Choosing the Proper Color Lure for the Prevailing Conditions
One thing that all weather elements affect is visibility. Whether it is wind whipping the water into a muddy mess on a sunny afternoon or clouds blocking out the sky over a gin-clear bay, visibility becomes a factor in your fishing. For that matter, even those days when a bright sun hangs in a windless sky shining down on clear water have visibility variables that should factor into your fishing game plan. In short, no matter the conditions, your lure selection and presentation should be adjusted accordingly.
A quick mental list of all the possible weather and water condition combinations can be overwhelming. What about clear sky and dark water? Or, dark sky and clear water? Or, dark water and dark sky? You get the picture. The possibilities are limitless. However, there are a few basic rules that can be applied to several situations to help you make prudent choices.
Basically, visibility will affect three things: color, sound and speed. The color question is probably the most difficult to solve, since there are so many colors to choose from. However, even this puzzle can be solved if attacked systematically. The simplest rule is dark for dark, light for light. This means under times of reduced visibility, go with a dark color and during times of excellent visibility, go with a light color.
Many anglers have difficulty believing to throw a dark bait in reduced visibility conditions. But, bass anglers proved a long time ago that black is the best color for night-fishing, overcast skies and muddy water. The same applies in saltwater. Opaque colors, such as black, purple, and red offer a more defined silhouette under low-visibility conditions, giving fish a better target.
Conversely, under excellent visibility conditions, fish can get a good eyeful. At those times subtle colors, such as clear/silver flake, avocado, tan, etc., work well. Flash - gold and silver - is also effective in clear conditions. But remember, silver and gold only reflect light when light hits them, so these colors are much less effective under cloudy skies or in murky water.
Of course, this isn't fool proof. The full rule for low-visibility would read something like this: something dark, something white or something bright (yellow or chartreuse). This rule also demonstrates another rule: if you make a change, make a drastic change. For example, if you are fishing a red bait with little success, switching to purple will probably do little to change your luck. So, always go to the opposite end of the spectrum if a color change is in order.
The next part of the puzzle is the noise factor. Another good rule: clear and quiet, dark and loud. Again, clear water allows fish to hunt visually, so sound is usually not necessary and under calm conditions can be more harmful than helpful. However, under cloudy skies or in murky water, a little sound can help draw attention to a bait - regardless of color.
Unlike color, with sound you want to be gradual in your change. Again, too much noise can work against you. Judge the amount of sound necessary by the water clarity and surface commotion. A flat surface calls for little or no sound, unless the water is off-color. Conversely, even the clearest of flats may call for a noisy bait if the surface is considerable rough (i.e. windy conditions causing heavy chop over clear grass flats).
The final key is speed, or lack thereof. Again, it all boils down to the fish's ability to see. On clear flats, fish will come from great distances, traveling at a high rate of speed to track down prey. Under these conditions, you probably can't retrieve a bait too fast if you tried. However, for every inch of visibility that is lost, some speed must be sacrificed as well. Under the worst of water conditions, it may be necessary to work a bait painstakingly slow in order to give fish a chance to hone in on it.
Finally, keep in mind that no rule applies all the time. And, in order to be successful, you need to get at least two of the three answers right. The right color will rarely produce the desired results if it is worked at the wrong speed and doesn't make the right sound. So, don't just tie on the same “lucky” bait day after day and take your chances.
Take a few moments to size up the conditions and make an educated guess as to what will work. This process isn't failsafe, but it certainly increases the odds for success.
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