When Lure Color Matters

Oftentimes color is the last thing you need to consider in the lure selection process. But on this trip for largemouth bass, author Jeff Samsel found color was a critical factor.

A white 3-inch swimbait rigged on a Randy’s Rollin Runner seemed like a good choice, based on season, cover and what the largemouths had shown already that morning. However, half a lap around the small lake produced only a single small bass and no other strikes.

Another outdoor writer and I were fishing the lake together from Hobie kayaks, working its perimeter in opposite directions. When our paths met, we paused to compare notes, and he told of twice reeling in a small bass and seeing a larger one swipe at the fish on his line. Considering that observation, along with the fact that I’d seen small bluegills and bass but no shad or minnows that morning, I decided to test a green pumpkin swimbait body before making a wholesale lure change.

I guess I can’t say 100 percent that location wasn’t a factor since I continued around the other side of the pond with my altered offering. The bait shape and presentation remained the same, though, and the difference occurred immediately—with two of my next three casts producing bass. By the time I completed the lap, I’d caught 15 fish and missed a handful of others.

I suspect the bass in that particular lake see and eat mostly greenish forage, so despite the fishy profile and enticing action, a white offering triggered an instinctive red flag. While I believe the importance of color is often overstated, there are certainly times when it plays important role—and last week’s trip seemed to be one of those times.

Factors such as the bass’ activity level, the depth they are holding and the type of cover they’re using should all have a greater influence on your lure selection process. But when it does come to color choice, here are some things to consider:

  • Water Clarity: In dirty or dingy water, bright hues—florescent, firetiger—get a fish’s attention. But don’t hesitate to throw black or dark blue, which can create enough contrast to stand out. Bulky baits that displace water and create vibration are best in low-vis situations. Clear water calls for more natural colors, or realistic finishes.

  • Match The Forage: In the small lake I mentioned bluegills are the primary forage. Switching from a white to a green swimbait made all the difference. But always consider other factors, too. Bass often focus on crayfish (red, orange, brown) early in the season, for example, only to turn their attention to baitfish (white, pearl, silver) as water temps rise. Understand what’s going on in your waters.

  • Break The Pattern: At some point on nearly every lake a hot color pattern emerges and almost every angler on the water is throwing the same shade. Bass can become conditioned to this, and that’s when you should break the pattern. Choose a completely different color and the results might surprise you.
  • To track more of my fishing adventures, please visit my blog.

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