Texas Fishing Guide | Outdoor Industry Professional
Do Fish Care What Color Your Bait Is?
Ask any fisherman how they caught their fish, odds are they will tell you a secret color is the key (if you can get passed the tight lipped secrecy). I see this often in tournament scenarios, we call it “dock talk”. But, far too often, you will find that other anglers may be fishing the same area with a different color pattern and catching fish just as well, if not better. So, is color actually a game changer, or do we as fisherman psych ourselves out? In my opinion, it’s a little of both. I don’t actually believe fish care what color your crank-bait is, if they knew it was a crank-bait, they wouldn’t have any business eating it anyway! But, there are situations in which color can mean key-bites or none at all. In this post, I will cover some basic rules for color adjustment that may help you catch a few more fish during your next trip.
Light Penetration: Every day that I fish, the first thought that crosses my mind is weather. Obviously for many reasons but one in particular that helps me decide what color baits I want to throw that day is light penetration. Is it cloudy or is it sunny? What is the angle of the sun, and is it first light or noon? The amount of light penetration will dictate visibility. Visibility, in my mind, is the only reason to consider lure color. A blind fish cannot see the bait (however, it may feel it – a topic for another day) in which case, color is irrelevant. For example, on a cloudy day there is very little light penetration underwater. I will opt for solid color baits rather than translucent or multi colored with much detail. White or black hues with little detail or spinnerbaits with painted blades get the nod in situations like this. The exact opposite is applied in situations with a lot of light, like noon on a sunny day. With more light penetration, bass can see more detail than in dark conditions. Translucent patterns, and life-like colors or chrome/reflective baits, receive my attention when the sun is high in the sky. Low light hours are also something to consider. Treat these times much like cloudy days, as there is not much light penetration. For example, I may opt for a darker Brown/purple jig in the morning vs a “Mexican Heather” pattern that has a lot of color and detail.
Water Conditions: Just as important to light penetration is the water clarity. Both dictate the amount of visibility in the area you are fishing. Imagine yourself in a smoke filled room, it is extremely difficult to see clearly. Most of everything that is visible is hazy and often invisible unless close to you. In stained water, bass may not be able to see things with clear detail or at far distances. In muddy water situations, I choose colors that are bright and visible like black, chartreuse, orange or even blue. Bright colors may afford me an extra opportunity to grab a fish’s attention if I present the bait close enough. In clear water conditions, the opposite applies. I want my baits to blend in as much as possible. In clear water, fish will have a much better view of your bait and therefore any inaccuracies will be seen. Translucent patterns or lifelike paint jobs with a lot of detail may help fool a bass into thinking the bait is alive and an eligible meal.
Forage: “Match the Hatch” is a common term used by anglers when trying to mimic what the fish are actually eating, like bluegill or crawfish. This is a less important detail to me than visibility, however, there are times when matching the forage may trick a bass into making a mistake. On the lakes that I guide here in Texas, bass really only eat three things; shad, bluegill, and crawfish. If you look at each, they all have their own variations in color but some distinct/un-mistakable color traits. For example, shad mostly appear white. While blue, purple, black, gold, yellow or chartreuse may make up small details, silver-ish white seems to resemble shad the best at far and close range. Bluegill are often a mix of color, but the most common patterns seem to have a light brown (green pumpkin) and hints of blue/chartreuse around its tail and body. Crawfish change color depending on season, but most of the time they will appear dark in color with bright claws and bellies. These bright colors could be blue, orange, chartreuse or red depending on season. If I feel the fish are keying on one specific type of forage, then I will try to resemble that particular forage color while still keeping visibility in mind. If the bass are spitting up crawfish in my live-well during the spring, I may dip the tips of my jig trailer in orange dye to resemble the bright claws.
Contrast: Bait color contrast could be the most overlooked of all, but may impact your odds of catching more fish the most of any I have mentioned in this post. What I mean by color contrast is how much the colors of your lure varies. Chartreuse black back may be my favorite color pattern for a square billed