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Why Does Color Matter?


Jerry A
Having read a few interesting articles lately on the subject of color I thought to put my angle on that which is sometimes quite confusing to many. Color selection is what I have a desire to examine from the anglers perspective. It was once said that Ted Turner?s next big investment would be to give colorized vision to dogs. This was a joke of course while his company was colorizing old film stock, refreshing it if you will for a new generation of viewers. So as we apply this concept and consider fishing lures to whom are we designing color for?

In his blog (1) author Eric S. Evans rekindles the age old dilemma of color selection and I like the way he?s presented it. Mr. Evans utilizes three ?C?s? to evaluate Creatures, Conditions along with water clarity and angler Confidence. Breaking it down like this suggests that foremost item we should consider is what thing we are attempting to imitate. Since long before Sir Izaak Walton and The Compleat Angler man (and woman alike) has known it is a natural thing we hope to emulate and present to the fish. Be it grasshopper or frog there are distinct color patterns and shadings that may be present in your locale but not mine. This means as anglers we are in tune with our surroundings and we appreciate the subtle color of a bream or crayfish. In his blog Mr. Evans suggests four distinct categories to give you some basic color building blocks. My addition is that you want to equip your lures with color tones that are present in your environment. One of mine is Blueback Herring. This presents a bit of a different color palette than a shad or minnow would.

To me his second point, Conditions, are the most misunderstood and consequently exasperating of all. Here the angler turns to a mental checklist of environmental factors. Is the sky high and sunny or has a front recently passed by that has temporarily stained the water? Does the boat traffic or lake level remain steady or has it changed? Don?t forget about season of the year, air temperature, wind direction and speed or water temperatures. Is this body of water typically this color and does the color persist throughout? About now you think I?ve lost my mind but bear with me and I can explain. What I mean by taking you down this path is that like golf it isn?t as simple as putting the little ball into the little hole. There are a number of items to consider as you spend your day on the water. How much sunlight is penetrating into the water you are fishing? One way would be to think of taking a white plate, placing it on a rope that is lowered into the water. How deep can the plate go before you can no longer see it? This relates to water clarity. Wind chop on the water has a tendency to refract the light beam as it enters and passes through the water column. From the Eye M.D. (Ophthalmologist) refraction measures the ability of the eye to focus so think of the carnival hall of mirrors D?j? vu that might affect how the fish sees you?re the color of your lure. It?s all of a sudden there and then it?s not.

The best explanation of this idea comes from an incredible article written by Sheldons', Inc. President Mike Sheldon. You may know them better by the Mepps lure brand name. The article is entitled (2) Color Technology - What You See is Not What You Get! In this Mepps fishing article they bring to light, pun intended, the impact that sunlight penetration through a liquid medium has on the color you and I see above the water. It is striking the difference lures in and out of the water have. Viewed out of the water are vivid and bright. Viewed under the lens of blue, green or brownish-red water and the results are quite remarkable. Some colors wash out while others maintain their brilliance. They used to publish this in their Mepps Catalog and I remember sitting there staring at the page trying to make sense of it all. Mr. Sheldon has spent a lifetime building these lures and a wise man once told me that if you listen you might just learn something.

What this suggests, based upon a clear lens, is that the various hues are affected by the water we fish in. My green water may not be the same green as what you?re looking at. Yours may be more of a blue green. This affects how the colors on your lure are visible under the water. Notwithstanding the other factors like a boat wash mud line, a tannic acid stained water or an early spring condition where it is stained but not muddy because the spring rains have caused the water to start moving again. In doing so the water picks up sediment and rotting natural matter like limbs and leaves and washes it downstream. This is more prevalent in the upper reaches of the reservoir than down in the main lake. Another valid point Mr. Sheldon makes in that article is that contrast is quite important when selecting a lure color. In their lure design the white fluorescent dots on the blade of the Black Fury? create contrast just as tiger stripes on a crankbait would.

Contrast to me also means a different shade or color all together. In this essence it may mean more of a highlight to your lure. As an example I prefer a Black and Brown or Black and Blue skirt on my jig over a solid Black one. The reason is contrast. Set against the Black strands beside it a dark brown gives off just a hint of contrast. To these jigs I?ll change out the highlight color via the trailer I use. At Lake West Point on the Georgia Alabama border I have had success using a Black and Brown jig with a Black plastic craw that has Blue pincers. This gives both aspects and if this isn?t working I swap to a Gourd Green or Pumpkinseed plastic craw that has Chartreuse pincers, leaving the main Black and Brown jig intact and tied to my main line. This presents quite a brighter color combination to the fish. At Eufaula the combination was a Junebug plastic craw that had plain Purple pincers though nobody I know makes this combination anymore. Needless to say it was applied to the same ? ounce Arky jig that had a Black and Brown skirt on it.

Finally it all comes down to Confidence and what you have success with. If you hear that the guys are catching fish on a Green Pumpkin plastic worm you are more likely to try that too. You might even dip the tail in red or chartreuse just to give it a special highlight. If you?ve had success in the past with a Sexy Shad crankbait it will give you all the more confidence to stick with that color and explore the area thoroughly until it works for you. The bottom line is that there is simply no substitute for time on the water. My time on the water isn?t always hot, hard and heavy bass tournament type fishing either. At times we just go to the lake to play and it amazes me how we can learn things when we relax and enjoy the beauty of the day. One favorite distraction is a couple of short little Ultralight spinning combos that we have spooled with 4 pound test. These are always in the rod box just in case. We have a blast just getting a small jig and go busting down the bank after the Bluegill. Of course we?ve caught everything from Carp to Crappie and Catfish doing this and talk about color combinations; we tip the jigs with everything from the usual curly tail plastics to trout worms, split tail Trout Magnet bodies and fuzzy grubs. We?ve even used old plastic worms and placed pieces of them onto the little jigs to catch fine fish. Ninety percent of the time the color selection that the Bluegill prefers the Bass will like also. Color is in the eye of the beholder.

Please take the time to view the two sources from which I drew information and inspiration. They are listed below with links provided.

(1)Does Color Matter? http://ibass360.com/does-color-matter/

(2)Color Technology - What You See is Not What You Get! http://www.mepps.com/fishing-article/color-technology-what-you-see-is-not-what-you-get/77