Choosing a lure color is the most debated subject in fishing. People have their own opinions on what colors work. A lot of color selection has to do with confidence. People will buy lures in colors that have caught fish when they started fishing. In addition, they tend to dismiss other colors more than other people.
There is a reason to have a selection of colors. Although, fish have little to do with color selection as they are color blind. They will see color but nothing like a person. A fish will only distinguish a few colors and all the others turn black or grey in their sight. The choice of color does have an impact however and understanding why is important.
Choosing a Lure Color on What Fish See
A fish’s eye is different when compared to a person’s eye. All eyes have the same general features. The difference is how they work in a fish compared to mammals. A fish’s pupil doesn’t dilate as eyes in mammals, an exception is sharks. The fish live underwater and water filters and reduces the light. Water is somewhat like sunglasses in this regard.
In the retina, there are two types of cells. There are rod cells and cone cells. Whereas each cell serves a different function. The rod cells are best at identifying shapes, contrast, and shadows. The cone cells are the ones that give the ability to see colors. Colorblind people lack a few cone cells and will misidentify colors. In other words, a fish lacks cone cells more than a colorblind person. It is well-known bass only see 2-3 colors due to lack of cone cells.
It is true fish can identify some colors based on species. This is an evolved trait in the species based on the waters they inhabit. Freshwater fish will have discernment in the shades of green, yellow or red because of algae and sediment present in the habitat. Saltwater fish will be adapted to blue in terms of the shade. This is in part due to water filtering light, and what in the water reflects a portion of the light.
What does This Imply
This may seem a bit over the top to many anglers but is important. A fish will see contrasts, silhouettes, and movement before they notice the color. That is what you need to focus on in the color selection primarily. The actual colors do play a role but not as much as many anglers believe. The color is far from the only thing in selecting a lure color or pattern.
The color, clarity, and depth of water along with the amount of light affects how the lure appears underwater. Thus, the water will filter colors out at specific depths. As you descend into the water column red will disappear followed by orange, yellow, blues, greens as you go deeper. Each part of the light spectrum is filtered out at different depths. The color diminishes in all colors as the depth increases due to a lack of sunlight. All lures turn black or dark grey eventually as you go deeper.
The amount of sunlight is a key factor. The brighter the day the more light penetrates into the water. The cloudy days mean less sunlight to the depths. Also, the angle of light affects the reflective qualities of the water. The more angle the light comes at water the more reflection increases. In clear water, sunlight goes deeper, and stained or turbid water blocks sunlight. This all needs to be considered in choosing a lure color. You want the fish to see the contrast, silhouettes, and movement of your lure. Until a fish sees these elements the color is not noticed.
Choosing a Lure Color To Use
All of what was talked about before in the article leads to this part. How to choose the correct colors for a specific situation. The conditions in fishing can change hourly, daily, and depending on the location you fish. An area of calm during the morning will be different then, flowing water in the afternoon. This will likely affect color choice.
Choosing a lure color in clear waters is where bright is best. The reds, oranges, yellows, and greens will show up and not seem out of place as black and other dark colors. The use of greens, fluorescent reds, oranges, and yellows work in water in the medium depth range. Then in deeper depths, a darker color such as blue, brown, or black will be a better choice. A tip is to try contrasting the color of the bottom structure and sky with a lure color. Consider that, you are looking for an advantage to have the lure’s silhouette seen by the fish.
Choosing a Lure Color Based on Water Clarity
When fishing in waters stained from algae or light sediment particles things will change. The lighter colors still are the option in the shallows but consider using a fluorescent version of the color. This will give the lure a little more pop to the color in the stained water. Where less light is penetrating through the water. As you go deeper the darker colors again are the better choice. White may be an option in this type of water also.
Choosing a lure color in dirty or turbid waters where silt or the turbulence are limiting a fish’s view, things will change. White and dark colors are usually going to be the best producing colors. The bright colors do not present a good silhouette with the exception of fluorescent reds, yellows, and greens in the shallower water. The clarity of the water influences the light available under the surface. The more particles in the water equal less light. This applies to fishing after sunset also, the light levels are too low for bright colors.
The topwater lure is an easy lure to choose a color for, contrast the sky with a dark color. The use of dark green, brown and black all will work depending on water color. If the water is stained or dirty go with black. These colors will create the silhouette the fish notices. The actual color of a lure does not trigger a strike as much as correctly presenting the lure. The action gets you the strike after the fish sees the lure. I know people will disagree. The chances are they are using these guidelines to some degree with the colors they use.
As you can see the color suggestions vary depending on water and light conditions. The experience you gain trying different colors or patterns will help catch more fish. The conditions can vary only a little and change the specific color needed. An angler should have several colors and several color patterns to choose from in the tackle box.
Depending on the waters you fish. A few of the following patterns should be in your tackle box; bluegill, shad, crayfish, perch, or what is native to the waters you fish. In addition, you should have a dark color, bright color, and something flashy at a minimum. It would be best to have 5-6 colors as the primary colors on lures with high contrast highlights. As stated, fish will notice contrast and silhouettes before the actual color.
This is not going to clear up color selection for many anglers. It is merely a starting point to learn how colors work and become a more effective angler with selecting a color. Always try a different color if one is not working. You must experiment and gain experience in choosing the right color to become better.
Keeping fishing simple for tight lines and bragging rights