How important is lure color?

Each month I field a question from a reader and answer it as best I can, focusing on those inquiries and responses that I believe will be of general benefit or interest. I recently received this email from Dan in South Carolina, who asks: “Do you believe lure color makes a difference when fishing shallows?”

electric-chicken.jpgThis one is dicey since folks seem to have firm opinions, either way. In the end it comes down to just that: opinion. On the one hand, I’ve witnessed certain lure colors seem to make a difference in attracting more fish. But more often — in my experience — it seems irrelevant. Now, some general rules do have merit. Dark lures do seem to work better in low light conditions or in murky water (likely because they create more contrast so fish can see them), and light-colored lures can work better in clear water or on bright days (likely because they more closely mimic semi-translucent baitfish than do dark, opaque offerings). But I believe most lure manufacturers offer scores of colors to entice fishermen, not fish. And I base my take upon experience. After using lures featuring natural colors for years, on a whim one season I purchased a handful of discounted pink plugs…and caught just as many, if not more, fish. I now throw bright yellow plugs almost exclusively, regardless of conditions — not because the snook and reds I target like them any more than natural colors or wild combinations, but because they’re easier for me to see and manipulate. And they catch just as many fish. Still think color choice is key? Then try and explain why a hideous yellow-and-pink combination called “Electric Chicken” is wildly popular among many anglers, especially along the Texas coast. If you can find me the baitfish it closely mimics, I’ll change my mind, and even buy you a beer. So…while I won’t dismiss the opinions of folks who think color choice is key, I say it’s way down the list of factors that’ll put more fish on your line.

Agree? Disagree? Chime in below.

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8 Responses to “How important is lure color?”

  1. Pete says:

    If it ain’t chartreuse it ain’t no use. Then there’s the school of thought that says any color should work, as long as its chartreuse.

    But I think you’re right, color choice is a factor but it probably falls below size, shape, presentation, and retrieve in importance.

  2. John says:

    Haw – love the chartreuse line of logic. I’m a fan, though I admit other colors work, also. Provided they’re chartreuse. πŸ˜€

  3. Alistair says:

    I pretty much agree with pete that size, shape, presentation, and retrieve is probably more important than actual color. Maybe it is shades rather than actial color that would be the important factor?

  4. John says:

    I buy the “shades” argument. A case in point? Study the bottom half of your average topwater lure. You’ll find that it’s generally a white or off-white color, whereas the color on the top of the lures varies wildly. Guess which color the fish sees? Anyhoo, it’s a subjective thing and if an angler believes in natural colors or hot pink or paisley or whatever, more power to them. It’s just the notion that fish critically analyze lure color before committing that I don’t accept.

  5. Don Phillips says:

    I have found color only seems to matter when you catch fish on the color lure you are using at the time. I seem to change lures if not successful with the one I use when starting out on my trip and when I catch fish that day (if I do catch) then that color seems to matter to me. I think it is mostly a matter of your choice and how you feel about the lure you are using. I also seem to notice color makes a difference to all of us if the fish are there and we are catching. Then we seem to love the color lure we are using and assume it makes a difference to the fish. My question to anyone, is do you use a swivel with locking clip for easy bait change or do you think this detracts from the lure?

  6. Alistair says:

    So it is more about confidence in fishing with a certain colour that may be the key. A good example is that recently I have taken up pike fishing – I was told that Pike do not take pink flies on a forum I visit – it is a good job I did not know that as I have been catching pretty consistently on my home tied pink horror shows ?

    Interesting you asked about the snap link – I experimented with attaching my flies directly to the wire trace with a crimp and then using a snap link to facilitate an easy change of flies. While using the snap link my confidence dropped – although at the end of the session I still caught a couple though!

    I really don’t think it matters!

  7. John says:

    Don, agree that success with a certain color can certainly raise its popularity. As for snap swivels, I personally never used them with flies or lures since they can ruin the natural action of artificials, and they add a bulky, unnatural element that wary fish may notice. I tie lures and flies on with a loop connection (usually a Mirrolure knot) that lets them move freely. I also seldom use a swivel, preferring a line to line connection like the Uni Knot. Of course, my opinion is biased given the type of fishing I prefer (shallow salt).

    Alistair, love the fact that what you “did not know” about fly color led to you catching lots of fish. There’s wisdom in there somewhere. πŸ˜€

  8. Fly Colour says:

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