Fish On! : Selecting The Best Lure Colors

Fish On! : Selecting The Best Lure Colors

One of the more colorful things that sometimes gets overlooked by many of us city folk, who only see nature and bodies of water when there is a popular video on YouTube of someone crashing their personal watercraft, are the carefully crafted colors of fishing lures. Special care is taken in the color selection by lure makers, as it is a very important part in catching the right fish in the right conditions.

Most fish, except for some of those in the deepest of darkest of oceans, where there is no light at all, can see colors, some even have four to five different cones making their ability to see color even greater than our own. While there is some, but not much, evidence that fish have a particular tendency towards red, there is more to selecting the right color of lure than just picking the one with the palette you like best. So, if you ever get a chance leave you computer behind and head out to the lake, we've put together a guide to help you make the right color choice when selecting a lure.


Photo by eaglemac


In order to select the best lure color palette there are a few things that need to be considered, such as: Water depth and clarity, season, and the time of day.

Here is a wonderful article, with great graphics that I really wanted to steal for this post, that you should check out for more information: Exploding The Myths With Some Truths About Lure Color, by Greg Vinall.

Water Depth


The consensus is that on sunny days brighter colors are the best option, and on cloudy days, darker more natural colors should be used. This is because the various light wavelengths are absorbed at different rates in water, longer wavelengths, like reds, are absorbed easily where as shorter ones, like violet, are absorbed much more slowly and can penetrate into deeper water. So, the farther down your lure goes the fewer and fewer colors will be seen by the fish.

Water Clarity


Algae, silt and pollution present in the water will cause light to scatter changing the depth wavelengths will travel. In the ocean water tends to be clearer, where as inland lakes and streams tend to be filled with eroded materials, pollution and garbage.

Photo by rust.bucket

Seasonal Changes


Due to the grow periods of algae, the season in which you are fishing should also be considered when selecting colors. According to Greg Vinall, the autumn is the greatest period of growth for the algae, and will greatly affect shorter wavelengths like, red, yellow and orange.

Time of Day/Year


The angle of the sun will also affect how the lure's color is seen by fish. Water imitates the sky, and just like we see bright blue skies in the afternoon and colorful ranges in the morning and evening, the same happens in the water.

Lure Color Selection Tips from the Bass Professor


Recommended Tips From Greg Vinall


  • Use dark colors at night. This may seem strange to the novice, but from experience it definitely works. When you think about it, all colors appear to us at night to be black or shades of dark grey. Usually when we see something at night it's a shadow, and dark colors give the best shadow. Also, fish usually attack lures from below at night and during low light conditions. This is because it maximises the benefit of any limited light available. Under these conditions a dark lure throws the best silhouette and is therefore the most visible. Black, dark blue and purple are good choices at this time of day.


  • During winter or periods when there is lots of particulate material in the water (such as silt or algae), reds and oranges are the first colors to be filtered out. Under these conditions, lures with plenty of yellow, green or blue appear the most colorful below the surface. Fluorescent yellow and greens are also worth a shot.


  • Red, orange, yellow, silver and metallic colors are most intense during bright summer days in clear, shallow water. Having said that, metallic finishes have some benefits at depth because they have a tendency to create flash, even under relatively low light conditions. Mind you, all colors are visible under these bright conditions and if the fish are actively feeding on baitfish that are blue in color, then that's the color to use.


  • Color choice is a moot point if you are deep trolling using a downrigger or paravane, particularly under low light conditions or if the water is colored or dirty. The most important factors under these conditions are lure size, shape and action.


  • When fishing topwater lures, color is far less important than size, shape and action. A fish coming up below a surface or shallow running lure has the light behind it, making the lure appear grey or black. Try it for yourself - hold a fluorescent lure up to the sun and view it from below. Black and dark colors remain the best for surface lures because they throw a great silhouette.


  • Red and orange lures come into their own in tannin stained waters, as do fluorescent hues.

Photo by tarotastic

History of the lure


The fishing lure has been around since the caveman. They were first made out of bone and bronze. The Chinese and Egyptian used fishing rods, hooks, and lines as early as 2,000B.C. The first hooks were made out bronze which was strong but still very thin and less visible to the fish. The Chinese were the first to make fishing line, spun from fine silk. The modern fishing lure was made commercially in the United States in the early 1900's by the firm of Heddon and Pflueger in Michigan. Before this time most fishing lures were made by individual craftsman. Commercial-made lures were based on the same ideas that the individual craftsmen were making but on a larger scale.
- Wikipedia

Types of Lures


There are seemingly as many types of lures as there are fish in the sea, here are a few:


82870.jpgA jig is a type of fishing lure consisting of a lead sinker with a hook molded into it and usually covered by a soft body to attract fish. Jigs are intended to create a jerky, vertical motion, as opposed to spinnerbaits which move through the water horizontally. The jig is very versatile and can be used in both salt water as well as fresh water. Many species are attracted to the lure which has made it popular amongst anglers for years.


