by Perry Alexander Barras
Go to any store that sells fishing tackle and you will see a vast array of colorful lures, baits, and hooks. You will most likely find hundreds of different colors and combinations. So what are the best colors for fishing? How is an angler to choose the best color (or colors) for fishing?
First of all, do fish even see color? I have heard yes and I have heard no. Well, the truth is… we don’t know for sure. There just aren’t enough studies to indicate that all fish see or don’t see color. There was a study done on goldfish that indicates they may see some color, but as far as the game fish of North America go, we don’t really know.
And since we don’t know, I like to put the colors into categories based on brightness instead of based on color. The categories are: bright colors, neutral/natural colors, and dark colors. When I go fishing, I don’t ask myself: “should I use white, olive, or black?” Instead I ask: “should I use bright, neutral/natural, or dark?”
When choosing the best color for fishing, it all boils down to these two things:
(1) Water Clarity – How clear is the water? Is it murky, stained, or clear? What’s the visibility range? For murky water with low visibility, use very bright colors (like white and chartreuse) and very dark colors (like black and purple). These extremes of the color spectrum will be most visible in murky water to the fish. In clear water with good visibility, use neutral/natural colors (like tan, olive, and brown). Neutral/natural colors are the best when visibility is not an issue.
(2) Color of Natural Prey – What color is the natural food that the fish eats? Does it eat bright colored food, neutral/natural colored food, or dark colored food? If the fish is used to eating dark colored food then it will strike a dark colored lure more often. So, figure out the color of the natural prey and choose your lure/bait colors accordingly.
This is how I “usually” choose the best color for fishing, and it works great. But I don’t always follow these guidelines. Sometimes I will tie on a random colored lure – that is completely the opposite color than it should be – and still catch fish. I believe that anything that even slightly resembles food can be used to catch fish. Choosing the best color for fishing just improves your chances.
I usually just tie on four of my go-tos and hope one gets bit. If t does, I throw it again and if I keep getting bit I know I'm in the right color shade spectrum. I also look at behavior. For example, if I cast and the redfish swims really fast over to the bait and then seems to lose interest then I know the bait looks real from a distance but needs a slight change - maybe even just a different tail shade.
One final tip: THE BEST WAY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT COLOR TO USE IS: Test, experiment, and try. Get to know the body of water. Get to know the fish in the body of water. After a while, you will learn EXACTLY which colors the fish prefer.
If such a small amount of colors will catch fish in just about any situation, then why are there so many colors and color combinations available? Well, a fisherman once said to me while shopping for lures: “These are meant to catch fishermen, not fish” And I completely agree. It’s all about the business. The fishing company’s primary goal is to sell more. The secondary is for their products to catch fish. Don’t go buying every color combination out there. Stick with the basics: Bright, Neutral/Natural, and Dark.
And… Don’t forget to have fun fishing!!!