event, color DOES affect your
success every day. On every trip, you must choose - either the
right color(s) or the wrong ones. It remains a variable that you,
as an angler, must consciously control. Fortunately, color
decisions can easily be broken down into five basic categories.
Then, choosing colors becomes a controllable process that anglers
can systematically apply to better their success while out on the