Taking the Anxiety OUT of Color Selection
Looking at the almost endless array of colors
that fishing lures come in can make deciding which colors to own?
It's a major endeavor and, a major expense.
by North Alabama Guide Troy Jens
We often hear phrases like
"it is the confidence colors that work" or,
"colors are made to catch anglers, not fish". We hear
all the explanations from the marketing gurus telling us of all
the research theyíve done to make their colors the best.
I am here to tell you there is a
huge difference between what color is important to us and, what
color is important to the fish. Once I decided to listen to what
was important to the fish, my tackle box got smaller and the
number of fish I catch got bigger.
How is color important to the fish?
Letís face it. There are some days you could throw a coke can
into the water and get a bite on it. When fish are in an active
state, color is much less important to them. Aggressive fish donít
seem to care about much except to make sure they get to the food
first before the other guy. These types of days are great but all
too uncommon for me.
It is the inactive fish to whom color will
matter most. Young, active fish like any young animal
are more aggressive and curious than older fish. The younger fish
are more apt to strike a bait out of instinctive curiosity. Once
they get older they tend to be less curious and feed strictly out
of hunger. They get old, fat and lazy and expend much less energy
than the younger of the species. Somehow I can relate to that. A
couple of exceptions of course would be during the spawn when big
fish are protecting a nest or, in the event they have to compete
for food with other predators in the area. The more natural you
can make a bait look to an inactive or big fish, the better
chance you have of catching it. Fish will relate to non-natural
colors in some situations. However, they will relate to natural
colors in all situations.
There are a number of variables in
terms of color selection. Dark water, heavy cover, light
conditions and the often overlooked bottom colors play a role in
how a fish sees its prey. Here on the Tennessee River for
instance we normally have a slight "greenish" stain to
the water. It seems hard to see into the water from the surface
until you talk to the divers in the area. They will tell you
about the bottom which, is covered with shells. Most of the
shells are white side up. This, according to the divers reflects
tons of light making it very easy to see on the bottom. The high
visibility factor has led me to adopt a rather reverse psychology
tactic. Making a bait more difficult for the fish to see
seems to be the ticket. This is also important in any clear water
situation. Most natural forage comes complete with itís own
form of camouflage and fish are used to those types of meals
tasting good while at the same time, the fish will presume such
natural baits will not yank them out of the water on the end of a
string. When a fish can easily see a bait it is easier for the
fish to know that it is not real. However, when something that
blends in with the surrounding area comes along and is harder to
see, the fish arenít so sure it is not real. Then they
are more likely to take a chance and check it out as food...just
in case. One example is that I often use clear, melon-seed colors
in green, grassy waters. The bait is hard for the bass to see but
I catch more fish on that color under those conditions than when
using june-bug , red-shad or other easy to recognize colors.
Many people make drastic color changes for
night fishing. However, I stick to the same natural
colors. Iíve found that the crayfish and bait fish which bass
have been feeding on in the day donít change colors when the
sun goes down. I use the same natural colors for daytime and
night fishing. The single most important factor in bait color for
me is what does the real food look like. The same goes for how it
acts. When you couple natural colors with natural action itís
hard to go wrong.
I donít get into buying several different
shades of the same color. As I have found for the most
part, to the fish green pumpkin is green pumpkin, brown is brown
and so on and so on. Unless it is a very noticeable difference in
the light versus dark shade of a certain color I donít keep it.
I have a friend who will change shades of the same color flake in
the same color worm and swear it makes a difference.
"Confidence" is the key he says. Well, I agree of
course. However, when you learn to have confidence in
what the fish like instead of what you like it will not only save
you money but catch more fish.
Simplicity is the key to color selection for
me. Most forage has consistent colors. Most crayfish
are brown for instance. At certain times of the year there may be
more orange or blue in them. A little dippy dye on the jig or
plastic replica to add the changed tone is much more efficient to
me than having 10 different colors of the same bait. I use two
colors of jigs, black/blue and green pumpkin. Black and blue
seems to work anywhere and most of the time. I donít quite know
why black and blue is so effective because it doesnít look like
anything Iíve seen under the water. It may simply be the
contrast against the darker surroundings. However, black/blue is
a case of if it ainít broke donít fix it. In clear water
where crayfish are the main forage Iíll go to the green pumpkin
with a matching plastic chunk. If the real crayfish are orange
then I dip the chunk in orange and match the hatch. Two colors
and two sizes of jig chunks cover all of my jig needs.
With worms it is much the same. I
have junebug for a dark presentation, green-pumpkin and
melon-seed for natural presentations. This also applies to my
lizards. These three colors do it all for me. Whether they have
pepper flake or green flake donít matter to the fish. Red-shad
for instance doesnít do any better than junebug in my boat.
With crank baits I also keep it simple.
I donít buy and try to use every color in the spectrum. My
colors are the same natural shad, natural bream or fire tiger. At
the speed I normally crank the fish donít have long to decide
if they like the color or not. Much of the strike comes from
reaction to the presentation and not on color. I think of crank
bait colors in terms of bright, light and dark. The hundreds of
variations of color shades in my opinion donít usually matter
much to the fish. When the bream are bright in color and bass are
feeding on them Iíll throw fire tiger. Otherwise, any natural
shad works in clear water, stained water, Northern lakes,
Southern lakes and daylight or dark. Many people will disagree
but in all the hours I spend on many different lakes I have yet
to see a bass care about subtle shade variations. If bass
want something and it looks natural to them then they will eat
There are as many colors as there are
opinions out on the market today. Most of the
colors will work. The question isÖ how many do you want to
carry with you? Take the time to choose the few basic colors
you feel good about and match your forage. Again, itís most
important to learn to have confidence in what the fish want. The
fish always want something that looks natural. If it looks
natural to you, it looks natural to the fish. While you may be
taking time to change colors trying to decide what will work,
some guy somewhere else is keeping his bait wet and loading the
boat on a simple, basic natural color.
Good fishing, and get involved in protecting our outdoor
Troy Jens is a full time professional
fishing guide as well as an accomplished tournament angler.
Troy's beeen fishing since his Dad first took him at three years
old. Sharing the knowledge he's learned since then remains his
one true passion. He most recently appeared in Bassmaster
Magazine in the July/August 1999 issue and January 2000
issue. On the web, Troy is a regular contributor at the Bass Fishing Home Page.
With over 10 years of guiding experience on many
various waters, Troy is versitle and committed. Troy spends
over 250 days a year on the water and specializes in tournament
tactics, big fish, and grass pattern techniques. He guides
on a variety of lakes in North Alabama and spends most of his
time on Guntersville, Wheeler, and Neely Henry. Troy is
experienced in guiding beginners through full time pros and works
hard to help others improve their fishing skills. He
continues to share fishing knowledge through guiding, published
articles and published fishing reports.
Give Troy a call: 256-534-4359
Visit Troy on the web at http://www.anglingalabama.com
Email Troy at BamaBass@aol.com