It is the age old dilemma. You are preparing for a day on the water. You stare into your tackle boxes at a dizzying array of baits. A man's got to have a plan you tell yourself. But your head is spinning..........
Your mind starts to blur and suddenly you realize that the old adage is true.... most lures catch more fisherman than fish..... and everything starts to look alike. What to do, what to do?
I recently had the opportunity to fish with Walleye pro tournament angler Ken Clark of Whitehall, MI. Ken says color isn't all that important, but he does emphasize a few important factors that should influence your color selection. Having rolled that over in my mind, I decided to share some of my observations from 25+ years of serious angling. These are my abc's.... but mostly C's.
1. Creatures: Remember when you got home from school and your mother was in the kitchen and the first words out of your mouth were " Hi mom, what is there to eat?". Fish are like that too. Therefore, first and foremost you need to know what there is too eat in the body of water you have selected to fish. You can break that down into four basic groups of forage- 1) yellow perch; 2) bluegill; 3) shad type; and 4) crawfish/bottom creatures. Sure you could add frogs, or be more specific as to bait fish, like herring, alewives, darters etc., but when it comes to color, those four categories give you your basic color building blocks: Perch requires green, yellow, orange colors. For Bluegill, blue, green, yellow, orange cover it. For crawfish/bottom dwellers, including sculpin, you are working with browns, orange, red and green colors in combination. Finally with the shad and bait fish colors you have silver, white, black and blue as basic building blocks.
2. Conditions: When it comes to decisions regarding color, you have to consider the basic conditions you will encounter. But again, simple rules should be your starting point. Is it sunny or overcast? Is the water gin clear or murky? Is the water calm or is there a chop? Fish can see color, but how they see it depends on how the light is penetrating the water column. The sunnier and calmer the day, the more natural and muted your colors need to be. In cloudier, choppier and murkier conditions add brighter, more fluorescent colors to your mix. When fishing in a lake with perch for forage for example, such conditions will dictate whether you choose fire tiger or a natural perch.
One truism that also works for me is when it is sunny, gold blades will outperform silver and vice-versa on cloudy days.
3. Confidence: This may be the most important C of them all. My mother used to say to me " If you don't believe in what you are doing, nobody else will." If you aren't confident in your bait color choice you will fish with a lack of confidence. I have begun to hear the term "confidence" more and more in the context of fishing. My son Steve used it when we were fishing in the Adirondacks while tying on a gold Rapala BX Swimmer- after which he caught three successive pike. Ken Clark used it when we were discussing the very subject of color noting if you fish a certain color without success and switch to another color with immediate result is it the color you selected or the confidence you had that it would work translating into the attention you paid to technique while fishing the lure? When I was living and working in South Africa, I often para-phrased a Johnny Depp line from Once Upon a Time in Mexico challenging my colleagues " Are you Afri-CANs or Afri-CAN'ts?" Fishing is a lot like that. If you have confidence in what you are doing, if you think you can, more likely than not, you will. But just as the Grail Knight warned Indiana Jones, for fishermen, when it comes to color, it may not be the most important variable that leads to success but we certainly must "Choose wisely."
So, in conclusion, although my career winnings are less than Ken's, I have concluded, with confidence, that color does matter, but more important is how you choose the color and how you feel about that decision when you make that first or one hundred and first cast of the day. Live the Passion, Fish Well, and, In Color!