Lure color counts

Fishing the Midwest

— Submitted photo This clear water walleye liked the subtle look of a Crystal Shad Pink Belly pattern Lucky Shad.

As the ice fishing season starts to wind down and the open water fishing season gets closer, it’s good to think about some of the things that can affect our fishing success. There are a good number of those things. We think about where we’re going fishing, when we’re going fishing, or who we’re going fishing with. Then when we get to the chosen fishing location at the chosen time with the chosen person/people, we need to choose a bait to put in the water. Sometimes that’s a harder decision than the who/when/where decision. Different lures have different qualities that enter the picture. Some of those qualities are lure size, shape, speed at which it’s fished and so on. Another quality is the color of the lure. For many of us that’s an important consideration, and for others, it’s not that big of a deal. However, many of the most successful anglers agree that there are times, actually quite a few times, when having the lure with the right color on the end of your line can be the difference between catching a few and catching a lot. Keep these color considerations in mind next time you’re tying on a lure that you want the fish to eat.

We should always consider color, and we should always be experimenting with color. The best anglers that I know change colors often. When the fish aren’t hitting the color they’re using,

they try a different color. When the fish are hitting the color being used, they change colors to see if a particular color will trigger even more fish or bigger fish.

The time-tested rule of thumb that suggests we use natural or subtle colored baits in clear water, and brighter, gaudier colors in stained water is still good advice. But when that time-tested rule of thumb doesn’t work, try something else. Most walleye anglers have experienced numerous situations when a bright chartreuse or orange bait in clear water was the most productive.

The best time to switch colors is when you’re dealing with conditioned fish. If you’re fishing a specific spot, say a small rock hump, and you’ve been catching the fish good on a black jig, but then the fishing slows, try a different color before you leave. The fish may have become conditioned to the black jig, but if you put a white jig out there, a few more will eat it. And, before you leave the spot, try an entirely different presentation, maybe a slip-bobber rig. I’ve seen fish get conditioned to a color lots and lots of times. Walleyes, smallmouth bass, and crappies mostly, but largemouth bass also.

Personal experience with color also plays a role in color selection. In the past many number of fishing seasons, I’ve come to count on a few different presentations. In particular, when I just want to get bit, and that’s a lot of the time, I’ll tie on a 3/8th ounce jig head and thread a 4 inch action tail onto it. A Rage Grub would be a good example of this type of tail. These baits catch walleyes, smallmouth, largemouth, and pike, and they’re easy to fish. You cast them out and slowly reel them in.

Most of the time I’ll start with a white tail. Some lure-makers call their version of white pearl, others call them shad color. If it looks white, I have confidence in it.

However, I’ve also had outstanding success with a chartreuse tail. That’s way at the other end of the color spectrum, but I’ve seen days when the fish hit white and chartreuse tails with equal enthusiasm. Another go-to color is watermelon, and I’m guessing that other anglers have different go-to colors. The key is, try different colors until the fish show you what they want.

Using different colors, if nothing else, makes us do different things, and that’s often what it takes to catch more fish. During the remainder of the ice season and in the coming open water season, be willing to try colors you haven’t tried in the past. If you do, you’re going to catch more fish.


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