Does Fishing Lure Color Really Matter?

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A few years ago I took a trip to Sam Rayburn Lake near Jasper, Texas. I dropped by the local tackle store to purchase a fishing license, and as always, just like a kid in a candy store, I had to shop around a bit looking for something I had not seen before or a few old baits that were out of production. As a side note, I am a tackle junkie, and I am always in the market for a killer bargain. I rummage through junk at flea markets, tackle stores and garage sales. You never know when you might run into either a great bait to fish with at a discount price or one that goes into the collection.

Back to the story. I ran into a crusty old guy who looked like he fished every day in the Texas sun and had never heard of sunscreen. His skin was rough as a burlap sack, and he was very tan, had a three-day-old beard, an old Stren “hover” hat with more mileage than Allied Van Lines and wore some Key Brand bib overalls. Got the visual picture burned in your brain?

He told me he fished every day which apparently left little time for showers, and he was a retired navy veteran. We struck up a 15-minute friendship. He told me the fish were biting, but they wouldn’t bite everything. Out of the corner of his mouth in a very secretive manner he said “it has to be watermelon red.” I told him thanks, shook his hand and went about my business.

I felt like I might have just been given the Holy Grail. No one else could have possibly been given this information. I had a pile of watermelon red creature baits, tubes and worms. I was in like Flynn and loaded for bear. It was my secret alone.

On the way from that tackle store to the ramp, we needed some ice. We stopped at the Stump Restaurant and Tackle Store, and I went in to buy the ice. There was a group of older men sitting at a table drinking coffee and swapping war stories, and one of them was leaving as I walked in. He met me at the cash register and kindly asked “Where you boys from?”

I told him we were down for the week and we were from Illinois. He laughed and told me he was originally from Illinois too, and he hoped we caught a bunch of fish. I barely had time to tell him thanks and he pulled me aside and said “you need to get you some watermelon red Zoom Trick Worms. That is the only color that they bite”. Coincidence, maybe, but I was willing to bet that watermelon red might just be the ticket. When I got back in the truck my buddy asked what the old guy had said and all I told him was he said he was from Illinois. Angling secrets are best kept secrets in my book, and I had the secret color locked down.

We dropped the boat into the water and picked a few creeks to explore. I pulled out four rods and rigged them with, you guessed it, watermelon red Zoom Trick worms, and Brush Hogs. My buddy didn’t know the secret color and he rigged his go-to black and blue and bubble gum trick worms. I grinned a bit as I made the first few casts and caught several 2 pound fish. We have a dinner bet on first fish, most fish and biggest fish on every trip so I took the lead in two categories right out of the shoot. I was looking at locking down the trifecta as we pulled up on a flat with two willow bushes on the end of it. The first flip into the willow bush, it shook, and I landed a 5 pounder. I put him in the well for proof to other guys that were there. Flipped that same Brushhog to the other side of the bush and caught one nearly 10 pounds. The trifecta was mine.

Did color really make a difference? I don’t really think so, but you could never convince my buddy of that. Before you could say “Big-un”, he dug into my compartment and was fishing the secret “watermelon red.”

“You don’t have to hit me over the head to see that color is making a difference,” he said.

By my very nature I chose to switch colors. I changed that bait out to a dark watermelon and continued the whack fest. None as big and the largest fish but we had plenty in the 2-4 pound range. Color was not the key. Patterning the fish and presentation was. You had to drop the bait into the center of the bush and when you did it could have been pink with purple polka dots and they would have slammed it. The moral of the story is color can be a confidence factor but it may not be as important as presentation when flipping.

I met with Strike King Angler Mark Davis. He is not a believer that color is a major factor but does believe it is a variable.

“I am old school, but I believe it doesn’t matter much to the fish,” he said.

He likes to match his colors to the dominate forage but told me presentation is the key and fishing where fish live is the most important factor. Color doesn’t matter as much.

“With crank baits, depth is the first consideration, size is the next consideration, and action is next and last but not least is color and sound. Color and sound are the least important in my opinion. As far as plastics go I am not very elaborate with colors here either, greens like dark watermelon, and watermelons, then blacks/browns, and then translucent colors. I may use smoke or strawberry red in clear water. Confidence is the main factor. A crankbait imitates several things — crawfish, shad, or bluegill — and to me, that is a prime factor in your selection. The bottom-line is color is as important as an individual wants to make it. If it’s important to the angler, then it’s important.”

I recently spoke to Gary Klein on this subject as well.

“It’s definitely a factor,” he said. “Sometimes it’s an advantage and sometimes it’s not. I like to change colors to get them fired up again if the bite slows down and color can do that. I usually pick colors based on water colors and am more anal when the water is clear. Off color water it doesn’t matter as much. I use basic colors like black, brown, and other dark colors like dark watermelon. Basically it’s a factor. I don’t waste my time worrying about it but it is part of the equation and I do think about it.

“I am looking at contrast as well” said Klein. “When we are building our skirts at BOSS I like to personalize colors in shades, different combinations of shades of one color, and it helps the angler to think more about the “˜what ifs’. What is the primary forage and time of year you are fishing? Water conditions are also critical. What are the fish feeding on in the spring versus summer and fall?”

The bottom line is color can be a personal preference and it’s all about being where the fish live combined with the proper presentation.

Unless it’s “watermelon red” on Sam Rayburn. Then apparently all bets are off!

What do you think about color?