249-207-28.jpgA Spinnerbait refers to any one of a family of fishing lures that get their name from one or more metal blades shaped so as to spin like a propeller when the lure is in motion, creating varying degrees of flash and vibration that mimics small fish. The two most popular types of spinnerbaits are the 'in-line spinner' and 'safety pin' spinnerbaits, though others such as the 'tail-spinner' also exist.


250-937-16.jpgA spoon lure is, in terms of sport fishing an oblong, concave metal piece resembling a spoon. The spoon lure is mainly used to attract fish by reflecting light and moving randomly.The spoon lure was invented by Julio T. Buel in about 1848.

The design of the spoon lure is simple; an oblong, concave metal piece with a shiny chrome or paint finish, and a single or treble hook on the end.

While the basic principle of design has stayed the same over the years, application and use has changed some. In its beginning, the spoon was simply used to cast and retrieve. However, since trolling motors have become so popular on fishing boats, a new version of the classic was invented.


255-650-01.jpgClassic plugs float on surface but simultaneously dive under the surface of the water and swim with a side-to-side wobbling movement (hence the alternative name wobbler) upon retrieval. Plugs can dive to either a very shallow depth due a small lip, or to a moderately deep depth (i.e. several metres) due to a large lip. Sometimes plugs are named after their diving ability, e.g. "deep-diver" or "shallow-diver". Plugs can also be designed to hover (neutral buoyancy), sink slowly or sink rapidly. Some have a small metal ball inside to "rattle" when retrieved. They can be finished in a wide variety of colors and color patterns, or printed with very lifelike fish, frog and crayfish patterns.

Soft Baits

20683.jpgA plastic worm (or trout worm) is a plastic fishing lure, generally made to simulate an earthworm. Plastic worms can carry a variety of shapes, colors and sizes, and are made from a variety of synthetic polymers. Some even are scented to simulate live bait.Generally there is but one type of worm, the plastic worm. This worm comes in a variety of lengths, styles, and colors to attract different fish species. Ironically, the plastic worm sometimes called a "trout worm" is often unreliable as a lure for trout fishing, and therefor many anglers do not use them for trout fishing. Bass and panfish species (bluegill, sunfish, etc) tend to bite these lures more than any species in the water.

Surface Lures

73461.jpgA surface lure is a fishing lure designed to waddle, pop, lock, drop, pulse, twitch or fizz across the surface of the water as it is retrieved, and in doing so imitate surface prey for fish such as mice, lizards, frogs, cicadas, moths and small injured fish. A typical surface lure has a solid body made out of wood or plastic, carries one or two treble hooks, and has an eyelet at the front of the lure body to attach the fishing line. Waddlers get their action from a scooped metal dish attached to the front of the lure body. Poppers get their action from a cupped face carved or molded into the front of the lure body. Fizzers get their action both from the fisherman manipulating the lure with the fishing rod and from one or more blades attached to the lure body, that spin when the lure is pulled and create a fizzing noise said to imitate the buzzing wings of a drowning insect.


800px-durham_ranger_salmon_fly.jpgA fly is an artificial fishing lure tied, most commonly, with thread, feathers, and fur, but may also include lead (for weight), ribbon, tinsel, beads, and other assorted materials.Artificial flies may be constructed to represent all manner of potential freshwater and saltwater fish prey to include aquatic and Terrestrial insects, crustaceans, worms, baitfish, vegetation, flesh, spawn, small reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds, etc. Artificial flies were originally constructed from various furs, feathers, threads and hooks. Today there are literally dozens of different types of natural and synthetic materials used to construct artificial flies.


Exploding The Myths With Some Truths About Lure Color

Wikipedia: Fishing Lure

Fishing In Colour

Does Color Really Matter?

Do Fish See Colors?

Header Image compiled from images on

Were you looking to add some fish life to your design? Check out Creative Market for some aquatic ideas.



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 Comments
Very cool! My dad was an avid fisherman. I grew up playing with lures and flytying stuff!
How can I not enjoy this?

Plus, I love fishing =]

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