Color: Superstition Or Science

Three professional anglers explain how they select lure colors when targeting bass, walleyes and crappies.

Have you ever switched lure colors when the bite was slow and suddenly started whacking fish that were on a suicide mission?

At first blush, it appears that the color made the difference. But, maybe you just stumbled into fish right after changing colors. Or, perhaps they went on a feeding spree for some reason. Given the spectrum of lure colors and infinite fishing scenarios, how do you choose the right color?

Bass, walleye and crappie fishermen who have made their mark by competing against the country’s best anglers can provide worthy answers. Among them is Tennessean Gary Clouse, the 2012 Professional Anglers Association (PAA) Bass Angler of the Year and president of Phoenix Bass Boats.

“Sometimes bass will hit any color you throw at them,” he says. “Those are the exceptions that fool people into thinking color isn’t important.”

Color is important, Clouse stresses. His first rule for color selection is rock solid—match the hatch. If you can determine what the bass are feeding on, start with a lure that mimics the forage in size, shape and color and go from there. Water conditions also influence color choices.

When fishing soft plastic baits in clear water, he goes with natural colors, such as watermelon or pumpkinseed. Stained to dirty water tells him to switch to darker colors, such brownish hues or black with red flake.

Since he typically slings crankbaits in stained to murky water, he goes with bright colors that fish can see more readily. In slightly stained water, he’ll match the forage with a natural colored bait. Darker water prompts him to go with chartreuse/blue back, while dirty water calls for chartreuse/black.

Weather also influences his choices. He prefers bright colors on sunny days and dark colors when it’s cloudy.

Have Confidence
“But, there are always exceptions,” he explains. “You have to experiment.” Say that he is getting bites on a Texas-rigged green pumpkin craw. He will then fish the same craw in several other colors to find out if the bass have a preference.

You might suspect that champion Iowa walleye pro Tommy Skarlis takes a more scientific approach to lure colors. Studies that show how various hues in the color spectrum become less visible at different depths surely influence his thinking, right?

“I do what my old buddy Cooter told me to do,” Skarlis says. “I just stick it in the water and let the fish tell me what they want.”

When he trolls several crankbaits at once, he begins with a ragbag of bright, dark and natural colors. Walleyes soon show a preference, which can change from minute to minute and day to day. He once slammed fish at Sault Ste. Marie by trolling holographic Salmo Hornet crankbaits. He returned the next year, but couldn’t get a sniff on the same bait. When he switched to a metallic Hornet, it was game on.

“The biggest thing with color is confidence,” he continues. “A firetiger bucktail jig from Hutch Tackle is one of my go-to baits. I thread a 4-inch Berkley Ringworm on the hook to add bulk. I often start and end my day with that bait and catch the heck out of walleyes with it.”

Confidence colors also pay off for Tennessee fishing duo Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman, who have won a slew of crappie championship events across the country. Wherever they go, they can count on catching crappies with jigs tipped with chartreuse soft plastic baits.

Bonus Video: How Water Clarity Should Influence You Fishing Decisions

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