If you were to refer to articles from this industry, you would learn that most fish are capable of only seeing primary colours. However, we don’t know what the fish associate these colours with. Is it food? Is it an enemy? Who knows? But, what we do know is that the use of colour could be what determines if you caught a river monster or end up embarrassing yourself on the lake.
Soft Plastic Colouring
You can colour your soft plastic lures in a variety of different ways. The most common way though is mixing in the liquid colouring into your plastic before molding. However, this technique isn’t efficient if you plan on using multicolour’s in your lures because it requires multiple batches of coloured plastic and a lot of layering within the mold. If you want to avoid this tedious process you can produce a lure in a single colour (preferably clear) and then apply a finishing coat to produce a multicoloured pattern. Once this is done, your lure still needs one more clear coat to seal it.
Not All Fish See the Same Colours
For a fish to see colour, it needs at least two cone cells in its eyes. Bottom-dwellers, like catfish, only have one of these cells so they can only see shades, they can see the brightness of an object, but not its colour. However, many shallow surface water fish, like trout, minnows, and carp, have four cone cells in their eyes; this allows them to see all of the colours, including the ultraviolet spectrum. Other fish, like the bluegill and bass, only have two cone cells in their eyes so this limits them to seeing only black, greens, browns, and reds. It is also possible that bass might see yellows. Although most fish can discriminate between fine shades and colours, this does not impact what they select for food.
There is no chart to explain the colour viewing capabilities of each fish species unfortunately. With this in mind, don’t base your colour selection on actual colours; you should base it on how the colours contrast with each other. For example, pick a lure with two colours that will appear different, rather than for their actual colours. Here is an example of how some fish view a blue and red lure, pay attention to the colour contrast in all three of these images:
Colour Filtration in Water
Water filters light, and colours are coloured light, so water will still filter colours. Light begins to break apart depending on the depth, this being so, that means colours can no longer be seen past a certain point. There are many determining factors to how severely water filters light. It depends on circumstances like the clarity of the water, the wind conditions, what time of day it is, and a lures depth. Dirty water, high speed winds, greater water depth, and hours dwindling into the evening mean that there will be fewer colours being filtered by the water. In order to understand how this effect works, we need to understand the relationships between water and light first.
Light produces a spectrum of colours; this spectrum includes colours like red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. When these colours are mixed together they produce white. If an angler were to shine a bright light in the center of a very deep lake, the colours within the light beam would gradually become weaker as the light travels toward the bottom. By 10 feet, the colour red barely exists, orange is beginning to disappear, and our friend yellow is starting to fade away. By 35 feet, red and orange are completely gone, and yellow is quickly following suit. By 75 feet, yellow has turned into a greenish-blue and the only visible colours are blue, indigo, and violet. Once we get to 150 feet, blue and indigo are difficult to see, and violet is also quickly disappearing. At a few hundred feet, ultraviolet colour is the only one left and it isn’t even visible to the human eye.
However, when the spectrum of colours disappears, neon colours do not. Neon colours are fluorescent, which means that they glow when they are hit by ultraviolet light. There have been reports of brightly visible fluorescent pink and yellow colours at depths of 125 and deeper!
Now, with this in mind, remember that the rate of colour filtration in water assumes that the water is crystal clear. Pollutants, sediments, and varying degrees of wind can change these rates drastically by rearranging the filtration order and decreasing the overall depth of colours. Taking into consideration these circumstances, red and orange are the most visible, assuming that the depth of your lure is not greater than 20 feet. With that being said, here are some tips from anglers about how to pick lure colours:
Super Clear: Use white or clear. You should use glitter for colour. Remember all colours are visible at 10 feet.
Clear Water: Blue is the most visible, and while is still visible. Remember that all colours are slightly visible up to 10 feet.
Green Water: Green is the most visible.
Stained Water: Orange, green, and chartreuse are the most visible and red is only slightly visible.
Muddy Water: Red is the most visible.
Here are a few additional suggestions to help with low light (first light up until sunrise), medium light (when the sunrise reaches to about 20 degrees on the horizon), and high light (from that position to sunset) conditions:
Low Light: Blue, purple, or black work the best. You should use this with a silver flash.
Medium Light: Red and orange work the best.
High Light: Brown or gray work the best. You should use fluorescent accents.
Note: When the level of light falls below 0.1 foot candle (clear night and no moon), all colours become shades of gray and cannot be seem by fish.